Questions of Cash: How do I get my endowment compensation?

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The Independent Online

Q. I complained in February 2003 to the Halifax bank, alleging that it mis-sold an endowment policy for my mortgage.

Q. I complained in February 2003 to the Halifax bank, alleging that it mis-sold an endowment policy for my mortgage. It did not decide my complaint until January 2004, when it agreed to pay me compensation based on my actual loss, which it would need to calculate. More than four months later, I am still waiting for a compensation offer. When I phoned Halifax it did not return my call. I thought Halifax was supposed to resolve all old outstanding endowment complaints by the end of April.
RF, Newcastle.

A. HBOS was one of four endowment sellers issued with a waiver by the Financial Services Authority, temporarily freeing it from the requirement to resolve all endowment complaints within eight weeks. That waiver expired at the end of April.

The FSA tells us that, despite this, it may have agreed with individual companies separate arrangements for resolving outstanding complaints, but is unable to state what these might be. A spokeswoman for Halifax said that it was not necessarily true that under the terms of its agreement with the FSA all old outstanding complaints had to be resolved by the end of April.

You are now being made an offer by Halifax of £150 compensation - your calculated loss - and the bank apologises for the delays. Halifax's spokeswoman told us that she does not know how many people were similarly affected and that it would be against company policy to release this information - but she does not believe many other people are affected. She is unable to explain why your case was delayed.

We would like to hear from other readers with unresolved endowment mis-selling complaints pre-dating February this year, which we believe should by now have been settled under the terms of companies' agreements with the FSA. We suggest you copy your papers to the FSA for it to investigate.

Q. My parents want me to have their collection of ornaments, consisting of old plates, cups, saucers, glassware, silver teapots and pictures. How can I get them valued?
BO'D, London.

A. You should seek a valuation from a specialist arts and antiques valuer. To find one phone the helpline - 0870 333 1600 - of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which two years ago took over the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers. RICS has about 2,000 members with expert knowledge on the arts and antiques market.

Q. In August 2003 I received an offer from American Express of a free digital camera if I applied for a blue card within two weeks. I responded immediately and received my card which I use regularly. But I am still waiting for the camera: letters and calls have been ignored. I wonder if other people have suffered similarly.
PC, Newcastle.

A. American Express says that the response to this offer was very high and demand was difficult to meet. Administration was outsourced to a fulfilment house which was less efficient than AmEx expected. This caused delays in despatching the cameras. But AmEx says thousands were sent out and it is unaware of other customers having the same problem as you. It has now offered you the choice of the camera or £50.

Q. I am thinking of buying a second house to let as an investment. How much income tax would I pay on the rent? What is the capital gains tax (CGT) position? If I decide to sell it in the future, how much tax will I pay? Can I transfer ownership to my children without paying tax? How will I escape paying tax if I decide to give the house to my children?
MH, by e-mail.

A. Simon Rees, a tax partner at the accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that the rate of tax you pay on the rent depends on whether you are a higher or standard rate taxpayer. The amount paid can be mitigated by allowable costs - such as agents' fees, maintenance, insurance and mortgage interest.

CGT is payable at up to 40 per cent on any profit you make at the point of sale, or when you gift it, but again you can deduct allowable expenses, such as legal fees and stamp duty. If you let the property as a furnished holiday letting then the effective tax rate could drop to 10 per cent. The CGT liability can be further reduced by use of your annual CGT exemption - £8,200 this year - if it is not already used. A joint purchase with a spouse would enable you to use two CGT exemptions.

Mr Rees adds: "The gift is also within the scope of Inheritance Tax (IHT), but there will be no tax if you survive for seven years from the date of gift. If the children are under 18 the income will still be taxable on you, even though you have given them the house. Tax planning through trusts might defer the gain on the gift to the children. You might consider using the Enterprise Investment Scheme to defer a gain."

If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail cash@independent.co.uk. We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals

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