How the Government helps to cut your tax bill

It is a pleasant thought that there is a government department encouraging savers to reduce their tax bill. Called National Savings and backed by the Treasury, this means that its products, and therefore savers' cash, are as safe as the Bank of England.

National Savings offers a wide range of tax-free deals. A savings deal that is free of all tax is by definition that much more attractive to higher-rate taxpayers. As well as tax-free products, National Savings offers a range of other products where interest is taxable but is paid without that tax already deducted. Most bank and building society accounts pay out their interest with basic rate tax already deducted. Being automatically paid gross is an administrative advantage to non-taxpayers in particular. It means they do not have to bother filling out a special Revenue form to make sure their interest is paid gross or to reclaim deducted tax later.

The most popular National Savings product is the Ordinary Account. Around 16 million people have one, although only the first pounds 70 of interest is paid out tax-free each year. The rate is aimed at small savers who want instant access to their cash, hence the current interest rate of just 1.5 per cent. If you save at least pounds 500 in the account for a year, you will get a better interest rate of 2.5 per cent.

For non-taxpayers who can afford to lock money away for three months, National Savings offers Income Bonds. These are much more competitive, paying 6.5 per cent gross on pounds 2,000 and 6.75 per cent gross on pounds 25,000. Interest is paid monthly into bank or building society account without tax deduction.

If you want a guaranteed monthly income and are over 60, you can invest in National Savings Pensioner Bonds that also pay out monthly. These pay a fixed-rate of 7 per cent guaranteed for five years unlike Income Bonds whose interest rate can fluctuate. After five years you can cash in the Pensioner Bonds.

National Savings Certificates, both Index-Linked or Fixed, are often suggested as a good deal for higher-rate taxpayers. The fixed-rate certificates, described as the 44th issue, pay 5.35 per cent tax-free. You must hold the certificates for five years. The minimum investment is pounds 100 and the maximum pounds 10,000.

The Index-Linked Certificates (the 11th issue) are those presently available; they pay a fixed rate of 2.75 per cent plus inflation, tax-free. Again it is a five-year term with the same minimum and maximum investments as the standard certificates.

Premium Bonds are the real wild card of the National Savings stable. In terms of safety you cannot go wrong. Any time you want to cash in, you can, getting all your money back. Meanwhile you have the chance to win a range of tax-free monthly cash prizes, including the monthly pounds 1m jackpot.

For children, there is Issue H of the Children's Bonds, which pays a fixed rate of 6.75 per cent tax-free.

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