Bumper Blog: sight loss help, tax help and a wicked Valentine’s day cake.

If you are having sight problems, make sure you know about the Certification, Sharing and Registration pathway to get more help and support.   I was “certified” over 20 years ago but still learned masses helping a pal research the process this week.

If you lose enough sight to become “partially sighted” or “blind”, the consultant ophthalmologist should suggest certifying this.   It is hugely beneficial and is the first step to getting more help.   If you aren’t offered a Certificate, definitely ask about it.   Push hard if your sight has become difficult.

The next step is to give your permission to the clinic to share that information with your GP (better help from the surgery) and your Local Authority (Social Services should also offer more support).

The big step is “Registration” with your Local Authority.   Again, it’s your choice but there are loads of worthwhile benefits: some just practical and others that can make finances easier.   For me as a blind person, Access to Work funding helped me continue to work, Disability Living Allowance (now replaced by PIP) offset some extra costs of life with a disability, my “Blue Badge” means other people are happy to take me out and about when we get free parking and there’s lots more.   Benefits vary with time so check out the RNIB benefits and concessions of registration.

The Certification, Sharing and Registration pathway can make a huge difference for you or anyone you know who is facing sight loss.   Please get in touch if you want a copy of the paper when its finished (penny@laylands.co.uk).

More help: this time from the tax people.   The HMRC ‘handy hints for Taxpayers” is at the end of this blog and covers:

  • Government support with the cost of living
  • The danger of sharing tax login details
  • How to avoid tax phishing scams
  • Tax agents who charge for claiming tax refunds
  • Avoiding and recognising pension scams
  • Call connection services

More of a smile: two for the price of one.   The solar-powered cat scarer was a great Christmas present.   I hear it clicking as it soaks up the sun’s energy rays but didn’t know if it really works.   According to one young visitor, people in their early years can hear the high pitch whine aimed at our furry “friends”.   It turns out to be just as unpleasantly uncomfortable for children as for the moggies!

Chocolate mud cake is perfect for your Valentine.   Join the free on-line demo at 1030 on 13 February so you’ve got one ready.   Register for free at: https://valentine-choc-mud-cake.eventbrite.co.uk


Read on for the latest useful help from HMRC:

Government support with the cost of living

  • The Government is offering help for every household.
  • You could get help with childcare costs, transport, energy bills and more.
  • Find out what’s availableatguk/help for households
  • You might also be eligible for a Cost of Living Payment if you receive certain benefits or tax credits. You can find Cost of Living Payment information on GOVUK.

Don’t share your tax login details.  

  • Don’t share your HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) login details with anyone, including your tax agent if you have one. Treat your tax login with the same care as your banking app login details.
  • Your HMRC login details give access to your personal information, including your bank account details. Someone using those details could steal from you and from HMRC, and leave you having to pay back the full value of any bogus claim made on your behalf.
  • If you have a tax agent to help you, they can access the information they need to deal with your tax affairs through HMRC’s digital services for agents. They should never need to log in as you or ask you to share your login details.

How to avoid tax phishing scams 

  • If someone contacts you saying they’re HMRC or the tax authority, wanting you to share personal or financial details or urgently transfer money, be on your guard. Never let yourself be rushed.
  • HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
  • Tax scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax avoidance or evasion, others offer a rebate.   Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check HMRC scams advice on Gov.UK.  
  • To help HMRC fight these crimes, forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. Report tax scam phone calls to HMRC on Gov.UK.  
  • You can contact HMRC directly but make sure you use phone numbers from Gov.UK.

Beware tax agents charging for claiming tax refunds.  

  • To claim a tax relief or refund, go to HMRC directly on GOV.UK. It’s free and you get to keep everything you’re owed.
  • Tax agents charge a fee for claiming routine tax refunds on behalf of the customer, and sometimes the terms of their service are not clear.
  • If you do appoint an agent to make a repayment claim on your behalf, it’s sensible to:
    • read the company’s terms and conditions so you understand the fees you’ll pay, the service you’re signing up for and any legal contract you might be entering into
    • read customer reviews about the agent to ensure they are trustworthy.
    • take time when making a decision on whether to use an agent, especially if you’re feeling rushed
    • never share your HMRC login details with the agent.

Find out on GOV.UK what you should look for if you’re thinking of using a tax agent to deal with HMRC on your behalf.

 How to avoid and recognise pension scams

  • Pension scammers design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them (or to release funds from it).
  • Information on the different types of pension scams can be found on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website.
  • Pension-holders aged 44 to 66 are most at risk of falling victim to pension scams.
  • Look out for these signs:
    • being contacted out of the blue
    • promises of high, guaranteed returns.
    • a free ‘pension review’
    • offer to access your pension before the age of 55
    • pressure to act quickly.
  • Before dealing with a firm, make sure they’re on the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Services Register:
    • Check that they have permissions for the regulated activity that you need
    • Use only the contact details on the FCA’s register. Scammers will often pretend to be a registered firm.

Call connection services

Most people prefer to deal with HMRC online but if you do need to call the tax authority, don’t use costly call-connection services that are advertised online.

Contact HMRC direct on its 0300 helpline numbers that are mostly free or charged at the national landline rate and can be easily found by searching GOV.UK.

© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
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