Weekly Money

Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 6 to 10 April

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Electoral register woe for borrowers; fraudsters target older folk; HMRC makes it easier to reclaim overpaid pension tax: earlier state pensions for Scots?; nuisance callers clampdown; debts to climb 62% in five years; the stories we noticed this week



10 April

Have you registered to vote? If you’re not on the electoral register, it could hit your chance of getting a loan or credit, especially if you’re younger. Not registering to vote - or even being registered at a previous address - is likely to lead to people’s applications for credit being rejected.

But a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds don’t know that not being on the electoral roll can impact their credit rating, warned uSwitch. That in turn could affect their ability to buy a house, get a phone contract or a bank loan. That’s because lenders use it as one of the main ways to check names and addresses of people applying for credit. They do so to help combat fraudulent applications.

David Mann at uSwitch said: “A poor credit rating can be the final nail in the coffin for young people who are already facing challenging conditions.”

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Rising property prices and fewer new homes being built have led to people staying longer than ever in the same place. In fact the average home now changes hands every 23 years – which is almost three times longer than in the 1980s, according to the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association.

Its report into the state of the mortgage market shows that the trend to stay longer is being driven by the rising average age of first-time buyers; the expanding private rented sector; and by baby boomers staying longer in their existing homes.

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A new financial mutual known as OneFamily was launched this month. It was created from the merger of Family Investments and Engage Mutual. Chief executive Simon Markey said: “We’re creating a modern mutual that enables families to work together to meet the financial demands of modern life.”


9 April

More than half of those aged 65 and older have been targeted by fraudsters, a new report published today reveals. Age UK warns that 53 per cent of older people have been contacted by phone, text, email and post with a scam, with 60 per cent never reporting it. And while, thankfully, many are not taken in, of those who do 70 per cent have lost money, often more than £1,000.

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK said: “The idea that anyone would target an older person to defraud them is horrible, but unfortunately it happens and we fear the problem is about to get a lot worse since the opportunities for fraudsters are increasing.” The charity has tips to help people avoid being scammed online.

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The Revenue has introduced new rules to make it easier to reclaim overpaid tax on pension withdrawals. Under pension tax rules, where someone does not hold a P45, their first pension withdrawal is taxed under an emergency month 1 code.

Until now reclaiming the tax would have meant waiting until the next tax year, but HMRC has introduced new forms - P50Z and P53Z and P55 – which will allow people to reclaim overpaid tax on pension income payments within 30 working days.

HMRC said: “Claimants presenting their 2015/16 P45 to their pension provider will pay the correct tax. In the event that they don’t, any discrepancy will be settled within 30 days of HMRC being notified.”

Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement planning expert Adrian Walker said: “This change of practice is good news. The forms and new process will allow any overpaid tax to be recovered much quicker.”

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Almost half of UK people who have a smartphone or tablet expect to use mobile payment apps in the coming year, according to the ING International Survey on Mobile Banking. , Just one in three people do their banking on the go at present.

But we’re lagging behind countries such as Turkey, Poland, the United States, Italy and Spain, where even more people expect they’ll soon be doing their finances on the move. In the UK, some 46 per cent of gadget owners expect to be using mobile payments in the next year, but in Turkey it’s 78 per cent.

8 April

Missing a bill payment could mean being turned down for credit. “Many people may not realise that a missed payment on a utility bill or mobile phone agreement could have a negative impact on their credit report,” says Laura Barrett of Equifax.

However, if there were extenuating circumstances you can add a “notice of correction” to your file explaining why. “It will remain indefinitely, so that lenders can see it when considering an application,” she says.

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The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that Scots should have a lower state pension age than the rest of the UK, based on their lower life expectancy. Is that a good idea?

No, says Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown. “We’re just in the process of equalising pension ages for men and women. Changing tack to create a new category just for the Scots is not something which should be undertaken without considering how it would fit into wider pensions policy.” Men and women will equalise state pension ages at 65 in 2018, before increasing to 66 by 2020.

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UK adults will owe an average of more than £47,000 by 2020, according to new analysis by The Money Charity. The charity’s Money Statistics, published today, show that average personal debt, including mortgages, is now £29,126. By 2020 this will have increased by 62 per cent, according to government estimates, to an average of £47,195 - of which £34,124 will be mortgage lending.


7 April

Are you just registered at one address? New research published today calculates that 11 million UK adults are registered at multiple addresses, with one in seven actually registered at more than three addresses.

That causes financial problems, reckons Direct Line.  It terms such folk ‘identity doppelgangers’ and warns they missing out on vital communications, costing them around £523m through fines, missed rebates and lost gifts. Its research also suggests that a million people have been victim to fraud or crime due to not keeping address details up to date.

Katie Lomas, head of Direct Line home insurance, said: “It’s alarming that such a significant number of people are not updating their registered home address. But this issue is simple to fix,” says Ms Lomax. “People just need to run through the list of organisations that might need to contact them and send them updated address details.”

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Despite the number of first-time buyers climbing to its highest level for seven years in 2014, there’s a growing disconnect between the reality of the situation for first-time buyers and their perception of the market, a new report warns.

The number of first-time buyers fell as low as 192,300 in 2008 before climbing back to 311,500 last year, helped by improving economic conditions and schemes such as Help to Buy.

“But there is a growing group of young people who believe they won’t be able to get a mortgage,” says Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax. “This difference between the reality and their perception needs to be addressed urgently if we are to prevent people from giving up on getting on the housing ladder.”

6 April

From today new laws mean it’s now easier to prosecute nuisance callers. “That’s good news,” says Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd.

“Unwanted calls disrupt the lives of millions every day, so it is good news it’s now easier for regulators to prosecute nuisance callers. Regulators must send a crystal clear message to firms that nuisance calling is unacceptable by using these new powers to maximum effect.

“We urge everyone to report their unwanted calls and texts to help regulators identify firms flouting the rules. We also want the Government to explore how senior executives can be held to account if their company makes unlawful calls.”

To find out how to deal with nuisance calls go to ico.org.uk.

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Don’t panic or rush into making hasty decisions as sweeping pension changes are introduced today, advises the Association of British Insurers.

Dr Yvonne Braun, director of long term savings strategy at the ABI, says: “Today, 6 April, is the start of a pensions revolution, not a deadline to act. Don’t panic, don’t rush and don’t be tempted to dash for the cash without carefully considering your options.  With the new pensions freedoms and flexibility comes responsibility, so the only sensible advice is to contact the free, impartial PensionWise service who can explain what the changes could mean for you, and your options.”

To access the Government’s PensionsWise service online go to pensionwise.gov.uk. Alternatively you can call 030 0330 1001 or contact Citizens Advice directly to arrange a face-to-face session.

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