- Emma Walsh
April is here - April Fools & the beginning of the New Tax Year
Changes to tax and benefits April 2018 - Everything from council tax to the minimum wage will change from today (April 1 2018)
Will I be better or worse off ??
If you are relatively well-off, the chances are that April will enhance your position,
If you are in a low-paid job, you may also be better off, thanks to the reasonable increases in the National Minimum Wage.
Pensioners and recent students will also find increases in their favour.
However if you are responsible for paying council tax, your bill is likely to rise sharply.
Nine million workers will see their pension contributions triple.
And families on benefits could be more than £300 a year worse off.
Income tax - We'll all pay less income tax, benefit the most (Date: 6 April 2018)
The amount you can earn without paying income tax - known as the "personal allowance" - will rise from £11,500 to £11,850 saving basic-rate taxpayers some £70 a year. . This will also take a large number of low-earners out of tax.
However, as far as progressive policy goes it's not popular with all the experts. That's because the change gives the same cash boost to all those earning more than £11,850 regardless of their overall incomes - i.e. even if they're millionaires.
The amount that the top 13 % of workers - those paying higher rate tax - can earn before paying the 40 p rate of tax will also increase in April. It is rising from £45,000 to £46,350 saving them an additional £100 a year.
However, the rise in income tax thresholds is only going up by inflation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) points out that all other rises since 2010 have been more generous.
Minimum wage - Minimum wage will rise by more than 4 % (Date: 1 April 2018)
Rates for the National Minimum Wage - for those under 25 - and the National Living Wage - for those over 25 - are rising by more than inflation at a rate of 4.4% .
The most generous increase is for 18 to 20-year-olds, whose salaries will rise by 5.3%.
Those over 25 who currently earn the bare minimum will see an increase of 4.4%, or 33p an hour from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour.
And apprentice wages will rise from £3.50 to £3.70, a 5.7 per cent increase.
New 'polluting' diesel cars will face higher tax (Date: 1 April 2018)
A "supplement" is being added to car tax on certain new diesel vehicles that are registered after 1 April 2018.
Any diesel not meeting a certain emissions standard when tested under "real-world" driving conditions will go up by one band of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in its first year. That means someone buying a Ford Focus diesel can expect to pay an extra £20 in their first year.
That rises to an extra £40 for a VW Golf, £300 for a Vauxhall Mokka and £400 for a Land Rover Discovery, according to estimates provided by the government.
In theory the biggest possible extra cost triggered by the new tax could be £500. That's because this is the widest gap between two VED bands.
In the second and subsequent years the amount of VED paid on diesels falls to £140. It's always higher in the first year.
New rules for claiming Universal Credit if you don't have a steady salary (Date: 2 April 2018)
The government is changing how it counts your earnings if you're on all-in-one benefit Universal Credit (UC). It's complex so bear with us on this one.
Some people's wages change from one month to the next (if you're a self-employed, part-time, zero-hour or 'gig economy' worker) but they still claim UC because they're badly paid.Some of these people have a good month and earn too much to claim Universal Credit, so they get kicked off it. But then things go bad again and they return to UC.
These extra earnings are called "surplus earnings", and the government is changing how it deals with them. When you reapply for UC, you'll now have any surplus earnings you've racked up in the previous 6 months taken into account.
It's complex - for example; if you have a bumper month in May and earn £3,000 over the threshold. But then in June you're £300 under it. You still won't get UC. That's because when you put the two months together, you're still over the threshold by £2,700.
This means that £300 of your surplus pot has been 'erased' - and that'll keep happening month on month.
So if you have a very bad month in July, and you're £2,800 under the threshold, you'll start being able to claim benefits again because you've dipped £100 under the threshold.
To make sure it doesn't go wrong, the policy has a "soft" launch this year that means it's only expected to be triggered 11,000 times.
The main reason for this is because until April 2019, any surplus of of £2,500 or less will essentially be ignored. That safeguard exempts most people who would have been hit by the policy in the first year.
Housing Benefit claimants who move to Universal Credit will get more help (Date: 11 April 2018)
This is the final measure in a £1.5 billion help package for Universal Credit claimants that was announced in November.
People on Housing Benefit who move to Universal Credit will now continue to get the old-style payment for two weeks after their transfer date. Tory ministers bowed to pressure and agreed the move after campaigners warned people's rent arrears were soaring.
The standard wait for your first payment under Universal Credit is now five weeks (cut from six earlier this year).That means the gap between your housing benefit ending, and Universal Credit starting, should be much shorter than it was until now.
Help for 124,000 homeowners on hard times is being scrapped (Date: 5 April 2018)
Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) is a benefit for homeowners who fall on hard times and struggle to keep up their mortgage payments.
It's existed in some form since at least the 1980s and is currently paid for 124,000 people - almost half of them pensioners. But not for long - the free benefit is being axed and turned into a loan instead from 5 April.
That loan will be secured on your house and billow with interest, a bit like the mortgage itself. Personal finance groups have warned this will "weaken the safety net" and "add to the pressure" on families in desperate need.
It's a little-known benefit but could become a big problem. To qualify currently, you must be on Income Support, Pension Credit, income-based jobseekers' allowance or income-based disability benefit ESA.
The benefit can only cover interest charged by a bank, not the capital value of a house. It's paid up to a total of £200,000, or £100,000 for pensioners.
Student loans - (Date: 6 April 2018)
From 6 April, former students will be able to earn more before they have to start paying back their loans.
English and Welsh students who took out loans before September 2012, along with students from Scotland and Northern Ireland, will be able to earn £18,330 (up from £17,775) before having to make repayments.
However, English and Welsh students with post-2012 loans will see more significant benefits. Instead of having to start paying back at £21,000, they will now be able to earn up to £25,000.
Someone earning £23,500 will save £18 a month, or £206 a year. Someone earning £27,000 will save £45 a month, or £530 a year.
From this April, those who own a home will face less inheritance tax (IHT) when passing on their estate.
There is no increase in the main exemption - the first £325,000 of any estate - but the additional exemption for property will rise from £100,000 to £125,000. That represents a potential saving of up to £10,000 on IHT bills.
Council tax - Council Tax will rise - (Date: 1 April 2018)
In England, council tax is going up by an average of 5.1% from 1 April. For the average band D property, it will cost £1,671 - a rise of £81 on last year.
Londoners will see an average increase of £55. Those in county council areas will have to pay £86 more.
English councils were allowed to raise council tax by a maximum of 5.99%, including 3% for those with social care responsibilities.
Councils had 'no choice' in raising bills
All Scottish councils are increasing council tax by 3%, the maximum allowed.
Residents of Wales will be hit by some of the largest rises, as no restrictions were applied by the Welsh Assembly. The biggest hike will be in Pembrokeshire, where council tax is going up by 12.5%.
Pensions - The state pension is going up (Date: 9 April 2018)
From 6 April, nine million workers who have auto-enrolment pensions will have to pay more in. Their monthly contributions will triple, from a minimum of 1% to a minimum of 3%.
Most people will therefore have to pay several hundred pounds a year more. But by doing so, they will also get a 2% contribution from their employer, and more tax relief from the government.
Pensioners are free of the freeze that's hit others. The old-style basic state pension will rise from £122.30 to £125.95 a week for an individual based on their own contributions (category A or B).
If you're on the new state pension it's a rise from £159.55 to £164.35 a week. Each of these changes is a rise of 3 per cent under the government's "triple lock".
The lock ensures pensions rise each year by 2.5 per cent, average earnings or inflation, whichever is highest.
A pension of £18,000 or £1,000? The auto-enrolment dilemma
From April, the Pensions Lifetime Allowance - the most you can have in a pension pot - is going up from £1m to £1,030,000. Having more than that means paying 55% tax on lump sum withdrawals or 25% on income withdrawals.
Sugar tax (Date: 6 April 2018)
From 6 April, manufacturers of sugary drinks will have to pay the Sugar Levy. Drinks that contain more than 5% sugar will incur a lower rate; those with more than 8% will be liable to a higher rate. It's thought the levy will put up the price of a typical fizzy drink by about 8p a can.
Support for mortgage interest (Date: 6 April 2018)
From 6 April, about 124,000 benefit claimants - most of them pensioners - will no longer be able to get cash help with their mortgage payments. From then on, the benefit will be converted to a loan, repayable when they sell the house.
Benefits: The freeze continues
About 10 million households will see no increase this year in Child Tax Credit, Child Benefit, Job-seeker's Allowance, some Employment Support Allowance payments and Universal Credit.
Furthermore, this year - the third year of a four-year freeze - will be "the most painful so far", according to the IFS.
Had the freeze not existed, claimants could have expected a 3% increase, in line with last year's September inflation figure. Last year, they missed out on a 1% rise, while in the previous year it was 0%.
The Resolution Foundation has calculated that a typical family with two children will get £315 less this year than they might otherwise have expected had the freeze not been in place.
Savers - 'Help to Save' postponed
The Help to Save programme - which promises those on benefits a 50% top-up from the government - was to have launched in April, but has now been postponed until October.
The most you can invest in an ISA remains at £20,000, although the maximum for Junior ISA's will rise by £132 to £4,260 on 6 April.
The maximum amount you can get from share dividends without being taxed goes down from £5,000 a year to £2,000. Basic rate taxpayers will be charged 7.5% on any dividends over £2,000, while higher rate taxpayers will be charged 32.5%.
Water bills The average combined water and sewerage bill across England and Wales will rise by £9, to £405 a year, from 1 April.
For the first time this April, Scottish taxpayers will have different rates from those in England and Wales.
Those earning more than £33,000 - about 45% of the population - will pay more income tax if they live north of the border. However, that leaves about 55% who will be paying less.
Other taxes Air Passenger Duty is frozen for short-haul flights, ie those under 2,000 miles. Above that distance, economy seat passengers will pay an extra £3, with first or business class costing £6 extra.
Tobacco tax is increasing by 2% above RPI inflation each year of this Parliament.
Prescription charges will rise from £8.60 to £8.80 in England. The cost of a three-month subscription remains the same. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have abolished such charges.
Fuel duty is frozen for another year.