Beware April's price changes
Spring is in the air as April approaches - but beware the price changes coming with it.
Make sure you stock up on stamps before 6 April, when the price of both first and second-class stamps will increase.
First-class stamps for standard letters weighing up to 100g will rise by 2p to 41p, while second-class stamps will increase in price from 30p to 32p.
The cost of sending ordinary meter and account mail, which is largely sent by small businesses, will remain at 36p and 25p respectively.
Royal Mail estimates the rises will add 3p onto the average household’s 50p weekly expenditure on postage.
Last April, the cost of a first-class stamp increased from 36p to 39p and a second-class stamp rose from 27p to 30p. The price of special next-day delivery, meanwhile, increased from £4.65 to £4.95 for mail up to 100g.
Licence fees are based on a six-year BBC funding settlement that started in April 2007. In year one (2008) and year two (2009), the licence fee increase was set at 3%. In years three (2010), four (2011) and five (2012), the increase is set at 2%. The BBC can set any increase in year six, up to 2%.
This means that on 1 April, the cost of a TV license will rise by 2% from 1 April, the cost of a colour television licence will be £145.50 (from £142.50) while a black and white licence will be £49 (up from £48).
A new ‘showroom tax’ based on the most polluting cars will come into effect in April. The introduction will cost drivers from £110 tax in the first year of ownership.
Band M vehicles (those that produce over 255g of CO2 per km) will have to pay £950 while drivers of greener cars – up to band D (producing (121-130g CO2/km) won’t have to pay anything.
From 1 April, the government will also add 3p in fuel duty and VAT on to the cost of petrol and diesel.
Fee to go bankrupt
From 6 April 2010, the fee you will have to pay to go bankrupt will jump a whopping 25%, from £360 to £450. On top of this, bankrupts also have to pay a £150 court fee.
From 1 April, BT will shift the start time of its off-peak period from 6pm to 7pm. Meanwhile, its peak period will start at 7am rather than 6am.
The move means 4.7 million people signed up to BT’s Evening & Weekend plan will no longer be able to enjoy free calls until 7pm. A further 8.5 million people on BT’s Weekend plan, meanwhile, will no longer talk for free from 6pm on Friday evenings.
BT has written to affected customers suggesting they move from its Evening & Weekend plan (which currently costs just £2.99 a month) to its Anytime Plan (which is more costly at £4.99 a month).
Taxi fares are reviewed annually and calculated by Transport for London, based on a cost index that has been used since 1981. From 1 April 2010, the average taxi fare will increase by 2.3%. This is the lowest rise since 2004.
Last April taxi fares increased by 3.4%.
Households with a subscription to Virgin Media’s L and XL TV packages will see prices rise from 1 April. Customers with a subscription to the L package will see prices rise from £10 a month to £11 a month, while those on the largest package, XL, will now pay £23 a month, instead of £21.50.
New tax for high earners
Anyone earning above £150,000 will be subject to the new 50% tax rate - meaning 50p of every pound they earn goes to the taxman.
OTHER CHANGES TO EXPECT IN APRIL...
* The ISA allowance will increase to £10,200, of which £5,100 can be held in cash.
* The number of qualifying years for the full state pension will drop from 44 years (for men) and 39 years (for women) to a universal 30 years. The retirement age for women will also increase to 65 years, in line with men.
* New national insurance credits are being introduced for unpaid carers, so that the years they spend looking after others will count towards their state pension. They must spend at least 20 hours a week caring to qualify for this or in the case of parents receive child benefit for children under the age of 12.
* Child benefit and some disability benefits will increase by 1.5%.
* People in Northern Ireland will benefit from free prescriptions while prescription costs in Scotland will drop to £3.
Invented by a Frenchman in 1954 and ironically introduced in the UK on 1 April 1973, VAT is an indirect tax levied on the value added in the production of goods and services, from primary production to final consumption and is paid by the buyer. Its levying is complex, with a number of exemptions and exclusions. For example, in the UK, VAT is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes and the non-VAT status of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes was challenged in a UK court case to determine whether Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. The judge ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake, McVitie’s won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.
A scheme originally established in 1944 to provide protection against sickness and unemployment as well as helping fund the National Health Service (NHS) and state benefits. NI contributions are compulsory and based on a person’s earnings above a certain threshold. There are several classes of NI, but which one an individual pays depends on whether they are employed, self-employed, unemployed or an employer. Payment of Class 1 contributions by employees gives them entitlement to the basic state pension, the additional state pension, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, maternity allowance and bereavement benefits. From April 2016, to qualify for the full state pension, individuals will need 35 years’ of NI contributions.
There are limits to how much you can invest in any tax year. For 2011/12, the limit is £10,680. Of that, the maximum you can invest in cash is £5,340 and the balance of £5,340 can be invested in shares (individual company shares or investment funds). If you don’t take the cash ISA allowance, you can invest up to £10,680 into a stocks and shares ISA.
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.