News and Reviews
Landlords and second-home owners could be required to pay capital gains tax within 30 days of selling their properties, under new rules being proposed by the government. Currently, people selling second homes or investment properties can postpone paying capital gains tax (CGT) until they file their tax return for that tax year, which could be more than 18 months after the property is sold. But draft legislation, originally announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement, will mean property investors will have just 30 days to pay up.
Which? explains the proposed changes and how they could affect buy-to-let investors.
- Are you planning to buy a buy-to-let property? For expert advice on your mortgage options, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461.
What is capital gains tax?
Capital gains tax (CGT) is payable when you sell a valuable asset for a profit.
While you have an exemption if you’re selling your main home, you will face a CGT bill on the sale of a second home or buy-to-let – and property is charged at a higher rate than most other assets. You can earn GBP11,700 (or GBP23,400 for couples who pool their allowances) before paying tax. Above this, basic-rate taxpayers have to pay 18% of any gain on property, and higher rate taxpayers pay 28%.
Any costs involved with buying and selling the property can be deducted when working out the gain, as can capital investments, such as building extensions. By contrast, when investing in shares, bonds or funds, a lower 10% rate applies for basic-rate taxpayers, rising to 20% for in the higher or additional-rate tax bands. This rate also applies for personal possessions, though the method for calculating any gain is slightly different.
When do landlords pay CGT?
Under the current rules, landlords must pay capital gains tax for property sales by 31 January after the end of the tax year, at the same time their self-assessment tax returns are due (for online filings).
So, if you sold an investment property in July 2018, it would be taxed within the 2018-19 tax year, and you could wait until 31 January 2020 to pay the bill. But under the new rules, you’ll need to pay up within 30 days of the sale going through. For some landlords, this could move up their payment date by more than a year and a half.
Under the current system, the clock starts ticking when contracts are exchanged. But confusingly, under the new system, it would start once the sale has been completed.
Why are the changes being made?
Currently, there’s a discrepancy between the date when people who file tax returns need to pay their bills for income tax and when they pay capital gains tax. Though the deadline for online tax returns is 31 January after the end of the tax year, self-assessment taxpayers need to make advance payments for income tax and national insurance, known as payments on account.
By contrast, CGT won’t be due until the final deadline, potentially meaning capital gains tax can be paid up to a year later than income taxes. Other forms of tax on property, such as stamp duty, are also due within 30 days of the property sale being completed. From the government’s perspective, the change would mean that HMRC will receive CGT receipts earlier.
But landlords may feel the pinch in their cash flow. The move follows a number of other tax reforms that have pushed up bills for landlords, including the scaling back of mortgage interest relief, and the introduction of a stamp duty surcharge on buy-to-let and second homes.
When will the new rules come into effect?
The new rules have not yet been confirmed, as the draft legislation is currently passing through Parliament. If there are no changes to the policy, the bill could pass into law this summer.
The change was originally due to come into effect in April 2019, but the proposals have been delayed and are likely take effect for property disposals on or after 6 April 2020. At this stage, there are no plans to change the deadline for other forms of CGT – though if the change is successful, it’s possible the deadline for paying CGT on shares, funds or other investments could be brought forward, too.
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It’s been a bestseller on Amazon and tops wish lists worldwide, so what’s so special about the Instant Pot? This popular gadget uses a build-up of steam pressure to cook food more quickly and with less effort than on a hob. Popular for making quick work of traditionally slow tasks such as tenderizing meat, it offers an automated way to produce tasty food fast.
It’s not just a one-trick pony, though; it can slow cook, too, as well as cooking rice, porridge and even making yoghurt. For those nervous of the threatening hiss of stovetop pressure cookers of old, it has built-in safety features and preset buttons that calculate the cooking time and pressure level for you. We got cooking with the Instant Pot Duo (GBP120) to see what all the fuss is about, trying a range of sweet and savoury recipes to get a good flavour of what it can do.
We also tried out several popular rivals and cheaper alternatives, including the Pressure King Pro, to see how the competition measures up. Find out which model we crowned our top pick, and the ones that underwhelmed, in our electric pressure cooker reviews.
Instant Pot alternatives: Pressure King Pro, Sage Fast Slow Pro and cheaper options
Here’s a guide to four key rivals of the Instant Pot and what they offer:
1. Pressure King Pro 5L, GBP60
One of the Instant Pot’s biggest rivals is High Street TV’s Pressure King Pro, and it’s cheaper too.
Originally sold on TV shopping channels, it is now available in stores including John Lewis. Like the Instant Pot, there’s a range of different-sized models to choose from. The largest, at 6 litres, doesn’t quite match up to the Instant Pot’s 8-litre capacity but is still a good size for feeding 4-6 people.
We tried out the 5-litre model, which has 12 pre-programmed settings for cooking everything from meat and stews to pasta and fish.
2. Morphy Richards MyPot Pressure Cooker 56005, GBP70
The MyPot electric pressure cooker from Morphy Richards stands out from the crowd with its futuristic spherical style. However, it doesn’t offer much more in the way of features, with the same slow cooking, soup and steaming settings that you can find on many other models.
There are lots of recipes in the manual, covering many different cuisines and tastes from jambalaya to rice pudding. These are a great starting point to help you get to grips with pressure cooking.
3. Sage The Fast Slow Pro 6L, GBP125
This Sage pressure cooker is one of the priciest options around, but you do get more features for your money.
It has more pressure levels, including options for cooking delicate foods, and the pre-set functions have more variety, including programmes for cooking stock and meat on the bone. It also releases the pressure automatically when cooking is complete, something that many others don’t do, so if you want a truly hands-off experience (or are nervous about dealing with a jet of steam) it could be a good option.
4. Argos Cookworks Digital Pressure Cooker 723/7869, GBP50
At the other end of the spectrum, this cheap pressure cooker from Argos’ Cookworks range is a much more attractive option for those on a budget.
It’s got pre-set programmes for a range of foods including trendy quinoa, and has a delay-start function, too. When we tried out these pressure cookers, we found some that were quick to cook delicious, succulent food – and were easy to use and clean up, too. Others were complex to set up and use, and made less impressive meals.
Choosing the best pressure cooker for you
If you’re looking to buy an electric pressure cooker, it’s worth thinking about what size model would suit your needs. If you want to make big batches, or have lots of mouths to feed, opt for 6 litres or more. But bear in mind, more capacity means a bigger appliance, so you’ll need enough space to squeeze it on to your kitchen worktops, or into a handy cupboard.
If you aren’t to fussed about automating the cooking process, it’s also worth considering a stovetop pressure cooker. These can be cheaper, have a larger range of capacities, and can double up as a heavy-duty saucepan too. Check our pressure cooker buying guide for more advice on the pros and cons of each type, and features to look out for.
The best recipes to try in a pressure cooker
Trawling the internet can find you hundreds of tempting recipes to try in your pressure cooker.
It can be confusing to know where to start, though. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of the meals we cooked in our pressure cooker tryouts.
Quick chillis, meat stews and vegetarian stews
It can take hours to inject flavour into a stew or chilli, and get your meat lovely and tender, so you’re bound to notice the time savings when you make it in a pressure cooker. You can cook pretty much any combination of ingredients, so long as you make sure not to under or overdo it on the liquid.
Many models come with the option to sear or brown your meat before pressure cooking for extra flavour. Pressure cookers are also great for vegetarian stews. Dried beans and pulses cook quickly, so you can forgo the canned versions and shop in the dried foods section, which can save you money.
Speedy hands-off Risotto
Making risotto in a pressure cooker not only cuts down on cooking time, but also saves you from slaving away at the hob for an hour supervising the cooking process.
Once you’ve sauteed your onions and any meat, you can pop everything in and leave the pressure cooker to work its magic. We found several of the electric pressure cookers we tried made smooth, creamy and tasty risottos. One turned out quite stodgy, though, so if you’re a risotto aficionado see our electric pressure cooker reviews to make sure you avoid that model.
Why not try using your pressure cooker for an indulgent treat once in a while?
We made a range of desserts including rice pudding, creme brulee and a molten chocolate cake, and on the whole loved the results. We found it wasn’t always as quick as making desserts in their usual way, though, as you have to take into account the time needed for the cooker to reach pressure. For more advice and tips on getting to grips with pressure cooking, see our guide to using a pressure cooker.
Prices correct as of 10 August 2018
With broadband now a utility, much like electricity or gas, the humble internet router has become a new target for the scammers. Which? members have contacted us about a new strain of attempted fraud that is similar to the ‘Microsoft scam’, but instead sees fraudsters masquerading as your internet provider and claiming that your router has been hacked. Here, we alert you to the details of the router scam and show you how to protect yourself.
The router scam
In the scam, someone calls you supposedly from the technical support team of internet service providers, BT, Sky or TalkTalk. The caller advises you that there’s a problem with your router, either that it’s been ‘compromised in several different countries’ or that it just isn’t working properly. Either way, they claim it has to be changed.
To create a sense of urgency, the caller advises that your home internet will have to be shut down within 24 hours unless you take action. The scammers then claim that they, supposedly being the internet provider, are so sorry about the issues with the router that they want to refund a sum of money. They then move into a traditional scam aimed at tricking you into making a payment, securing your bank details or gaining access to your online bank account.
How to avoid falling victim to a router scam
- Treat all unsolicited phone calls with caution. If you have any doubt, just hang up and call your internet provider directly.
Ensure you only get the number from the official website and don’t call any number given by the fraudsters.
- Check your router. If they say there’s a problem with your router, go check for yourself. If you don’t have any internet problems, hang up.
- Don’t ever give someone access to your computer unless they have 100% proven their credentials and identity. You wouldn’t let just anyone in your home, so the same should apply with your laptop.
- Don’t give your bank details over the phone. Your internet provider would have these details already, so there’s no good reason why they would want them again.
- Warn others. If you’ve been targeted or know someone who has, alert other people to the scam so that they can avoid falling victim.
If you use social networks, though, try to avoid revealing too much personal information.
Another strain of the ‘Microsoft scam’
We contacted Action Fraud and it said that it was aware of similar cases. This falls into the broad category of ‘computer software service fraud’, more commonly referred to as the ‘Microsoft scam’, because the Windows software maker is so commonly used as the conduit for the deception. In the Microsoft scam, a caller rings up and asks for you by name.
They say they are a computer-security expert and warn that your PC, laptop or tablet has been infected with malware or has some other issue. They claim that they want to help you fix the problem. Fraudsters often use name of well-known brands, such as Microsoft, as it’s likely that the victim will have a PC running Windows in their home.
With so many people now having broadband, it’s unsurprising that fraudsters are now masquerading as the UK’s biggest internet service providers, BT, Sky and TalkTalk.
While it is possible that your internet provider may contact directly, you should always exert caution when someone calls or emails you up out of the blue.