Simon Read: Abuse of power - price hikes and dodgy doorstep sellers
Saturday 23 July 2011
As has become a regularity in recent weeks, an energy company announced a massive price hike. On Thursday it was Scottish & Southern Energy's turn, revealing increases of 18 per cent to gas prices and 11 per cent to electricity. The move is in line with recent increases announced by Scottish Power and British Gas.
There are two small crumbs of comfort for SSE customers. First is that the increases won't hit until 14 September: Scottish Power's hike takes effect from 1 August, while British Gas raises prices on 18 August. The second slight bit of good news for SSE customers is that the energy supplier has promised it will not increase prices again until1 August 2012 at the earliest.
But it's only a matter of time before the other big three firms – EDF Energy, E.on and nPower – announce their own increases. With energy prices soaring, more people will be pushed into fuel poverty – which is when their power bills account for more than a 10th of their income.
But the energy hikes will also help to push up the rate of inflation, which is bad news for savers already struggling to to get anything close to real returns on their nest eggs. The current fear is that inflation could soon top 5.5 per cent, last seen in 1992.
But the energy companies are not just making life tougher financially for all, they're still sending round their armies of dodgy salespeople to haunt our homes with their pressure selling.
This week's price-hiker, SSE, is the only one of the big six to suspend doorstep sales (and only after it was prosecuted for using a misleading sales script), but the others must follow.
Consumer Focus is today calling on the energy industry to end cold-call doorstep sales. This time the industry must listen.
Been fined by the tax authorities for paying tax late or failing to file your tax returns on time? You may have been wrongly fined, according to tax specialists at the law firm McGrigors.
The firm says HM Revenue & Customs has lost more than half a dozen cases in the last few months in which it has been criticised by the courts for wrongly fining taxpayers.
"The spate of recent cases suggests that HMRC has been imposing penalties far too harshly on taxpayers who have genuinely tried to comply with the law," says Jason Collins, a partner at McGrigors.
He says the recent rulings may represent the tip of the iceberg as the majority of taxpayers do not appeal against fines because they assume that HMRC issues fines in accordance with the law.
But the courts are taking a far more lenient view of the law, which says that taxpayers should not be fined if they have a "reasonable excuse" for late payment of tax or an overdue tax return. The courts are sending a signal that HMRC's official interpretation is too narrow.
"HMRC has – quite literally – become a law unto itself where fines are concerned," says Collins. "The courts have made it clear that HMRC's guidance on fines is at odds with the law, and that its definition of 'reasonable excuse' should not be taken at face value."
Thousands of taxpayers could have been wrongly fined, and more are likely to be after the next tax payment deadline passes on 31 July. But most may assume they have no chance of challenging the fine at a tribunal.
With evidence now seemingly suggesting the opposite, anyone who thinks they have been unfairly fined should challenge the Revenue's decisions.
Tax credit deadline approaches
Tax credits could be cut down or stopped altogether if you don't act before an HM Revenue & Customs deadline in eight days' time.
Your annual tax credit declaration must be submitted by the end of July. In it you must inform the Revenue of any changes to your income or situation in the last 12 months. You will need to return an annual tax credit declaration if you have been sent form TC603D (or TC603D2) with your annual review notice.
"Anyone failing to return the annual declaration by 31 July risks payments being stopped, and could be liable to pay back any overpayment from both the previous tax year and the start of the new tax year," warns Andrew Hubbard at RSM Tenon.
"Many families are still unaware of their eligibility – it is not just those who are out of work who can claim," he points out. People with illness or disability, carers, recent parents or the widowed could be eligible, as well as over-60s or those working 16 hours a week earning less than £13,000. * HMRC tax credit line is 0845 300 3900.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
iJobs Money & Business
Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)
£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...
£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...
£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...
£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...
Day In a Page
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000