The DVLA released information regarding the new changes to driving lessons in August 2017. Continue reading The DVLA’s New Changes to Driving Lessons
The Resolution Foundation think tank is provoking discussions of millennial entitlement after a proposal that 25-year-olds should receive a £10,000 “Citizen’s Inheritance” to reduce the wealth disparity between generations. Continue reading Think Tank Proposes £10,000 “Citizen’s Inheritance” for Millennials
Pay All Your Taxes
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has announced a consultation in the March Spring Statement. This consultation, which runs until June, is looking into ways to automatically collect tax on income earned from online trading platforms. Continue reading Should You Be Paying Gig Economy Tax or Sharing Economy Tax?
As you already know, the new tax year began on 6th April. Earlier this month, new tax rules came into effect which will apply until 5th April 2019. Some of them could save you money, such as the changes to Inheritance Tax. The IHT allowance remains frozen at £325,000 for 2018-2019. But if your estate includes your home, your allowance can go up by an additional £125,000. This rose from £100,000 in the last tax year. It means that should anything happen, your heirs will inherit more tax-free money. On the downside, some tax changes could mean you will be paying more. Drivers who bought their car after 6th April 2017 will be paying new Vehicle Excise Duty tax rates this year. The introduction of the controversial “sugar tax” means that fans of soft drinks will be out of pocket. See below for the most important tax changes regarding income and living costs.
Reductions to Income Tax
One positive change for the 2018-2019 tax year is an increase in Personal Allowance. This is the amount of tax-free income you can earn in the year. People who are in the basic rate tax band previously paid 20% tax on earnings from £11,501 – £45,000. From 6th April 2018, the standard tax-free allowance is £11,850. Anyone who earns less than this will not have to pay any income tax. The basic rate tax band is now £11,501 – £46,350. This means that people earning between £45,001 – £46,350 in a year will go down a tax band from last year. Only those earning £46,351 – £150,000 will have to pay the higher rate of 40% tax. The additional rate of 45% still applies for earnings above £150,000. However, anyone earning more than £123,700 doesn’t get a Personal Allowance. For every £2 over £100,000, the Personal Allowance decreases from £11,850 by £1.
Pension Contributions Increase
With a higher Personal Allowance, you could be taking home a little extra each month. However, depending on your salary, it is not likely to be much. This is because the new increase in pension contributions will impact your income tax savings. This applies to employees who take part in an automatic enrolment pension scheme. With these workplace schemes, you will pay a percentage of your earnings towards your pension. Depending on how much you earn, your employer also contributes to your pension. The government will add money to your pension if you pay income tax and pension contributions. Previously, employees paid 1% and employers would match this. From April 2018, employers will pay 2% and employees must pay 3%. Next year this is due to rise again to 3% for employers and 5% for employees. The retirement age will increase to 68 by 2037.
Council Tax Rises
It may be a mild annoyance that you can’t have the money now, but pension contributions are important. These savings will support you later in life when you eventually retire. However, an increase in another area will also affect your income. Whether you pay rent or a mortgage, you also have to pay Council Tax. This is particularly unfair for renters, as the value of the property determines the tax rate rather than the resident’s income. It is important to pay Council Tax as well, though, because it goes towards local council services. These include waste collection and recycling, maintenance of public spaces, social care, and the police and fire services. The largest increase in Council Tax in the last 14 years will still be a blow for many people. Government cuts to funding have left councils desperate to raise the money they need to provide public services.
What this means is that many taxpayers will face a Council Tax increase of 5.99% this year. The cap for a Council Tax hike without consulting residents is 2.99%. Authorities offering social care for adults are allowed a 3% precept on top of this. Councils do not have to hold a referendum if the increase is less than 6%. Councils can and will raise the tax by the maximum of 5.99% without needing resident approval. If they want to raise Council Tax by more than this, they will have had to hold a vote. Pembrokeshire will see the highest tax increase at 11.04%. Wiltshire residents will face a 6.41% rise in their Council Tax, while East Northamptonshire will pay 6.15% more this year. In Bradford, Council Tax bills will go up by 6.05%. Besides these, 32 councils across England will implement increases from 5.8% – 5.99%. This includes Wirral, St. Helens, and Brighton and Hove.
Be sure to check your Council Tax payments for the 2018-2019 tax year. The amount will depend on the property value tax band your home fits into. You can enter your postcode here to find out which tax band your property is in. These will usually range from lower value properties in Band A to higher value properties in Band D. Once you know your tax band, visit your council’s website to find out the local tax rate for your band. You could arrange to pay your Council Tax online as well.
The start of the new tax year last week brings the Soft Drinks Industry Levy into effect. People more commonly know this levy as the buzzworthy Sugar Tax. There have been many debates about this tax, which aims to reduce the British public’s sugar consumption. At the moment, children and teenagers are consuming more than three times their daily recommended sugar intake. Adults are not doing much better, either. Excess sugar is a major contributor to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The sugar tax could help to prevent these health problems.
What is the Sugar Tax?
From 6th April 2018, drinks companies will have to pay taxes based on the amount of sugar in their drinks. Drinks with 5g of sugar or more per 100ml will have a tax charge of 18p per litre. More sugary drinks with 8g or more per 100ml will incur a tax charge of 24p per litre. However, fruit juices and drinks which contain at least 75% milk are exempt. Small companies producing less than 1 million litres a year can also avoid this tax. The money will go to the Department of Education, who can use it to fund school sports and activities which will improve public health.
The War on Sugar
Some people who feel that the government should stay out of their diets consider measures like this tax to be a war on sugar. Last year, Public Health England gave food companies the goal of cutting the sugar in their products by 20%. The time limit is the year 2020, but PHE expects a 5% sugar reduction in the first year. PHE will be publishing the results of this first year next month, in May. Participation in this scheme is voluntary, but no doubt PHE is going to name and shame companies in their report. A sugar tax on food items could follow the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.
Soft Drinks Industry Responses
Both the food companies and soft drinks companies trying to reduce their sugar content have the same options. The manufacturers can reduce the sugar by changing their recipes, or make portions smaller. The sugar tax applying only to soft drinks makes it much more critical for these companies to do something. If they still want to make a profit, they have to make consumers pay more for less. Otherwise, they will have to switch to artificial sweeteners and risk consumers not liking the new taste. The price of original Coke could rise by up to 50p per bottle, while the bottles will shrink in size. Original Pepsi is also not changing its sugar content. To avoid price increases, consumers will have to swap to Pepsi Max or Coke Zero. The good news is that plenty of drinks already reduced their sugar enough to avoid the impact of the levy. This includes Doctor Pepper, Fanta, Tango, Sprite, 7 Up, and Robinsons. Consumer responses will determine future changes.
How Does the Sugar Tax Affect Me?
As mentioned, soft drinks companies can push the tax onto consumers. Customers like you will end up paying more money for less product if you still want a bottle of regular Coke or Pepsi. On the plus side, the sugar tax might encourage you and others to make healthier choices. Now that you’re aware of just how much sugar you could be consuming every day, you might pay more attention to your intake. As long as people don’t consume other high-sugar products instead, like milkshakes or cakes and chocolate, the nation could become healthier as a result of the sugar tax. According to PHE, reducing sugar consumption could save 80,000 lives and £15 billion for the NHS. One of those lives could be yours, or one of the lives saved by the extra money which can fund other areas of the NHS. The tax money will fund public health, particularly in schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have a positive effect on families and communities.
Will the Sugar Tax Actually Work?
The sugar tax could be the push that the soft drinks industry needs to adjust its formulas. While original Pepsi and Coke aren’t budging, many drinks brands are reformulating with less sugar or sugar substitutes. Sweeteners are generally healthier than sugar. The downside is that a product containing more than 10% could induce laxative effects. Sweeteners also have a different flavour than regular sugar. Those with high-sugar lifestyles are likely to have an addiction to that taste and the sugar hit. Rising prices might not put them off. Or they could continue their sugar habit by purchasing other drinks or even sugary foods like ice cream instead. The tax only applying to soft drinks might not be enough. What about milkshakes and coffees? Have you ever checked how much sugar is in your latte or frappuccino? A sugar tax for these drinks may be on the way. Taxes like this have seen success in other countries. Soft drink sales in Mexico dropped by 12%.
Possible Anti-Sugar Policies
It is likely that further policies will come into effect regarding sugar in food and drinks. Obesity is still rising, even as consumption of soft drinks has already been falling in recent years. When it comes to food, it is more difficult to reduce sugar when it is an essential ingredient. In desserts, sugar is necessary for the rise and texture as well as flavour. We will have to see how reduction methods pan out for the food industry. In the meantime, the government may decide to pursue other policies suggested by Public Health England. For example, shops may not be allowed to sell high-sugar food next to tills or at the end of aisles to prevent impulse buys. Sugary products may experience advertising restrictions. Food labels could feature health warnings for excess sugar, the way cigarette packets do for excess tobacco. This is not just scaremongering or taking things too far. Public health is important, and 44% of people are already trying to consume less sugar.