Simon Read: Beware the festively priced Christmas tree

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The Independent Online

The number of special deals that turn out to be anything but seems to be growing. There has been a spate of so-called "bargains" promoted by online shops, but anecdotal evidence suggests that no one can get through to the websites in time to snap up the offers – they seem to be sold out in seconds.

A more cynical person than I might suggest that many of the well-known names trying such tactics have no real intention to sell CDs for a quid, or champagne at two-thirds off – to quote two recent unsatisfying offers. I assume there is someone who has benefited, though I've yet to encounter them. So, fair enough, they're clearly limited-edition deals, but if someone benefits, that's fine.

More pernicious isthe practice of offering deals that prove to be worthless. There's a growing number of popular daily-deal websites that email members with so-called exclusive offers, such as 60 per cent off the cost of a meal, or half-price spa treatments. One this week offered for £20 a £40 voucher towards the cost of a Christmas tree at a particular website, where trees were offered from £40. Anyone buying the voucher would naturally assume they had enough to buy a tree.

But the vouchers weren't valid until the following day – by which point the trees had suddenly increased in price by £20. It meant buyers – including an angry Independent colleague – needed to stump up a further £20 to buy a tree – paying the same price for which they could have bought them the day before without the voucher.

Companies have the right to increase the price of goods when demand is high, but this deal seems particularly shabby. It serves a warning to anyone using daily-deal sites to ensure that the price quoted is really the one you get. Just because someone says you'll get 50 per cent off, that may not actually be the case.

so now we know what the 40 per cent income-tax band will be from next April. On Thursday it was announced that the higher-rate threshold will fall to £42,475, from the existing £43,875 level.

Accountants Grant Thornton, predict that the change will mean an extra 700,000 workers paying higher-rate tax, on top of the 3 million already doing so. That's an awful lot of people who will have to face up to making fresh tax decisions. On the other hand, the lowering of the threshold is being balanced by a £1,000 increase in the tax-free personal allowance, to £7,475. That move could help as many as 880,000 people climb out of the income-tax net. On balance the change looks like a good move, with a higher number of people set to pay less tax than will pay more. But I'd be interested to hear the views of those about to pay the higher rate for the first time.

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