Know your rights December 2015

citizens information

Know Your Rights A:

Budgeting for Christmas

December 2015

Question

This Christmas I will struggle to find money for food and gifts. Is there any help available with budgeting and finding some extra cash for all the additional costs at this time of year?

Answer

MABS – the Money Advice and Budgeting Service – supports families with budgeting all year round. They have useful suggestions about how to cope over the festive season on their website, mabs.ie.

First of all, make a list of what you need to buy for Christmas. Divide it into gifts, food, clothes and socialising. You can then decide what things are essential and where you can cut back and save money. You can use the MABS Christmas planner to help you work this out.

Having done this, you may decide that you need to borrow to cover the extra costs over Christmas. However, you should only borrow what you truly need. If possible, try to pay back this loan before the middle of next year, otherwise you will find it difficult to save for next Christmas.

When you borrow you should always:
• Work out what the weekly or monthly repayments are going to be and see how this will affect your budget next year – can you afford that amount, and still pay your regular bills and expenses?
• When looking for a loan, try to get the best value you can. Generally, loans from a money lender will cost you much more than a loan from your credit union or bank. Using a credit card is also a very expensive way of borrowing money. You can check whether an It Makes Sense loan is available from your local credit union. This is an easy-to-access loan aimed at people on social welfare. It is a pilot scheme so it is not currently available nationwide.
• Remember to read the terms and conditions of any credit application so you understand what you are getting into. Get advice before you sign.
Before you borrow you can contact MABS to see what options are available to you and look again at your list – is it worth it? Are you sure this is what you and your family need?

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights B:

Online shopping and VAT

December 2015

Question

I do a lot of online shopping from American websites. What are the rules about VAT and customs duties when shopping outside the EU?

Answer

If you buy goods over the internet or from a mail order catalogue or if you receive goods that have been sent as a gift from abroad you are importing goods. In general when goods are imported into Ireland from a country outside of the EU they become liable to import charges. Import charges include VAT, customs duty and excise or other duties where relevant. In some cases, you can get relief from import charges.

If someone sends you a gift from outside the EU, and it is valued at under €45, you do not have to pay any import charges. To qualify for this relief the gift must be of an occasional nature and sent from one private individual to another. You can buy some goods from outside the EU up to a value of €22 without paying VAT. If your purchase costs more than €22 you must pay VAT. VAT is calculated on the full value of the item, plus postage and duties, and not just the value above the allowance.

If you buy goods from outside the EU valued at more than €150 you will have to pay customs duty as well. Customs duty is normally calculated as a percentage of the value. Customs duty is charged on the full value of the goods plus the cost of postage, packaging and insurance. VAT, customs duty and excise duty are always charged on excisable products (such as alcohol, tobacco and perfume) from outside the EU, whatever their value.

All packages received from outside of the EU require a customs declaration, which is usually completed by the sender. The declaration should include a description of the goods, the value and whether they are gifts or commercial items. Some websites offer to undervalue your goods to avoid import charges. This is illegal. You, as the importer of the goods, are legally responsible for ensuring that the information provided is accurate and that all duties and taxes are paid. Some websites may also promise delivery from within the EU, which would eliminate any import charges, but are in fact shipping their products from outside the EU. If this is the case, you are liable to duties and VAT.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights C:

Paying the Local Property Tax

December 2015

Question

I paid my Local Property Tax in monthly instalments from my wages last year. However I’d like to pay it in a single lump sum payment next year. How do I find out how much is due and how can I change my payment method?

Answer

Your Local Property Tax (LPT) is based on the valuation of your property on 1 May 2013. The rate you pay for 2016 may vary from the 2015 rate, because of the local adjustment factor. This means that the basic LPT rates can be adjusted up or down by up to15% in different local authority areas. Revenue’s online calculator allows you to check how much LPT is payable in different local authority areas. The calculator is available on revenue.ie.
If your local authority has adjusted the basic rate and this is different from what you paid in 2015, you will get a letter from Revenue informing you of this. You can also check how much LPT you owe for 2016 by accessing your LPT record online on revenue.ie using your PPS number, Property ID and PIN.
In your case, you must contact Revenue by 7 January 2016 to change your payment method and arrange to pay in full in one lump sum. The easiest way to do this is to use the LPT online system. If you need help with the online system, you can call the LPT helpline on 1890 200 255. You can pay using any of the following methods:

• Debit or credit card: This option is available online. Note that if you pay by debit or credit card the deduction will be made immediately.
• Bank single debit authority: Under a single debit authority you can authorise your bank or financial institution to pay Revenue the specified amount of LPT due. This amount is taken from your bank account in one deduction on 21 March 2016 and is paid directly to Revenue.

• Cash or debit/credit card payments through certain payment service providers (you can check the list on revenue.ie). A transaction charge usually applies.
You can also pay by cheque or postal order (this option is not available online).
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights D:

The Housing Assistance Payment

December 2015

Question

What is the Housing Assistance Payment?

Answer

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is administered by local authorities and will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement. You must be on the local authority’s housing list – which means that you qualify for social housing support – to be eligible for HAP.

Under the HAP scheme local authorities pay landlords directly and tenants pay a differential rent to the local authority. This is based on your income and your ability to pay. If you take up a job or increase your working hours, you will still be eligible for HAP provided you meet the other conditions of the scheme. If you are getting a social welfare payment at a post office, you must pay your HAP rent to your local authority through the Household Budget Scheme.

People on the housing list who are already renting and getting Rent Supplement can apply for HAP, but you do not have to be getting Rent Supplement in order to qualify. People who are on the housing list and currently getting Rent Supplement will be transferred to HAP on a phased basis.

You must find your own private rented accommodation. Although the local authority administers the HAP scheme, you will not be a local authority tenant. The rental agreement will be between yourself and the private landlord. This means that you will have certain rights and obligations, as will your landlord.

The rent must be within the HAP rent limits for your household size and the area you live in. The limits are generally based on the limits for Rent Supplement. Additional flexibility has been provided beyond the limits in some local authority areas and for some qualified households where suitable accommodation cannot be found for a household within the HAP rent limits.

If your landlord requires a deposit, you will have to pay this yourself – the local authority will not pay it for you. You may be able to get an Exceptional Needs Payment from the Department of Social Protection to help with paying the deposit.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.
Know Your Rights has been compiled by Co Wicklow Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public. See www.citizensinformation.ie for details of your local centre or phone our main office in Bray on 0761 07 6780
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000.

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