Money Q&A: Share guides for absolute beginners

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The Independent Online
I don't know much about investing in shares. I would like to find out more but don't know where to begin. Are there any books or organisations that can help?

EB, Aberdeen

There are plenty of books on personal finance and investment. Some are concerned specifically with direct share investment and are aimed at beginners. Most high-street bookshops of reasonable size will carry a selection.

There is also a non-profit making organisation set up with people like you in mind. Called ProShare, its "mission is to promote responsible share- based investment, including employee share ownership, through education and research". It is financed through grants from the Stock Exchange, donations from companies listed on the exchange and some charitable foundations. For more information, ring 0171-394 5200 (www.proshare.org.uk).

ProShare publishes free fact-sheets on a range of topics, including a general introduction to investing in the stock market and choosing the right investment for you. Send a self-addressed A4 envelope with either a 39p or 31p stamp first or second-class post to ProShare Investor Updates, Library Chambers, 13 & 14 Basinghall Street, London EC2V 5HU.

A range of other ProShare books is also available. The Investor's Handbook (pounds 9.99) is a general guide to all the main aspects of investing in shares. The Investor's Guide to Information Sources (pounds 5.95) could be just what you need.

As a complete beginner, you should be prepared to do a fair bit of background reading before committing any money to shares. Try to keep up to date by reading the City pages of national newspapers. If you have access to the internet, look at the Motley Fool website (www.fool.co.uk), which deals with investment in an independent and very user-friendly way.

When you are ready to invest you'll find a range of share-dealing services. The Association of Private Client Investment Managers is a trade body with 164 members. You can get a free copy of its directory, listing all members and the services they offer, by writing to APCIMS, 112 Middlesex Street, London E1 7HY (0171-247 7080).The cheapest way to trade shares is through an execution-only stockbroker such as Charles Schwab (0121- 200 2242) or Barclays Stockbrokers (0800 551177).

Dividend rule

I am a basic-rate taxpayer. My wife has taken a career break to bring up our children and is a non-taxpayer. The Inland Revenue says she can no longer reclaim tax deducted on share dividends, even for dividends in respect of periods before 6 April this year. Is this ruling correct? Should we transfer the shares to an ISA account?

WM, Essex

Non-taxpayers cannot reclaim the tax deducted at source on dividend payments made on or after 6 April 1999. This includes dividends payable for a company's financial year ending before then. But your wife can claim tax not reclaimed for dividends paid before 6 April 1999.

Dividends now carry a tax credit of just 10 per cent of the gross dividend, down from 20 per cent. Annual ISA charges can exceed any income tax saved. Furthermore, transferring shares to an ISA (selling them and buying them back through an ISA) can be costly.

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