Personal finance: Today self-assessment, tomorrow the virtual world...

Internet Investor
I TRUST you have filled in your self-assessment tax return and got it off to the Inland Revenue by now. If you haven't, then - oops! Friday was the last working day of the month, though you might get away with making sure the return is on the taxman's doormat first thing on Monday. If you are one of the large number of people who indulge in this kind of brinkmanship, what can I say? It is your pounds 100 that the Revenue will take away as a fine for late delivery of the return.

For future reference, I direct your attention to the self-assessment website, which explains the dates on the tax calendar, the records you need to keep and offers answers to common queries. There is also the obligatory screensaver. I am happy to say I do not know anybody who is sad enough to download a screensaver from the Inland Revenue.

It is easy to be confused about what the taxmen want from you. They get confused too. It is also easy to get confused about issues concerning the Internet. Take, for example, last week's launch by Barclays Stockbrokers of an expanded pilot of its trading service. This was translated by one newspaper (which shall remain nameless - oh alright, it was the Mail on Sunday) into the news that Barclays Bank was planning to launch a free Internet access service - something which was news to both Barclays Stockbrokers and Barclays Bank themselves!

Finding your way round the Net also appears to be causing not a little confusion to some readers. One, trying to find Interactive Investor, one of the main personal finance sites, was bemused to find himself looking at Innovative Interfaces, an American specialist in website software for libraries. Why is there this confusion? It is a simple matter of making sure you know your dot-coms from your dot-co-dot-uks.

On the subject of Interactive Investor, the site has launched a PEP Centre to help the bemused among us find their way round this last-ever PEP-buying season. The first thing you will see on the PEP Centre is a countdown of the number of days remaining to the end of the tax year - 65, as of today.

The PEP Centre is intended to be the first of a series of focused topic sites within the overall Interactive Investor website, which are planned to be launched over the next few months. Similar sites covering other subjects such as mortgages, healthcare products, personal pensions and banks are promised in the near future.

It offers a range of performance data, news and features. The statistics are provided by Standard & Poor's Micropal, one of the industry's leading number-crunchers. You may view shortlists of PEP funds by performance, sector and geographical focus and review the top 10 performing funds over one, three, five and 10 years.

The site also includes links to a list of PEP providers, offering a brochure request service, and news sourced from the financial services' weekly Money Marketing, as well as Interactive Investor's own in-house news.

However, just a word to the wise; while this may be your "last chance" to buy a PEP, that does not make it necessarily the right investment choice for you. With only a couple of months left to run, there is not a lot of point in anyone taking out a monthly PEP saving scheme. Purchasing a PEP right now will really only make sense if you can devote a lump sum to the investment.

Self-assessment: www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/sa/;

Interactive Investor: www.iii.co.uk;

Robin can be reached at: robinamlot@aol.com

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