coronavirus

Changes to Universal Credit and how to access alternative financial assistance

by Madaline Dunn

As part of the government’s Covid-19 support plan, back in 2020, it introduced a £20 boost to those receiving Universal Credit. However, this financial intervention was only temporary and officially ended on 6 October 2021, despite a considerable amount of backlash from across the board.

Of course, the announcement of the scheme’s end is not good news for many, and it’s understandable to be concerned about how this will affect you and your family financially. After all, the cut means that around six million unemployed and low-paid workers will face a £1,040 cut to their yearly incomes.

Speaking about what the cuts will mean for many families, Morgan Wild, Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, said: “More than half a million people have come to Citizens Advice for support with Universal Credit since the pandemic. We know the extra £20 a week has often meant the difference between empty cupboards and food on the table.”

That said, there are a number of different forms of alternative financial assistance that can help support you in this difficult and turbulent time.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll guide you through some of the different types of financial assistance available, including:

  • Help with essential costs
  • A reduction in council tax
  • Assistance with paying rent
  • Free prescriptions
  • How to check what financial aid you’re eligible for

Essential costs

If you and your family are finding it hard to keep up with the cost of essentials, whether that’s food or clothes, you can reach out to your local council and ask if you’re eligible for a hardship fund. To find out what your local council is and reach out for more information, head over here.

Equally, for those struggling to pay for food costs, you can try food bank vouchers. To access these vouchers, you can ask an organisation that’s supporting you, whether that’s a charity, school or Citizen’s advice, for a referral.

If you have children who are attending school and you receive governmental financial support, they might be eligible for free school meals.

Those who receive the following are eligible:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on
  • Universal Credit

For more information, visit the government website.

Reducing council tax

If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet following the Universal Credit cut, you can apply to have your council tax bill reduced. In some cases, applicants can get their bill reduced by 100%, but this will be determined by a number of different factors, including where you live, your circumstances and income and whether you have other adults or children living with you.

Help with paying rent

Rent is getting more and more expensive all the time, and with the added financial strain caused by the Universal Credit cut, it can be really difficult to find enough money to pay for life’s expenses. To help with this, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) through your local council.

To be eligible for this, you must already claim housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.

Prescriptions

Little costs add up, and prescriptions for medication can sometimes end up costing you a bomb. Luckily, if you are a receiver of any of the following, you may be entitled to free prescriptions:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit

If you’re not too sure whether you’re eligible, you can double-check with the NHS’s eligibility checker.

How to check what you’re entitled to

It’s not always clear what financial assistance you are entitled to, but a great way to keep up-to-date and ensure that you don’t miss out is to carry out a benefit check. You can do this by using an online benefits calculator or by reaching out to your local Citizen’s Advice Office.

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Wednesday, October 20th, 2021 Economy No Comments

None of the content on this website, including blog posts, comments, or responses to user comments, is offered as financial advice. Figures used are for illustrative purposes only.

The cost of rent across the UK

by Madaline Dunn

Rent in the UK is on the rise. According to recent figures from HomeLet, the average cost of rent in August reached a record high of £1,053. That’s up 6.9% from last year and 2.3% from the previous month.

Wales saw the highest annual price rise, up 12.8% from last year; meanwhile, the North East saw an annual increase of 5.8%.

So, just how expensive is it to rent in the UK, and what’s causing rent prices to rise?

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • Why rent prices in the UK are rising
  • The lowest rent prices in the UK
  • The highest rent prices in the UK

Why are rent prices on the rise?

UK rent prices are on the rise for a number of reasons, including a consistent rise in demand for rental properties. Research from BuyAssociation, in June revealed that a total of 88 prospective private renters were registered per estate agency branch in the UK.

The locations that have seen the biggest increase in demand include the West Midlands and Birmingham, and Yorkshire & the Humber.

The loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, improved job security, and young people moving back out of their parents’ homes have also been pinned as reasons for rent rises.

Commenting on what he thinks is the cause behind the hike, Andy Halstead, HomeLet & Let Alliance Chief Executive Officer, said: “Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government rightly took measures to protect tenants but didn’t go far enough to balance the protection for landlords.”

He added: “It’s a continuation of the theme that we’ve seen for many years, with landlords being penalised by higher taxes and increased complexity in obtaining possession of their properties. Increased costs for landlords mean increased costs for tenants.”

Where are the cheapest places to rent in the UK?

When looking to rent a property in the UK, a whole host of factors go into decision making, but according to Statista, the most important one for 70% of UK residents is cost.

Saving on rent means that you have more cash in your pocket for the things you love. So what are some of the cheapest rental rates you can secure? By region, these include:

  • North East – Average rent: £547 per month
  • Yorkshire & Humberside – Average rent: £701 per month
  • Wales – Average rent: £702 per month
  • East Midlands- Average rent: £704 per month
  • Scotland – Average rent: £738

Specifically, the following cities offer the lowest rent prices across the UK:

  • Bradford – Average rent: £470.50 per month
  • Sunderland – Average rent: £486.50 per month
  • Kingston upon Hull – Average rent: £491.56 per month
  • Middlesbrough – Average rent: £507.71 per month
  • Blackpool -Average rent: £510.25 per month

Of course, London has some of the highest rent prices in the world. That said, there are some locations in London where you can secure slightly lower rent rates. This includes:

  • Croydon – Average rent: £1,200
  • Barking & Dagenham – Average rent: £1,210 per month
  • Bromley – Average rent: £1,250 per month
  • Redbridge – Average rent: £1,275 per month
  • Hillingdon – Average rent: £1,300 per month

For those looking to keep costs low, according to a report by SpareRoom, Bradford, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland offer some of the lowest rates to rent-a-room:

  • Middlesbrough – Average rent: £349 per month
  • Sunderland – Average rent: £350 per month
  • Bradford – Average rent: £364 per month
  • Huddersfield – Average rent: £365 per month
  • Liverpool – Average rent: £395 per month

Where are the most expensive places to rent in the UK?

Some of the prices of the most expensive places to rent in the UK will make your eyes water.

The most expensive regions to rent in the UK include:

  • Greater London – Average rent: £1607 per month
  • South East – Average rent: £1105 per month
  • East of England – Average rent: £1005 per month
  • South West – Average rent: £948 per month
  • North West – Average rent: £799 per month

Aside from London, which is the most expensive city to rent in the UK, some of the most expensive rental rates, according to Thomas Sanderson, can be found in the following cities:

  • Brighton & Hove – Average rent: £1,461.00 per month
  • Oxford – Average rent: £1,442.80 per month
  • Poole – Average rent: £1,251.25 per month
  • Bournemouth – Average rent: £1,125.89 per month
  • Cambridge – Average rent: £1,112.25 per month

Although renting a room in a house can be a way to avoid paying most of your wage packet to your landlord, there are some locations where renting a room is still pretty steep. For those weighing up their rent-a-room options, some of the most expensive places include:

  • Jersey – Average rent: £784 per month
  • Twickenham – Average rent: £684 per month
  • Barnet – Average rent: £666 per month
  • Guernsey – Average rent: £656 per month
  • Kingston upon Thames – Average rent: £644 per month

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Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 Economy No Comments

Social care tax proposed from April 2022

by Admin

The government announced yesterday plans to introduce new social care tax, intended to help reduce the costs incurred when a person goes into care. If the bill passes parliament, this will mean be an increase in National Insurance contributions of 1.25 percentage points from April 2022, to be replaced by a separate tax of the same amount from April 2023. The benefit of this additional tax, in England at least, is that care costs will be capped at £86,000 (less if you don’t have that much in savings / assets). Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own social care policies, but will receive additional revenue from the tax generated.

The plan has drawn criticism from many who see it is a tax paid by low- and middle-income employees to subsidise wealthy retirees. It also appears to be a break of a manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT – the justification for which, put forward by the government, has been that the pandemic has changed things.

This BBC article has a clear summary of the changes in more detail, as well as a chart showing how much extra tax you’ll pay depending on how much you earn. The bill still needs to pass parliament, but when this and other changes from April 2022 are confirmed, The Salary Calculator will be updated with the latest rates so that you can see what a difference it will make to your take-home pay.

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Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 Income Tax, National Insurance, Savings No Comments

Stamp duty in the UK

by Madaline Dunn

Stamp duty has hit the headlines recently, following the end of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s end-of-June stamp duty holiday deadline. Reports have highlighted that transactions have slumped after a surge of homebuyers taking advantage of the government’s housing market policies.

So what exactly is stamp duty, and what does the end of the stamp duty holiday mean for homebuyers and the housing market?

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • What stamp duty is
  • When stamp duty applies
  • How much stamp duty costs
  • When you must pay stamp duty
  • What the stamp duty holiday was
  • What the end of the stamp duty holiday means for the housing market

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty, or Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), refers to the tax you must pay to HM Revenue & Customs when purchasing a residential property or piece of land in England or Northern Ireland.

When does stamp duty apply?

Standard stamp duty applies to those purchasing a property valued at £125,000; that said, this does not apply to first time buyers unless their property is valued at over £300,000. Those who are purchasing a second property are also required to pay stamp duty, although the amount you pay here can be claimed back if you sell your first property within three years.

Exemptions apply where a portion of one’s home is transferred to a spouse or partner after a separation or divorce, or an individual inherited a property in a will.

How much is stamp duty?

The amount of stamp duty one pays is dependent on a property’s purchase price and is tiered in the same way as income tax. This is as follows for the period between 1 July 2021 – 30 September 2021:

For England and Northern Ireland:

  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £180,001 – £250,000 is 0%. For those with additional properties, a 3% surcharge is applied to the entire purchase price of the property
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between  £250,001 – £925,000 is 5% and rises to 8% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £925,001 – £1,500,000 is 10% and rises to 13% for additional properties
  •  The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at over £1,500,001 is 12% rising to 15% for additional properties

For Wales from 1 July:

  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £180,001 – £250,000 is 3.5% and rises to 7.5% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £250,001 – £400,000 is 5% and rises to 9% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £400,001 – £750,000 is 7.5% and rises to 11.5% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £750,001 – £1,500,000 is 10% and rises to 14% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property above £1,500,000 is 12% and rises to 16% for additional properties

For Scotland from 1 April:

  • Land and buildings transaction tax rate for a main residence property valued at up to £145,000 is 0% and rises to 4% for additional properties
  • Land and buildings transaction tax rate for a main residence property valued at between £145,001 – £250,000 is 2% and rises to 6% for additional properties
  • Land and buildings transaction tax rate for a main residence property valued at between £250,001 – £325,000 is 5% and rises to 9% for additional properties
  • Land and buildings transaction tax rate for a main residence property valued at between £325,001 – £750,000 is 10% and rises to 14% for additional properties
  • Land and buildings transaction tax rate for a main residence property valued at over £750,001 is 12% and rises to 16% for additional properties

When must you pay stamp duty?

When buying a property in the UK, it’s a legal requirement to pay your stamp duty within 14 days of the date of completion/date of entry. After this timeframe, interest may be applied, and you may be hit with a fine. This follows legislative changes introduced in 2019.

What was the stamp duty holiday?

The stamp duty holiday was introduced back in July 2020. This tax cut was introduced to stimulate the property market amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and make it more accessible to homebuyers. It resulted in savings of up to £15,000 for around 1.3 million homebuyers.

Although the stamp duty holiday was set to expire in March, it was extended until June 2021. Temporary stamp duty rates are now higher than before and apply between July to September. Standard stamp duty rates will apply from 1 October 2021 onwards.

Standard rates for England and Northern Ireland are as follows:

  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at up to £125,000 is 0% and 3% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £125,0001 – £250,000 is 2% and rises to 5% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for a main residence property valued at between £250,001 – £925,000 is 5% and rises to 8% for additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for main residence property valued at between £925,001 – £1,500,000 is 10% and rises to 13% or additional properties
  • The stamp duty rate for main residence property valued at £1,500,001 and over is 12% and rise to 15% for additional properties

What does the end of the stamp duty holiday mean for the housing market?

The end of the stamp duty has been predicted to have some negative effects, such as:

  • Buyers pulling out of deals
  • A decline in buyer interest, and;
  • A drop in house prices

That said, the future is uncertain, and industry experts’ forecasts are varied. Recently, Nationwide recorded a “surprising” 2.1% rise in sold prices, which Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, has attributed to a demand for properties between £125,000 and £250,000.

Meanwhile, Gabriella Dickens, a senior UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, commented: “We think that house prices will pick up again in 2022, finishing the year about 4% higher than at the end of 2021.”

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Monday, September 6th, 2021 Economy No Comments

Pandemic-related changes to tax return schedules

by Admin

[Sponsored Post]

We appreciate that it’s difficult to stay on top of tax law at a time of such uncertainty. That’s why we’ve asked Mike Parkes from GoSimpleTax to break down the biggest support package of 2020, and how it could impact you in 2021.

Whilst the support from the government has been welcomed with open arms, by most, it is worth noting that these grants are taxable. Each grant should be reported on your tax return, as income, in the accounting period they were received. This means there may be tax and NIC due on these payments and therefore it may impact your tax liability due 31 January 2022.

The extension of the Self-Assessment filing deadline

Sole traders were also made exempt from a late filing penalty, provided that they filed online by 28th February 2021. However, this has proved somewhat confusing as self-employed individuals were still expected to pay their tax bill by 31st January.

Any individuals that failed to do so would be charged interest from 1st February on any late payments. This became even more costly if you delayed your payment on account from July 2020 (another COVID-19 response measure), as the two payments were both due on 31st January 2021 and each accrued interest.

Important change to be aware of

In a further curveball announced 19th February HMRC confirmed that the initial 5% late payment penalty on self-assessed tax would not be charged as long as the tax is paid, or a time to pay arrangement is agreed by 1st April 2021. The self-assessment timeline is now:

  • 31 January – Normal Self-Assessment deadline (paying and filing)
  • 1 February – interest accrues on any outstanding tax bills
  • 28 February – last date to file any late tax returns to avoid a late filing penalty
  • 1 April – last date to pay any outstanding tax or make a Time to Pay arrangement, to avoid a late payment surcharge
  • 1 April – last date to set up a self-serve Time to Pay arrangement online

If you’re unable to pay your tax bill in time, the government is advising you to pay in instalments. This enables you to spread the cost of your tax bill over a few months. Bear in mind that you must owe £30,000 or less and have no other payment plans or debts with HMRC. Your tax returns must be up to date, and you also have to sign up before 1st April 2021. It’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay interest too.

As there is currently no information concerning the rules for the fourth SEISS grant, we here at GoSimpleTax are urging all our users to submit their tax return immediately. After all, there’s a strong possibility that they could determine your eligibility, and you must do it in order to set up a payment plan.

About GoSimpleTax

GoSimpleTax software submits directly to HMRC and is the solution for self-employed, sole traders, freelancers and anyone with income outside of PAYE to log all their income and expenses. The software will provide you with hints and tips that could save you money on allowances and expenses you may have missed.

Try today for free – add up to five income and expense transactions per month and see your tax liability in real time at no cost to you. Pay only when you are ready to submit or use other key features such as receipt uploading.

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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 Income Tax No Comments

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