7002f221 33df 4444 8c32 127807bbc1aa 800x380 - Postmasters’ bankruptcies reviewed

Postmasters’ bankruptcies reviewed

The recent Court of Appeal and Crown Court decisions to quash the convictions of many former postmasters was widely welcomed. The Courts found that the original convictions were based on evidence from the Post Office’s Horizon IT system which has now been found to be unreliable.

These cases caused an enormous miscarriage of justice affecting postmasters across the UK. The impact of this debacle resulted in many postmasters losing their jobs, going bankrupt and in some cases being sent to prison or taking their own lives. 

A new press release from the Insolvency Service is seeking information from postmasters who believe they may have been made bankrupt due to the Horizon IT system. This relates to cases where postmasters were made bankrupt by the Post Office Limited and also where postmasters may have petitioned for their own bankruptcy or made a bankruptcy application to Office of the Adjudicator.

The Official Receiver, acting as the Trustee/Trustee ex-officio in bankruptcy, is now undertaking enquiries to identify these cases and investigate whether these bankruptcy orders should be reviewed. Anyone affected by the Horizon discrepancies are being asked to contact the Insolvency Service in the first instance.

Source: HM Government Tue, 17 Aug 2021 00:00:00 +0100
0cd00ca0 9806 42f3 af23 2e83f9917d1f 800x380 - Card security update

Card security update

VISA have issued information regarding changes to card processing security from September 2021. The idea is to reduce online fraud.

The changes will apply across Europe. A key part of the new security arrangements is the requirement for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). This means you may be asked to provide additional information when making some purchases.

In their update VISA said:

Banks are introducing these new security measures for Visa cardholders who shop online or make contactless payments. This will help them ensure only you can use your Visa and give you even more confidence and protection when paying with Visa.

  • Online: You may have to enter a passcode, which would be sent to your mobile phone or landline or authenticate your payment in another way, depending on how your Visa Card issuing bank has implemented the new security measures.
  • In-store: For contactless purchases, you may be asked to enter your PIN more often.

You may be asked to take an additional security step to confirm you are you when making a payment using your banks’ chosen authentication method. Your bank will have informed you by now on how to do this. If they have not, please contact your bank.

Hopefully, this will give us even more confidence and protection when paying with a credit card, as all card issuers will need to mirror Visa’s changes to maintain a level, secure playing field.

Source: Other Mon, 19 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0100
9b204a3a e67d 40ad 9e84 f5ef1f3893c5 800x380 - Stage 4 COVID roadmap implemented 19th July

Stage 4 COVID roadmap implemented 19th July

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, spoke to the nation and confirmed that the vaccines have significantly weakened the link between coronavirus cases and hospitalisations and deaths. This has allowed the government to confirm that many COVID restrictions will be lifted in England on 19 July, known as Freedom Day. 

The main changes will see an end to social distancing, facemasks will no longer be mandatory, and the opening of all venues currently closed with no capacity limits. The Prime Minister stressed that whilst many official restrictions will be removed it is expected that we will exercise our own personal judgement regarding precautions we should continue to take. 

The press release from the Prime Minister’s office stated: 

'Limits on social contact will end, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. Weddings, funerals and other life events able to take place without limits or restrictions.

All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs, and there will be no legal requirement for table service in hospitality settings.

Face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality, or on public transport although guidance will be in place to suggest where people might choose to wear one, such as where you come into contact with people you don’t usually meet in enclosed and crowded places.'

There are also expected to be changes to the requirement for fully vaccinated people to have to self-isolate if they are identified as having been in contact with someone who tested positive.

Relaxing restrictions as case numbers continue to climb is no doubt a risky move. It will be interesting to see if the public accept personal responsibility in dealing with the pandemic or if restrictions will need to be reintroduced at some future date.

Source: HM Government Mon, 12 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0100
803f7d3a d7b2 40c5 96e6 38c12f4324e4 800x380 - OTS – making better use of third party data

OTS – making better use of third party data

The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) was established in July 2010, to provide advice to the Chancellor on simplifying the UK tax system. The OTS has recently published a new report titled ‘Making better use of third-party data: a vision for the future’. The report sets out proposals for making better use of data held by third parties, such as reporting interest on savings and investments from banks directly to HMRC. 

Commenting on the report, the OTS Tax Director said:

‘The report considers the kinds of tax data individuals could find it helpful for third parties to automatically transfer to HMRC, and how this might best be embedded into the next stage of its work on the Single Customer Account.’

The report encourages the government to explore further and take forward this agenda, and to:

  • ensure that data reported to HMRC by third parties is visible to taxpayers and their agents through the forthcoming Single Customer Account, and used to update tax codes and support the completion of individuals’ tax returns
  • set out a clear roadmap of the stages through which changes would be consulted on and made
  • consider the most effective choice of unique identifier to enable third party data to be readily and accurately matched with HMRC’s taxpayer records
  • consult widely on the balance of responsibilities as between data providers, software providers, agents, taxpayers and HMRC
  • ensure that HMRC have the necessary funding.
Source: Other Mon, 12 Jul 2021 00:00:00 +0100
a158bd95 b7ab 4cc2 85b0 9e70a6823df4 800x380 - UK Infrastructure Bank opens for business

UK Infrastructure Bank opens for business

The new UK Infrastructure Bank has officially opened for business. The new bank, which is headquartered in Leeds, will be tasked with accelerating investment into ambitious infrastructure projects, cutting emissions and levelling up every part of the UK. 

The establishment of the bank comes in the wake of the pandemic but is expected to result in a long-lasting public institution helping to drive growth across the UK.

The bank is to have an initial financial capacity of £22bn made up of £12bn in capital and £10bn in government guarantees. This is expected to unlock more than £40 billion of overall investment in local government lending and across the private sector. The bank will initially provide funding for the private sector and will start lending to local authorities later in the summer.

HM Treasury and the UK Infrastructure Bank have entered into a Keep Well Agreement to ensure that the Bank has sufficient funds to be able to meet its payment obligations in full as they fall due.

The new Chair of the UK Infrastructure Bank said:

'The new UK Infrastructure Bank is open for business. I am delighted to be leading this institution, which will be a catalyst for investment to support regional economic growth and net zero ambitions.

I look forward to building strong partnerships with project sponsors, institutions and local leaders.'

Source: HM Treasury Tue, 29 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0100
a801a617 2cbb 471b 8f62 a9bf31bd2724 800x380 - Agent Dedicated Line relaunched

Agent Dedicated Line relaunched

HMRC has confirmed that the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) that offers priority access to HMRC staff has been relaunched on a trial basis from 14 June 2021. 

HMRC has also made it clear that the ADL is not expected to be used to handle certain types of calls where digital services are available or where the pertinent information could have been obtained directly from clients. 

The ADL will be available Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm on 0300 200 3311 and calls are anticipated to be answered within 10 minutes. HMRC is also asking agents to space out their calls to the dedicated line throughout the day rather than phoning as soon as the helpline opens.

HMRC is also working to develop more digital services for agents, with a view to materially reducing their need to phone. This is expected to include changes to forms processing, agent authorisation processes and the agent income record viewer.
 

Source: HM Revenue & Customs Wed, 16 Jun 2021 00:00:00 +0100
05286699 5758 48bd a294 61c8ccfcaf0e 800x380 - Current passport fees

Current passport fees

Travel options for going abroad are slowly starting to reopen. From 17 May 2021, international leisure travel from England will no longer be illegal but strict border control measures remain in place. There are 3 different levels of restrictions for travelling abroad and returning to the UK based on traffic light system designation of green, amber and red countries. Business travel is also expected to show some slow growth spurts as the requirements become slightly less onerous. 

Given these changes, now might be a good time to check if your passport needs to be renewed.  Due to coronavirus, it is currently taking up to 10 weeks for passports to be issued. It takes longer for postal applications to be processed than online applications. There are also premium services available at an additional cost. 

The current fees for a new passport are as follows:

Type of passport Apply online Apply by paper form
Adult (16 and over) standard 34-page  £75.50 £85
Adult (16 and over) 50-page frequent traveller  £85.50 £95
Child (under 16) standard 34-page  £49 £58.50
Child (under 16) 50-page frequent traveller  £59 £68.50
For people born on or before 2 September 1929 Free     Free
Source: HM Government Wed, 12 May 2021 00:00:00 +0100
f0706095 4a06 45bb a1bd db3242ec2db5 800x380 - New self-build initiative

New self-build initiative

In a surprise weekend announcement, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has revealed new plans for £150 million of funding to make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes. 

The new “Help to Build” low deposit mortgage scheme will help self and custom home building become a realistic option to get onto the housing ladder. The new scheme is based on the existing “Help to Buy” scheme and will enable people to custom build a new home with just a 5% deposit backed by a government equity loan. 

These changes are expected to see a huge growth in self and custom home builds. This could see some 30-40,000 new homes a year being built in this sector.

The government also announced £2.1 million in funding to help communities have a greater say in how their local area is developed. The fund will boost neighbourhood planning by giving additional support to local authorities in under-represented areas.

Source: HM Government Wed, 28 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0100
c241098d bb61 4f61 a735 47350fd4e73e 800x380 - Property repossessions from 1 April 2021

Property repossessions from 1 April 2021

There have been a significant number of measures introduced to help those experiencing financial difficulties because of coronavirus. Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has sought to ensure that lenders provide tailored support to mortgage borrowers who continue to face payment difficulties due to the crisis. 

Since 1 April 2021, suspension on blanket property repossessions where homeowners are significantly in arrears was ended. This change is subject to any government restrictions on repossessions, but lenders may now be able to take steps to enforce a possession order and repossess homes. This should only be done as a last resort and a lender shouldn’t start repossession action unless all reasonable attempts to resolve the position have failed. Prior to 1 April 2021, lenders could only repossess homes with the agreement of the homeowner or if there were other exceptional circumstances. 

Lenders have offered options to homeowners such as:

  • making no payments for a temporary period
  • making reduced payments for a temporary period
  • changing the mortgage term to make payments more affordable

The deadline for applying for many of these assistance options ended on 31 March 2021. However, the FCA's updated guidance states that since 1 April 2021, if you are newly affected by coronavirus (or if it starts affecting you again) your lender should provide support tailored to your circumstances, this may include a payment holiday if that is appropriate.

Source: Other Wed, 14 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0100
db4b4d73 6722 4a00 91eb 818de434042f 800x380 - Lockdown changes 12 April 2021

Lockdown changes 12 April 2021

Even the unseasonably cold weather does not seem to have stopped people in England getting their first taste of normality for many months as many restrictions were lifted on 12th April 2021.

The full list of changes that came into effect in England from 12 April 2021 are listed on GOV.UK as follows:

  • non-essential retail can reopen
  • personal care services such as hairdressers and nail salons can reopen, including those provided from a mobile setting
  • public buildings such as libraries and community centres can reopen
  • outdoor hospitality venues can reopen, with table service only
  • most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) can reopen
  • some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds can take place
  • indoor leisure and sports facilities can reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble
  • all childcare and supervised activities are allowed indoors (as well as outdoors) for all children. Parent and child groups can take place indoors (as well as outdoors) for up to 15 people (children under 5 will not be counted in this number)
  • weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and other commemorative events can take place for up to 15 people (anyone working is not included in this limit), including in indoor venues that are permitted to open or where an exemption applies. Wedding receptions can also take place for up to 15 people, but must take place outdoors, not including private gardens
  • self-contained accommodation can stay open for overnight stays in England with your household or support bubble
  • care home residents will be able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits (following a rapid lateral flow test)
  • you should continue to work from home if you can and minimise the amount that you travel where possible

The next major batch of changes are not expected to take place in England before 17 May and will include the opening of more indoor entertainment attractions, overnight hotel stays, increased numbers allowed at life events and the possibility of more international travel. 

Regional variations can be viewed on regional government websites.

Source: HM Government Wed, 14 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0100