HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has revealed that as many as 4.7 million people didn’t pay the right amount of tax during the 2010-11 tax year.
This is bad news for roughly 1.2 million people who underpaid through the pay as you earn (PAYE) system – these individuals owe between £500 and £600 on average according to HMRC estimates, which amounts to a total debt of approximately £660 million.
The majority of people who paid the wrong amount actually overpaid, however, with between 1.7 million and 3.5 million people estimated to be in line for a rebate. The average figure for overpayment is expected to be around £340.
Each year, HMRC compares the amount of tax and national insurance deducted by employers with the data on its own files. Last September, a new IT system revealed millions of inconsistencies, and around 1.4million people had to pay back an average of more than £1,000.
The people most likely to have paid the wrong amount of tax are those who have moved jobs, started earning a second income, or received a new employment or retirement benefit they weren’t previously getting.
HMRC will begin checking employer data against its own records from mid-July – people eligible for a refund can expect to receive it by the end of September. The majority of those who have underpaid won’t be billed – they will have their tax code changed so that what they owe can be deducted from their salary over the next tax year.
Last year, HMRC wrote off any debts below £300 due to its own errors, but this year the threshold has reverted back to the default £50. Anyone who can’t afford to repay HMRC has been invited to contact them and discuss possible arrangements.
Today, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report entitled Desperate Times, desperate consumers, which details the extent to which rogue traders and con artists are thriving in the current economic climate.
At a time when people are looking to cut their spending and boost their income, “money-making scams and sharp practices disguised as sources of help” are becoming increasingly prevalent.
Speaking at the Trading Standards Institute conference in Bournemouth today, Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said “consumers need advice, enforcement, regulation and redress agencies to work even more closely to stamp out fraud and scams”.
Common scams include people advertising jobs that don’t exist, and charging upfront fees to those who express an interest in the position. One man from the West Midlands paid a £1,000 fee for a job as a film extra that was advertised on the Government’s Jobcentre Plus site.
The National Audit Office (NAO) last week published its own report, which said that funding cuts will leave trading standards departments underequipped to tackle these kinds of issues. Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said that UK customers were wrong to think they were well-protected.
The Government now plans to scrap the Consumer Focus watchdog, transferring advocacy of energy consumers’ rights to the CAB. Citizens Advice is also due to take over the Consumer Direct helpline.
In the current economic climate, there is widespread anxiety about the availability of jobs, and about the ability to maintain a decent standard of living when prices are soaring and incomes are stagnating.
This morning, the Office for National Statistics released its quarterly update on the UK labour market, which provides figures for the period from February to April 2011. Compared with the previous quarter, unemployment has dropped by 88,000 and the number of people working has risen by 80,000. The fall in unemployment was the largest quarterly drop since June-August 2000.
70.6% of those eligible to work were in employment, meaning 29.24 million people had jobs. The unemployment rate was 7.7% (2.43 million people).
Although the unemployment level has fallen, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has increased by 19,600 to 1.49 million, which is the highest for more than 12 months. The current number of people in work is 333,000 less than when employment levels peaked in May 2008, before the recession hit.
The quarterly drop in unemployment levels was almost completely accounted for by 16 to 24-year-olds – unemployment in this age group was cut by 79,000 to 895,000, which is the lowest figure for two years. However, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds remained high at 19.3% (more than double the national average).
Average annual earnings increased by 1.8% in the year ending April 2011, with average weekly pay reaching £460. A decrease in bonuses paid by private firms skewed these figures somewhat. Nevertheless, the 1.8% increase remains significantly lower than the 4.5% annual rate of inflation.
The latest data suggests there are some grounds for optimism, but for people struggling to find work or make ends meet on meagre salaries, the outlook may still seem pretty bleak.
The big boom of Antiques Roadshow and Cash in the Attic programmes have sparked a nation of hopefuls, scrawling through their cloggy attic dust, looking for something that might fetch them the big fortune. For awhile, we were all sure attic sprawling and clutter hording would become as frequent as the lottery hopes and dreams!
The main reason we horde the clutter is because we think it may be worth something years later – and, those same years later, probably forget why we kept it. The truth is everyone can be lucky enough to own something of significant value in the form of clutter; the story of Del Boy and Rodney finding the multi-million pound watch isn’t far from a fantasy.
Bernice Gallego from California found an antique 1869 rare baseball card in her attic; if it wasn’t for her daughter she would have sold it for £10 on eBay (when the card was actually worth £75,282). Or how about the lady who bought an authentic Jackson Pollock painting (for those who you who don’t know, Jackson Pollock is considered a master of expressionist paintings) for $5 for a depressed friend because she thought it ‘looked horrible, but funny’ (it was originally $8 but the buyer, Teri Houton, said she didn’t love her friend that much). The ‘horrible’ masterpiece is now said to be worth $50million.
Unfortunately, we’re not all Roadshow presenters. Anita Rhodes, a Malborough grandmother, sold a setoff HE Tidmarsh painting for £60 under expert advice from ‘Cash in the Attic’. She later learnt that HE Tidmarsh were widely sort after and wished she hadn’t let them go!
You might not necessarily find a Jackson Pollock or prize antiques but it’s always worth checking a few items before you chuck it all away. Most famous works or antiques are marked or signed by name; a quick search can tell you if it’s a jackpot or junk. Your grandparents might have horded a painting that was worth pennies in their time but a good solid amount nowadays – you never know!
And even if the hard attic crawl turns out no priceless works of art, you can at least flog them on eBay for 50p a pop – maybe someone else will gamble on them being priceless in 10 years time!