Basic Sanity Checks

It’s long been said that people buy a home with their hearts rather than their heads. It’s not unusual for people to fall in love with a property when they’ve spent no more than 20 minutes looking round it.

However, it always pays to take a long cool look at a property and apply some basic sanity checks. Here are a few things you might want to think about, and some you may want to get a surveyor to check out, before you commit to buying it.


  • What’s the area like?

  • Can you walk to shops or do you need to drive?

  • What local transport links are there?

  • If you need to travel to work, a good service can make all the difference.

  • Is parking adequate, is the road likely to be very noisy at certain times of the day?

  • Which way does the property face? It can make the difference between having a home that’s light and bright, or one that in the winter can be frustratingly dark.

  • Are the rooms big enough? Developers can often put small furniture in show homes to make the rooms look bigger.

  • Think about storage space, and important things like the number and location of power sockets, are they sufficient for your needs?


A surveyor can report on important things that can be costly to put right, including structural problems, the state of the roof, signs of damp, condensation, and the quality of the window frames. You might also want to arrange to have the central heating system, pipework and radiators checked over, to ensure you don’t move in and find that you can’t heat the house and don’t have any hot water.



New evidence suggests that, in England and Wales, many more of us are putting down roots and choosing to stay in our current homes for longer.

It used to be that homeowners moved four times after their first purchase but now it is closer to two. Research1 carried out by Queen’s University Belfast points to a major cultural change, and highlights that at least a million fewer people moved between 2001 and 2011 compared with 1971 to 1981.


This trend is borne out by recent research from insurer Hiscox2. They have identified a five-fold increase in the number of homeowners who have chosen to renovate their existing home in the last five years. This choice is likely to be influenced by a range of factors such as the continued rise in house prices in some regions, predicted rises in interest rates, additional costs such as stamp duty, a lack of suitable property on the market, tighter mortgage lending criteria and economic uncertainty around Brexit. Additionally, in some parts of the country property prices have hardly moved, meaning that families are held back because they have made little or no profit on their existing home.

In 2013, the research2 showed that just 3% of homeowners chose to improve as an alternative to moving, but five years later, this figure has risen to 15%. Local council figures show that requests for planning permission have risen by 29% in the last ten years.


Increasingly homeowners are looking to adapt their property to meet their changing needs, with an extra bedroom high on the agenda of many families. Loft extensions head the list of alterations and digging out basements to create extra accommodation is becoming increasingly popular, especially in London.

1Queen’s University Belfast, Fewer people moved house in the ’00s than the ’70s, 2018
2Hiscox, Renovations and Extensions Report, 2018



Before you start house hunting in earnest, you need to decide what style of property will best suit your lifestyle. Do you opt for an older pre-loved home, or jump at the chance to be the first owner of a brand-new property?


One of the major appeals of an older property can be the space they offer growing families. Average room sizes have shrunk over the years, so too has the size of gardens. In contrast with new builds, older homes often have spacious rooms, front and back gardens, period features and thicker walls too. They can have the advantage of being part of a long-established community and be nearer to local amenities and schools.

The downsides can include higher maintenance costs and the need to update things like heating systems and improve insulation. Getting a survey done before you buy is important and will highlight any repairs that might be needed.


Many people enjoy the thought of being the first owners of a home. It presents them with a blank canvas that they can personalise to their own taste. New homes are designed to be energy-efficient and come with energy-saving features like double glazing. They offer modern bathrooms and kitchens that generally come complete with a range of built-in appliances. New-build properties normally benefit from a 10-year protection, under which buyers get a two-year builder warranty to cover eligible faults and a further eight-year insurance to cover certain major defects. The downsides for some can be that the properties may all look very similar and come with the same internal layout. New estates don’t always have easy access to local facilities.


Our monthly residential market review provides background to recent developments in property markets, as well as to give an indication of how some key issues could impact in the future.

‘Last-time buyer’ numbers increase in home purchases

Whilst first-time buyers make up just over 50% of residential home purchases currently, a further 30% of purchases, accounting for approximately 200,000 homes, are being made by buyers aged 55 or older.

This research, conducted by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), states that of this group, many are cash buyers, using the large equity reserve in previously owned properties to downsize to their ideal last home and retain the excess cash; 63% of these older homeowners own their properties outright.

The IMLA went on to add the caveat, that whilst only 2.5% of those eight million older homeowners actually move each year, it predicts that this small cohort will grow exponentially faster than any previous generations over the next 10-20 years.

The International Monetary Fund offers a warning

The world’s financial watchdog, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), based in Washington and headed by the previous Finance Minister of France, and now Managing Director and Chairwoman, Christine Largarde, has fired a warning over the danger of overseas buyers disrupting domestic property markets.

The IMF has stated that house price booms are a consistent cause of recessions and countries, including the UK, should take note and make pre-emptive steps to ensure that this process does not repeat itself. In an effort to prevent a housing bubble destabilising the economy, the IMF suggest that Britain should contemplate imposing stricter mortgage limits and deterrents against overseas buyers of UK property.

They warned the UK is a market: “where foreign buyers have played a role.” The IMF also stated that: “The most recent data seem to point to an increase in downside risks to house prices over the next one to three years in some countries.

Lifestyle aspirations drive new home development design

In addition to adapting to trends in the property world, new housing developments are increasingly having to adapt to changes in wider society. These changes are having an impact on the communal amenities provided and outdoor space.

New home developments are now frequently design-driven by the demands of buyers looking for a ‘lifestyle’ that includes innovative amenities such as gyms and fitness centres, communal landscaped green spaces and community facilities, such as meeting rooms.

Given that many more people have flexible working patterns and may work from home, much more time is now spent by working families in the residential home and their desires are now being reflected in the initial overall design of mid and high end new-build developments.

Some new developments are offering innovative ‘extras’ such as individual indoor secure bicycle storage facilities, allowing homeowners to easily jump on their bike to commute to the station or office, or just to spend their leisure time cycling around the area.


The recent slowdown in the market has been good news for those who want to get into the housing market and make that all-important first purchase.

Whilst the number of current owners moving home has come to a virtual standstill, due in part to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, the number of first-timers has increased. Analysis by Lloyds Bank2 shows that 372,100 first-time buyers entered the market in 2018, up by 3% on the figure for 2017.


Changes in Stamp Duty provided much-needed help. First-time buyers in England and Northern Ireland now pay no Stamp Duty on properties worth up to £300,000. This means that they save up to £5,000. For properties costing up to £500,000 they pay no Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 but will pay duty on the remaining £200,000. (If they buy a property worth over £500,000, then they pay the standard rate and won’t qualify for first-time buyer’s relief). In Scotland, first-time buyers enjoy Land and Buildings Transaction Tax relief that saves them up to £600, whilst in Wales they get no special Land Transaction Tax concessions.

As of October 2018, first-time buyers under Shared Ownership schemes can now claim First-Time Buyer’s Stamp Duty relief on homes worth up to £500,000. This change applies to homes purchased on or after 22 November 2017. Those purchasers who chose to pay Stamp Duty in stages and were previously not eligible for the relief can now claim this tax back.


As well as being able to take advantage of what has become a buyer’s market, first-time buyers can also benefit from historically-low interest rates on mortgages. The mortgage market remains very competitive and lenders are currently offering a range of attractive deals specifically designed to help young people get on the housing ladder.

In the current market conditions, it’s worth checking out recent sold prices in the area in which you’re looking to buy, as you may be able to secure a property with an offer lower than the asking price, especially if the owners are keen to move as soon as possible.

A mortgage is a loan secured against your home or property. Your home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other debt secured on it.

2Lloyds, 2019

It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances.

Information within this document is based on our current understanding and can be subject to change without notice and the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed. It does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. Some rules may vary in different parts of the UK. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain.

Levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are those currently applying or proposed and are subject to change; their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. No part of this document may be reproduced in any manner without prior permission.

Information is based on our understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from taxation are subject to change.

A mortgage is a loan secured against your home or property. Your home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other debt secured on it.

Tax treatment is based on individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future.


Our monthly residential market review is intended to provide background to recent developments in property markets, as well as to give an indication of how some key issues could impact in the future.

Average residential sales times longer

Recent research from property portal, Rightmove, indicates that across the UK, the average time taken from when a property is first listed, until it is marked as under offer, has increased from 72 days in January 2018 to 77 days currently.

The data also shows that Runcorn, in Cheshire, has the fastest moving housing market outside of London. Runcorn has an average asking price of £132,653 and has seen a reduction in selling time from 69 days in 2018 to just 48 days currently, 29 days quicker than the national average. This appears to have largely been driven by the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge, alleviating major traffic problems, to allow a journey time of 20 minutes by car, from Runcorn to Liverpool City Centre.

In Scotland, homes are selling quickest in Livingston, where on average it takes just 35 days for properties to get snapped up. Redditch in the West Midlands takes top spot as the fastest selling market in England, with properties in the Worcestershire town selling in 45 days, on average.

Targets may not be met despite more homes being built

A recent survey of more than 400 housebuilding companies in England, by property and construction consultancy McBains, reveals that 57% of respondents reported increasing the rate at which they built new homes during 2018 and are also predicting a further rise over the next 12 months.

However, less than half of those surveyed (48%) think that the Government target of building 300,000 homes a year, on average, by the mid-2020s is achievable, with worries over land availability, slow planning permission and skills shortages being cited as barriers to prevent them building more homes.

Of the homes to be built over the next 12 months, house builders expect 22% of these new homes to be classed as affordable homes for rent or sale. Clive Docwra, Managing Director of McBains, commented: “For those people struggling to get a foot on the property ladder, the finding that only arou nd one in five of new homes to be built over the next year will fal l into the affordable category will be disappointing.”

Uncertainty continues

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) February 2019 UK Residential Survey, indicated that the residential property market continues to struggle for momentum. The survey posed an additional question this time, aimed at identifying the most significant factor holding back activity, and in response to this, 77% of respondents cited Brexit uncertainty as the biggest challenge facing the housing market at present. The survey also indicated that 71% felt it was impacting both buyers and sellers, while only 8% were of the view that Brexit was not having an effect on either.

The Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement on 13 March and although little was expected in terms of new policy measures affecting the built environment, many policies remain dependent on the outcome of the Brexit debate, which a RICS press release expressed as ‘frustrating given how much parliamentary time has been diverted to it at the expense of pressing domestic issues such as the housing crisis, construction skills shortage and infrastructure deficit.’

It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances. Information within this document is based on our current understanding and can be subject to change without notice and the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed. It does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. Some rules may vary in different parts of the UK. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain. Levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are those currently applying or proposed and are subject to change; their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. No part of this document may be reproduced in any manner without prior permission.


Your spotlight on issues affecting business – March 2019

Small Firms at the Heart of Communities

A Growing Problem: Stress at Work

Cyber Security Concerns

Everyone Deserves to be paid on Time

SME’s Prefer FaceBook

Other News


A new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has highlighted the vital contribution small firms are making to their local communities up and down the country.

Published in late February, ‘Small Business, Big Heart: Bringing communities together’, examines the role smaller firms play within their local jobs markets and the success they bring to their neighbourhoods. The findings show that small businesses are very much part of the fabric of their communities, contributing in a variety of ways such as volunteering activities, support for local schools and youth groups, and a willingness to employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Specifically, the report found that eight in ten small businesses had volunteered and/or contributed to a local community group or charitable cause in the last three years, while more than four in ten had actively engaged with local schools, colleges or youth organisations. In addition, 95% had employed at least one worker from a labour market disadvantaged group; for example, one in three hired someone with a disability or mental health condition, while a third employed someone with low levels of educational attainment. The FSB is now calling on Government to recognise community-minded small firms by implementing a range of positive policy initiatives. These include delivering on its manifesto pledge to introduce a one-year National Insurance Contributions (NICs) holiday for small firms that employ those who are disadvantaged in the jobs market; targeted Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) refunds, and greater support for work experience placements.


Recent research has once again highlighted the growing problem of stress within the workplace, both for small business owners and across the workforce at large.

According to a survey conducted by accounting software specialist Xero, more than eight out of ten UK small business owners experienced stress in the past six months. In addition, nearly half said they had been more stressed than normal, while one in six admitted to being ‘highly stressed’ and one in ten felt the stress of running a business negatively impacted their mental health.

Another study conducted by HR software provider CIPHR found that more than half of all workers frequently arrive at work already stressed, with the daily commute found to be the single biggest cause of stress. Six in ten workers also felt that starting their day stressed reduced their levels of productivity.

The last few years have clearly seen an increasing focus placed on stress in the workplace and what employers can do to safeguard their employees’ mental health. And this research suggests that issues relating to stress and mental health are likely to remain firmly at the top of the workplace agenda for the next few years.


Concerns have been raised regarding the increasing threat to cyber security amongst SMEs, highlighting the need for more effective data protection practices.

Latest Government data shows that almost half of all businesses experienced a cyberattack in 2017. SMEs were more likely to be affected, with 66% of SMEs experiencing a breach of cyber security, compared to 41% of large businesses and 46% of micro businesses.

One possible reason for this may be the increase in recent years of flexible and shared office space, which clearly leaves SMEs more exposed to data theft and loss of company sensitive information. In addition, higher levels of connectivity across multiple devices and a rising trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) may have further exposed businesses to cyber-security breaches.

According to the figures, medium enterprises in the UK spent an average of £15,500 on cyber security, although this figure varies greatly depending on the size of the business and the sector. For instance, businesses in the Information, Communication or Utility sectors spent an average of £19,500 on cyber security, while firms in the Food and Hospitality sectors invested a mere £620 on average.


The FSB has issued a call for Government to help tackle the late payment culture that is still prevalent across the UK business sector.

According to research conducted by the FSB, more than eight out of ten small businesses report being paid late, with a third saying that at least one in four payments they are owed arrives later than agreed. And, ahead of this month’s Spring Statement, the FSB is calling on Government to help fight poor payment practices as part of its ‘Fair Pay, Fair Play’ campaign.

Specifically, the FSB is pushing for the adoption of three key reforms which it feels would help bring an end to the UK’s poor payment crisis. These are to: assign Non-Executive Directors responsible for overseeing a company’s payment practices and prevent late payments; strengthen payment enforcement measures, including the Prompt Payment Code, and allow Government to fine businesses that fail to report payment practices data; and adopt Project Bank Accounts in public procurement.

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry commented:

For far too long some big businesses have been allowed to get away with poor behaviour that has seen them use their dominant position to bully and squeeze our small firms. Why do we find ourselves in a situation where some think it is acceptable and fair to not pay our small businesses on time? The truth is that it isn’t fair – everyone deserves to be paid on time.


A recent survey of 1,000 UK SMEs found that Facebook is the social media site used most commonly to promote their business.

The research conducted by Lightspeed shows Facebook to be twice as well-used amongst SMEs as its closest rival Twitter. Less popular were LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube, with Pintrerest being cited as the channel least used for promotional purposes.

Social media is increasingly being utilised as a sales tool, with 54% of business owners saying they have successfully made sales from it. London is leading the charge, with 79% of businesses in the capital successfully boosting sales through social media. Smaller businesses were less successful, however, with just 32% of businesses with ten or less employees stating that social media had helped them generate sales.

Half of all businesses surveyed said they employ someone in a role specifically to drive the business’s online presence. In London, this rises to 70% but falls to just one in five of smaller businesses with ten or less employees.

"A big business starts small."
– Sir Richard Branson
£3 billion of Apprenticeship Levy remains unused
Following a Freedom of Information request made by the Open University (OU), it has been revealed that only 14% of Apprenticeship Levy funding is currently being utilised by employers. This means that £3 billion worth of funds remains untouched. The OU has suggested that employers are missing out on a golden opportunity to close their skills gaps and ensure their organisations are fully equipped to handle the upcoming challenges they are likely to face.
SMEs to be granted greater access to FOS
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed its plans to widen access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for SMEs. As a result, up to 210,000 additional UK SMEs will soon become eligible to complain to the ombudsman service. The final rules on the SME extension are expected to come into force on 1 April 2019.
Disaster recovery solutions
More than two-thirds of smallbusiness owners don't have a written disaster recovery plan. Disaster recovery planning generally takes a low priority for most businesses but overlooking this vital area can prove to be extremely costly or even fatal for a business.

Workplace Traditions Survey

Employers need to be aware of the transition from traditional to modern workplaces. In an increasingly candidate-driven market, it’s important to be responsive to what potential employees are after, otherwise you risk losing out to the savvier competition.”
Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library CV-Library, Feb 2019
•	From 6 April 2019 the minimum contributions employers and their staff pay into their automatic enrolment workplace pension scheme will increase
•	The total minimum contribution will increase from 5% to 8%:
Date	Employer minimum contribution	Staff contribution	Total minimum contribution
Current rate: 6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019	2%	3%	5%
New rate: 6 April 2019 onwards	3%	5%	8%
•	By law a total minimum amount of contributions must be paid into the scheme
•	Employers must make at least the minimum employer contribution of 3% (from 6/4/19) and the staff member must make up the difference
•	If employers decide to cover the total minimum contribution required (8% from 6/4/19), their staff won't need to pay anything
•	Check your scheme documents and with your scheme provider for further information
19 March
•	PAYE, Student loan and CIS deductions are due for the month to 5 March 2019
31 March
•	End of corporation tax financial year
•	End of CT61 quarterly period
•	Filing date for Company Tax Return Form CT600 for period ended 31 March 2018
•	Last minute planning for tax year 2018/19 – please contact us for advice


Aerial view on Blackfriars bridge and city of London


Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond stood up in Parliament at 12.43pm on Wednesday, 13 March, to deliver his second Spring Statement at an inauspicious time following the House of Commons’ dramatic rejection of the Government’s Brexit deal the previous evening. He commented that: “Last night’s vote leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our economy, and our most urgent task in this House is to lift that uncertainty“. He spoke for 36 minutes before commending the statement to the House.

The Economy

The Chancellor reported the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecast for the UK economy. The figures show nine consecutive years of growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and forecast that this growth would continue for the next five years. They predict 2019 will see growth of 1.2%, 2020 1.4% and the following three years 1.6%.

At the same time, the country’s cyclically adjusted budget deficit is predicted to fall to 1.3% of GDP next year and is estimated to continue to fall to 0.5% by 2023, whilst CPI inflation will remain close to its 2% target for the duration of the forecast period.

Borrowing is forecast to fall from £29.3bn in 2019/20, £21.2bn in 2020/21, falling to £13.5bn in 2023/24, its lowest level in 22 years if achieved.

The Chancellor announced it is the Treasury’s policy to continue to take a “balanced approach“, maintaining high public capital investment whilst borrowing and debt fall. He will initiate a three-year Spending Review to be delivered alongside the Autumn Budget, assuming a Brexit deal is agreed.

Employment & Wages

Official figures show that, over the past nine years, employment in the UK has grown by 3.5 million. The OBR believe this figure will increase by a further 600,000 by 2023. The unemployment rate now stands at 4.0% of the working population, which is the lowest recorded level since 1975. They go on to predict that this trend will continue for the next five years.

Further good news came as wage growth was recorded to be rising at its fastest rate for over a decade and is forecast to continue to grow faster than inflation.

Public spending and technology

Mr Hammond announced a number of important spending initiatives, which include an immediate commitment of £100 million to the Police forces in England and Wales, specifically to address the recent surge in knife crime; £79m investment in the ‘ARCHER2’ super-computer – providing researchers with a five-fold increase in computing capacity; £81m investment in a new Extreme Photonics Centre (state-of-the-art laser technology); £45m for ‘Bioformatics’ research in Cambridge (a genomics science). He commented: “Technology does not stand still and neither can we“.

He reiterated that the government’s priority for public spending continued to be: “putting the NHS first in-line – as the British public would expect”. Although he didn’t pledge any further funding, he emphasised the commitment of an additional £34 billion funding per year, announced previously.


The Chancellor was happy to announce that the government had overseen the building of 220,000 new homes in 2018, the highest level in all but one of the last 31 years. He confirmed the “ambitious plan to restore the dream of home ownership to millions of younger people” is already delivering. This includes a five year £44 billion housing programme, raising annual housing supply to 300,000 by the mid-2020s, the Help-to-Buy Equity Loan Scheme and the abolition of Stamp Duty for most first-time buyers. All of these measures have combined to restore the proportion of first-time buyers to above 50% of the market for the first time in a generation. The Chancellor announced a new £3 billion Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme to support delivery of 30,000 homes.


We lead the world” in climate change, boasted the Chancellor, as he announced the UK is reducing the carbon intensity of our economy faster than any other G20 economy. The government intend to publish a call for evidence on whether all passenger carriers should be required to offer additional carbon offsets, giving customers the option for zero carbon travel.

He went on to add that he intends to introduce a Future Homes Standard that will ensure that new homes are not permitted to utilise fossil fuel heating systems from 2025.

Given that he believes biodiversity has an important link with economic growth, he wants to address the plague of plastic waste. A comprehensive global review of the link between biodiversity and economic growth is being launched this year. The forthcoming Environment Bill intends to ensure that delivery of infrastructure and housing will not be at the expense of biodiversity. He announced a Marine Protected Area of an additional 445,000 sq. km. of the South Atlantic Ocean around Ascension Island.

Other News

  • Hammond introduced his concept of a ‘deal dividend’, which he described as the UK’s increase in wealth in the event of an orderly exit from the EU
  • £260 million for Borderlands Growth Deal and £60 million Transforming Cities Fund
  • Paper landing cards to be ended for some countries and to replace that system with ‘e-Gates’ at all port entries (June)
  • PhD qualified potential immigrants will be exempt from current visa rules (June)
  • Free sanitary products in schools in England from the new school year
  • Companies’ audit committees to review late payments to suppliers
  • Apprenticeship Levy – Budget 2018 announced the coinvestment rate will be halved from 10% to 5%, and the amount employers can transfer to their supply chains would increase to 25% – these changes will now take effect from April 2019
  • National Living Wage – the government confirmed the Low Pay Commission’s remit for 2019, and later this year will set a new remit beyond 2020

Other Comments

Philip Hammond closed his Spring Statement with these words:

We have huge opportunities ahead of us: our capital is the world’s financial centre; our universities are global powerhouses of discovery and innovation; our businesses are at the cutting edge of the tech revolution. And we have shown that we are not shy, as a nation, of the tasks that lie ahead.

We are addressing the environmental challenges that threaten our planet; we are building the homes that the next generation desperately need. We are investing in our future, tackling the productivity gap and embracing technological change, rising to its challenges and seizing its opportunities.

Our potential is clear; our advantages are manifest; we are the fifth largest economy in the world. A proud, successful, outward-looking nation, with no limit to our ambition and no boundaries to what we can achieve. A brighter future is within our grasp; a Britain the next generation will be proud to call their home.”

Forthcoming consultations, reviews and regulations

  • Consultation on preventing abuse of the R&D tax relief for small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Insurance Premium Tax operational review
  • Consultation on maturing Child Trust Funds (CTF)
  • National Insurance Contributions Employment Allowance draft regulations
  • VAT Simplification and the Public Sector policy paper
  • Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) approved fund guidelines
  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT) private residence relief consultation
  • Stamp Taxes on shares consideration rules consultation
  • Helping businesses to improve the way they use energy: call for evidence
  • Energy efficiency scheme for small and medium-sized businesses: call for evidence
  • Financial Services Legislation – following consultation later this year, the government will legislate to ensure the UK can maintain world-leading financial services regulatory standards, remain open to international markets, and realise new trading opportunities
  • No Safe Havens 2019 policy paper setting out the government’s achievements in tackling tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance

Personal taxation changes announced at the Autumn 2018 Budget

  • Personal Allowance rises to £12,500 (up from £11,850) from 6 April 2019
  • Higher Rate Income Tax threshold rises to £50,000 (from £46,350) from 6 April 2019 (not Scotland)
  • Personal Lifetime Allowance increases to £1,055,000 (up from £1,030,000) from 6 April 2019
  • Individual Savings Account (ISA) investment limit for 2019/20 remains at £20,000
  • Junior Individual Savings Account (JISA) and Child Trust Fund (CTF) investment limit rises from £4,260 to £4,368 from 6 April 2019, uprated in line with CPI
  • Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount rises from £11,700 to £12,000 for 2019/20
  • First-time buyers purchasing shared equity homes of up to £500,000 eligible for first-time buyers’ relief (immediate effect from 29/10/18)

Credit Score Tips

Keeping your credit score high throughout your life

A good credit score will see you more likely to be accepted for various types of credit, as well as allow you to enjoy lower rates of interest. The benefits of a high score mean you’ll want to maintain it throughout your life. However, it can be easily damaged over the years. After all, keeping on top of your credit and finances can be hard as you’re dealing with all the things life throws at you.

What happens to your credit score as you age?

The older you grow, the longer your credit history will get, depending on when you took out your first form of credit. Did you know a mobile phone contract is a type of credit? So if you took one out at university, for example, even if you didn’t have a credit card, your credit history will have started building up.

Did you also know your student loan doesn’t count towards your credit report and score?

A limited history could mean a lower credit score, since there is not enough evidence of good borrowing. However, a long credit history doesn’t always necessarily mean a good credit score. This is because a high credit score is determined by a history of credit repayments made in full and on time, among other things. So, much like if you were to keep up a good diet and exercise regime you’d be more likely to be in good health as you get older, your credit history needs to be maintained in order to achieve a healthy credit score.

At certain points in your life your credit score may drop. One reason for this might be when you take out new forms of credit. Taking on a mortgage or loan could see your score drop, because of the additional debt and new credit inquiry recorded on your file. Your first mortgage, a car loan, a loan for your wedding, a joint credit card, a remortgage; there are numerous times when you might need to borrow money throughout your life and this might impact your score.

Whether you get married or not, you may choose to join your finances with your partner and open a joint account or a joint mortgage. Being financially linked to someone means their score and credit report will impact yours and you can see your credit score fluctuate depending on their financial behaviours.

How to maintain a high score

Keep credit card balances low
The higher the balances on your credit cards, the more it can negatively affect your credit score, so you should aim to keep your balance relatively low in proportion to your credit limit. Your use of credit should be under 25% of your total credit limit. For example, if your credit limit is £1,200, then you should aim to only spend no more than £300 on it. Going over this, even if you plan to pay the balance off in full, can affect your credit score.

Pay your bills on time
One of the easiest ways to maintain a good credit score and prevent it from dropping is to keep on top of your bills. This means paying them on time and not missing payment deadlines. As you get older you may have more bills to pay, so to avoid losing track set up direct debits. The payments will be made automatically from your account so there’s no risk or forgetting and being hit with missed or late-payment penalties.

Check your credit report regularly
A mistake that many people make is only checking their credit report when they need to apply for a mortgage, loan or other form of credit, which means it could go unchecked for months or even years. Checking your report can help you spot errors on your file that could affect your score. You can also pick up early signs of identity theft or fraud by examining your accounts and other information held on your report. However, unless you’re checking your credit report once a month or so, you won’t know and your score could be falling in the background without your knowledge. Get mistakes on your credit report fixed as soon as you spot them by informing the credit reference agency.

Keep old accounts
Closing down old accounts will shorten your credit history on your file and could subsequently cause your credit score to drop. Credit reporting agencies will only keep payment history on closed accounts for six years, after this it will be removed from your credit report. There are times when closing accounts can help your credit score, because it reduces the amount of available credit you have. If you are to consider this, you should still try and ensure that your total balances compared to limits, remains around the 25% mark mentioned above. However, as a rule of thumb, aim to keep accounts with a long history of good repayments.

Apply for credit in moderation
Making too many new credit applications in one go can make lenders perceive you as too risky and negatively impact your credit score. Whenever you make an application for new credit, the lenders search on your file is recorded and leaves a footprint on your credit history. Too many credit applications can imply that you’ve failed to get the credit you want.

Whether you’re a student or retired, your credit score will only be as good as your financial behaviour. It only takes a few basic habits to ensure your credit score doesn’t drop as you get older and stays as high as possible throughout your life.