Questions of cash:

Store card spells downfall for one dodgy debtor
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A year ago I cashed a cheque for £130 for a friend of my son. It bounced. Regular requests for the money were met with stories of financial problems and promises to pay the money back. I am cross that my son's friend recently opened a store card account. I assume there is no point in me pursuing the debt through the small claims court, but is there any way I can register this debt? JC, Ramsgate.

A year ago I cashed a cheque for £130 for a friend of my son. It bounced. Regular requests for the money were met with stories of financial problems and promises to pay the money back. I am cross that my son's friend recently opened a store card account. I assume there is no point in me pursuing the debt through the small claims court, but is there any way I can register this debt? JC, Ramsgate.

 

The only way to register the debt is to take an action through the small claims court. Obviously, it is for you to consider the social implications in how this affects your relationship with your son, and his with his friend. Lodging a claim is easy and details are available from your county court or at www.courtservice.gov.uk, under forms and leaflets. Enforcing a judgment may be difficult in these circumstances, but your son's friend may find it difficult to obtain further store cards and other forms of credit, encouraging him to repay his debt to you.

 

Just 3.5 metres from my house, my neighbour has planted a tree which he tells me will grow to 10 metres tall. The contractor who planted the tree and the local planning authority say they would advise against having a tree this close and it could be a problem eventually. The local planning officer suggests I tell my insurance company, but, presumably, this will mean my premiums will rise. My neighbour appears to have transferred the financial liability of higher insurance premiums and possible future structural repairs to me and my family. JD, Colchester

You need tell only your insurer at renewal. The Association of British Insurers says this does not necessarily mean your premium will rise. The Government is drafting proposals for new laws governing trees and hedges that affect neighbouring properties. Your local planning officer can provide you with the guidelines on where trees should be placed, but this has no statutory basis . So far.

 

Last year I opened an Egg credit card account to transfer my £3,000 balance from another card, to take advantage of their six-month, interest-free balance transfers. I hold one card and my wife has another. When I paid off the debt I reduced my account balance limit to £1,000 to stop my wife spending too much. After my wife spent more than that in one month I had an e-mail from Egg saying they have increased my spending limit to £1,300 to reflect our actual spending. What can I do? PG, by e-mail.

 

Egg says it should have asked you when you reduced your balance whether you would want it increased in line with spending. When reducing the spending limit a customer needs to specify they do not want it raised if there is overspending. Egg has now reduced your permitted balance back to £1,000 and says you have not incurred any charges caused by the problem.

 

Last week, your tax expert suggested a stakeholder pension was available to an individual, self-employed or operating in a limited company. It is my understanding that you cannot contribute to a stakeholder pension if you are a controlling director of a limited company, or were in the previous tax year. Can you clarify this? DS, Worcester.

 

John Whiting, tax adviser with the accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, says his answer was limited for reasons of space. He agrees there is discrimination against controlling directors under present pension regulations.He says: "The rules on the ability of a controlling director to contribute to a stakeholder pension depend on whether you are a member accruing benefits in an occupational scheme. You can't have two pension schemes getting tax relief at the same time.

"If you have never been in an occupational scheme in that particular employment, a controlling director is treated no differently from other employees or the self-employed. If you are a member accruing benefits in an occupational scheme and have been a controlling director since 6 April 2000, you cannot contribute to a stakeholder pension.

"If you have been a member of an occupational scheme and are receiving benefits from it, a controlling director will be limited in stakeholder pension contributions."

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