Martin Lewis on how to urgently beat April price hikes (BT, British Gas, council tax and more) and tax changes
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis has warned there is a huge raft of deadlines, cut-offs, price hikes and changes about to hit millions of people in the UK, on his ITV The Martin Lewis Money Show (watch the full 24-minute show to get a detailed briefing).
The issue is caused by 1 April price rises by public service firms and utility providers, and includes council tax, energy bills, Sky and BT bills, and more. Plus it's the start of a new tax year on 6 April, which throws up a lot of urgent deadlines - if you miss them, you likely miss out.
Martin explains the April price hikes (four minutes)
This clip has been taken from The Martin Lewis Money Show, broadcast on Thursday 18 March, courtesy of ITV Studios Ltd, all rights reserved. You can turn on subtitles by selecting the keyboard icon in the bottom right. You can also watch the full episode on the ITV Hub.
And now, here's Martin's full explanation of what's happening (note - while this was first written for the MSE weekly email on Wed 24 Mar, we've updated it on Tue 29 Mar with all the latest info):
The 'you can ONLY CLAIM BACK 4YRS so go quick' rule
Many tax relief schemes allow you to backdate claims by up to four tax years (on top of the current one). So with a new tax year starting on 6 April, that means reclaims relating to 6 Apr 16 to 5 Apr 17 need be done before then, ie, now.
1. Apply for marriage tax allowance now or lose up to £220. If you're eligible for the Government's marriage tax allowance (MTA) once you sign up, you get it year after year. To be eligible you must...
- Be married or in a civil partnership (just cohabiting doesn't count).
- One must be a non-taxpayer, the other a basic 20% taxpayer.
The non-taxpayer can transfer 10% of their tax-free allowance, currently £1,250, to their spouse so they pay £250 less tax. Backdate it the full four years and it's worth a total of £1,188, but do it now - as from 6 April, you'll lose the 2016/17 year, worth up to £220.
Full help and pros and cons are in our MTA guide, but for most it's simple and quick, as Irene emailed: "We decided to apply for the marriage tax allowance. Within a couple of weeks, my husband had a cheque for £900. Thank you MSE."
2. Is your tax code wrong? If so, check now... A tax code is a series of letters and numbers, eg, 1250L, which tell your employer/pension provider what tax to deduct. It's your responsibility to check if it's wrong, and if it is (millions are), it can mean you're overpaying, and are due money back. You've until 5 April to do it for the 2016/17 tax year. Full help via our Free Tax Code Calculator.
3. Had a PPI payout? You're likely due tax back, but go quick. With successful PPI reclaims, you don't just get what you paid back, they must add 8% statutory interest on top - to put you back in the position you would've been in had you not got the insurance.
This counts as savings interest, but unlike savings, with PPI 20% tax is automatically deducted. As most people can earn £1,000/yr interest without paying tax, most are paying tax unnecessarily and are due it back. My Reclaim PPI tax blog takes you through it - but again, the clock's ticking for PPI payouts from the 2016/17 tax year.
Sarah Ann's tweet shows why it's worth checking, "@MartinSLewis I sent an 'R40 form' in as you suggested and have recently got £888 tax back from my PPI payout. Thanks."
4. Claim the uniform tax rebate. If you wear a recognisable work uniform (eg, branded T-shirt) and wash or repair it yourself, you can likely claim a tax rebate. The minimum is a £60/yr allowance (so worth £12/yr for a basic 20% rate taxpayer, £24 higher 40% rate). As you can backdate four years, go quick or you'll lose 2016/17. Full help in Uniform Tax Rebate.
Fool's day isn't the only April tradition - sadly each year there's a raft of utility and public service price hikes. This year is no exception, including...
5. Council tax bills UP 5% (c. £90/yr) for many on 1 Apr. Over 50% of councils have signalled they'll raise bills by the max, usually 5%, adding a typical £90/yr for a band D property.
You can't stop that, but do my 10-min council tax check 'n' challenge to see if you're in the wrong band - and are due £1,000s back. Plus if you live alone (or with students/children), are on a low income, or have disabilities, see if you're due a council tax discount.
Philip emailed about a severe mental impairment discount success: "My mother-in-law's got a £5,083 refund dating back to 2018 as she unfortunately suffers from Alzheimer's. Thanks for keeping us informed, wouldn't have known otherwise."
6. Energy price cap up from £1,042/yr to £1,138/yr on 1 Apr - take just 5 mins to save £200+/yr. If, like in most homes, your energy is provided by British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.on, Scottish Power or SSE and you've not changed tariff in a year, you're likely facing a hike of nearly £100/yr on typical usage. It's now easier than ever to sort...
- MOST POPULAR: We do it for you: Use MSE Pick Me A Tariff.
- Or do it yourself: Via our MSE full market comparison.
As Heather emailed: "I've been with British Gas for almost 20yrs. Fed up of rates going up frequently, I finally swapped and have made a staggering £900 annual saving. I owe you a pint."
7. English prescription charges up 20p to £9.35 on 1 Apr. Yet our research show 100,000s who pay and get prescriptions could save with an NHS prescription 'season ticket', where you pay a one-off fee for all prescriptions. The price of these is going up in April too, so if you get 12+ prescriptions a year it's worth it.
8. BT, TalkTalk, EE, Sky and others hiking TV / broadband / mobile prices from around 1 Apr - yet many can HALVE costs. If you're one of 20 million out of contract across the sectors, use this as an opportunity to ditch and switch. Many can improve service and halve costs.
Broadband and line is available from '£13/mth' - check via our broadband comparison tool. For handsets and Sims use the MSE Cheap Mobile Finder tool.
Happy with your service and want to stick? Still do a comparison then use tips in our Broadband Haggling and Mobile Phone Haggling guides to try to get your existing provider to match it.
9. TV licence fee goes up £1.50 to £159/yr from 1 Apr. Depending on how you watch TV or your age, you may not need to pay for a licence. See Who needs (and who doesn't need) a TV licence?
The USE 'EM or LOSE 'EM tax year allowances
Each tax year you're given a range of tax-free allowances. With the simplest, individual savings accounts (ISAs), you can't carry them over into the next tax year. And while 5 April is the deadline, in practice it takes time to do, so get your skates on.
10. Fill up your £4,000 Lifetime ISA (LISA) allowance now. LISAs can be opened by those aged 18-39. They give first-time buyers using it towards a home (or those saving until age 60) a 25% bonus up to £1,000 a year on everything they manage to save.
You can put in up to £4,000/tax yr. So if you haven't fully used this year's allowance, if you've got the cash you could put up to £4,000 in today, and another £4,000 on 6 Apr when the new tax year starts. So that's £8,000 in total - meaning £2,000 free. Read our Top LISAs guide first to check the pros and cons to see if it's suitable.
11. Got a LISA you definitely won't use? Withdraw money IMMEDIATELY. LISAs are designed for first-time buyers buying a qualifying property or those saving until age 60+. Normally to take the money out for any other purpose you pay an effective penalty of 6.25%. Yet, due to Covid, this is waived until 5 Apr, though in practice most need to start the withdrawal several days before then to beat the deadline. So if that's you, go quick (and for some, it may already be too late). Full help in beat LISA withdrawal penalties.
12. Hope to buy a first home within a decade? Put £1 in a LISA (parents do it for kids too). The tax year deadline is irrelevant for this, but as I'm mentioning LISAs, just a note. To use the LISA as a first-time buyer it needs to have been open a year. So open one with £1 now to start the clock, so it's usable if/when needed. Parents tell your kids when they hit 18 too. Full help in Top LISAs.
13. Big savings? Use your 2020/21 cash ISA allowance quickly. Cash ISAs are pointless for most, as the personal savings allowance (PSA) means the majority of people don't pay tax on any savings interest, and top savings accounts pay more than cash ISAs.
Yet if you're a big saver who's used up your PSA, the fact cash ISAs are still tax-free is a boon. You can put up to £20,000 in per tax year, and have until 5 Apr to put it in. Charter Savings offers the top 0.4% easy-access account and Yorkshire Building Society the top 1yr 0.45% fix. But Nationwide custs can get a 0.75% 18mth ISA and £50 bonus cashback if they transfer in £10,000+. Full help in Top Cash ISAs.
14. Looking to invest? Stocks & shares ISAs are a clearer-cut decision. If you're looking to use your £20,000 ISA allowance to invest, unlike savings, investing first within an ISA is often a winner for most. For more read our Stocks & Shares ISAs guide.
Last chance COVID HELP deadlines...
While furlough and self-employment income support grants (no news on its timing I'm afraid) both continue until the autumn, there are imminent deadlines for some of the other coronavirus support schemes:
15. Required to work from home, even for a day, since 6 Apr 20? Claim a YEAR'S tax rebate the easy way while you can. HM Revenue & Customs currently has a microservice that automatically gives you a year's tax rebate, if you've had to work from home for even a day, this tax year. It's worth £60/yr for basic-rate taxpayers, £125 higher rate.
There's no confirmation whether this will continue after 6 Apr, so it may then be trickier to claim, so best do it now. Full help in my Working-from-home tax back blog.
16. Last chance. You can apply for your first Covid payment holiday on mortgages, loans, cards, car finance until 31 Mar. The regulator's not extending the deadline. Full help in my 'Should I take a payment holiday?' blog but in short...
Most struggling who have not had a payment holiday yet are due one of up to 3mths. These can then be increased to the shorter of 6mths or until 31 July. These payment holidays don't go on your credit file (but lenders can still find out other ways). My simple rule is if you need one, do it, but only if you need it, as interest will still rack up.
After that, or if you've had 6mths' help, you're due 'tailored support' - lenders can offer measures such as reduced payments or lower interest, but these will definitely go on your credit file.
17. Last chance to apply for bounce back loans is 31 Mar. These loans allow small-biz owners affected by coronavirus to borrow up to £50,000. They're interest-free for 12mths and repayment-free for up to 18mths. For those without other support, in some circumstances they can be used to replace lost personal income. Full help in our Bounce Back Loans guide.