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VAT swaps that can save you cash on your food shop
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, VAT (Value Added Tax) was introduced in 1973 as a levy on so-called "luxury items" rather than essential goods.
It's already added to the products it applies to, meaning many people won't realise when they're paying it.
The VAT system is complex, and features some peculiarities which can occasionally cause headaches for businesses.
You may remember the Jaffa Cake saga of 1991, which saw the HMRC try to slap VAT on the product after a review of its definitions, arguing that it was in fact a biscuit.
But a tribunal went in favour of McVities, which said the product is a cake, meaning it stayed zero-rated.
The system also has some other strange features.
For example, peanuts in shells are zero rated,but salted peanuts are standard rated.
An odd rule also applies to gingerbread men - no VAT is charged if it has two chocolate spots for its eyes, but if it's decorated with additional chocolate elsewhere then VAT is payable.
Here are just a few VAT-free swaps that could save you pennies on your food shop:
Diesel drivers have paid 'more than £1.3bn extra at the pumps since the start of the year'
The UK's diesel drivers have paid more than £1.3bn extra at the pumps since the beginning of the year, a campaign group has warned.
Fair Fuel UK has warned that diesel pump prices have been "deliberately inflated" to be 17.45p per litre higher than the average petrol wholesale costs.
This means the average family diesel car costs nearly £10 extra per fill-up, while a van costs £14 more.
The price of refuelling the average truck is £70 more than its petrol counterpart.
The group claims that had prices matched petrol wholesale costs, the filling price of diesel could now be below £1.50 per litre. The current average diesel price is £1.62.
They are calling forIndependent Pump Price Monitoring Body - or PumpWatch for short.
An APPG is an informal, cross-party group of MPs and peers.
How a change to the public sector pension scheme is preventing couples getting divorced
"Severe and drastic" changes to the public sector pension scheme have left divorcing couples in limbo with no end in sight, a leading divorce expert has told Sky News.
When couples separate they finalise their financial arrangements through a consent order - a legally binding document based on the value of their current assets, which includes property, savings and pensions.
If they have a public sector pension, the only way to determine its current value is to request a cash equivalent transfer value (CETV).
So far, the NHS and Teachers Pensions have both suspended calculating CETV while they wait for new 'factors' - complex mathematical tables used to calculate the value of pensions.
But without this, tens of thousands of divorces could be held up indefinitely.
One woman told James Brien of Easy Online Divorce: "The embargo on the final pension pot is holding up my ability to move on with my divorce. I need to be able to receive the money from the transfer of the house in order to provide a home for my children. Without this figure, the financial process of the divorce is being held up, which is having a negative impact on my children and also my own mental health.
"It is unacceptable that this has been put in place unexpectedly and that even an estimate is unable to be given as without this, my family is having to live in a space that isn’t suitable. It's having an impact on the well-being of my children and on how we can move forward as a family."
While the delay only affects teachers and those in the NHS pension scheme, firefighters, the police and armed forces could soon also face a delay.
James said: "It started with a couple of teachers who told us they couldn't provide their pension figures because there was anembargo.
"The phones have been ringing non-stop today as more and more people have become aware of thismassive problem. For most couples, pensions are the biggest asset they have after their home so this delay createsa huge amount of unnecessary stress and uncertainty.
"Until the CETV is known, it's impossible for a settlement to be made and approved by the court. Until thegovernment has its new factors in place - which there's notimeframe for - thousands of people will be stuck in limboand unable to move on with their lives."
Can you divorce without this step?
Well, James said: "It is possible to divorce without agreeing on finances, but it's risky,especially with pensions, because you will lose any entitlement to awidow/widower's pension rights or benefits after completing the divorce."
The price of life's milestones - and retirement will cost you 53% more than it did a decade ago
Like everything else, the cost of retiring is also on the up - it will now cost you 53% more than it did in 2012.
While the average cost was £156,090 in 2012, it stood at £238,146 in 2022, according to Money.co.uk Savings.
The latest figure was based on an average life expectancy of 81 and an average wage (post-income tax) of £22,708.
Money.co.uk said the increase was partially affected by life expectancy increasing from 79 to 81, giving people longer to save for in retirement.
What about life's other milestones?
Another milestone that has seen a significant rise is one that comes much earlier in life - the cost of buying a new car.
That has gone from £9,795 to £19,330.
Meanwhile, a deposit for a first home is estimated to take eight years and 10 months to save up for, costing £40,424 on average - an 86% increase over the last 10 years from £21,741.
Keeping tips from hospitality workers could soon be illegal
Plans to ensure hospitality workers and others receive theirtipsin full are on the verge of becoming law.
The Employment (Allocation ofTips) Bill has cleared the House of Lords following line-by-line scrutiny.
The Bill would introduce a legal obligation on employers to ensure alltips, gratuities and service charges are paid to workers in full.
Conservative former minister Lord Robathan, who sponsored the Bill in the upper house, told peers: "Most businesses already allocatetipsfairly to their staff but regrettably a minority have not done so.
"This gives the staff, often among the least well-paid in hospitality, waiters for instance and others… it gives them the opportunity to insist they are given the service charge which many of us in restaurants pay whenever we go to a restaurant, and they get thetipsrather than it going into the profits of perhaps a big company."
A government consultation launched in 2015 found restaurant customers were overwhelmingly in favour of the tips they paid going to the people who served them. But the plans have faced a series of delays on the road to becoming law.
The cost of a blue tick - what do you get, and is it worth it?
By Megan Baynes, social affairs and health reporter
It is one of the most controversial changes to the social media site to date, and Twitter is now offering a discount on its blue tick scheme.
The social media giant has finally started removing "legacy" blue ticks from verified accounts, with some of the world's best-known figures losing the verification sign - including the Pope, Justin Beiber and JK Rowling.
Now if you want a blue tick, you'll have to pay for it - at a monthly cost of £9.60, or £100.80 a year if you pay annually (a saving of 12%).
That's more expensive than Netflix (£6.99), Amazon Prime (£8.99 - and you get free Amazon delivery with that one, as well as entertainment), Kindle Unlimited (£7.99) or two McDonald's Big Macs (£7.38)
It's also roughly the same price as Spotify (£9.99) and for that, you get access to millions of songs.
So, what do you get with Twitter Blue - and is it worth it?
Your tweets get prioritised in conversations and search, and you'll see fewer ads. You'll also be able to add bold or italics to your tweets, post longer videos and edit your tweets after posting them.
Got a lot to say? Well, you'll also be able to tweet up to 10,000 characters - a lot more than the current 280-character limit.
And you will get the much sought-after blue tick mark.
While for most people, these won't be enough to justify the cost, consumer expert Martin Lewis has laid out his reasoning for signing up to the scheme.
"I've just paid for Twitter Blue verification, but pls don't read-across that this is a recommendation, or support for the changes," he told his 2.2 million followers.
"I'm in a peculiar position that scammers commonly impersonate me to steal from the vulnerable, so I feel obligated to do it to reduce that risk."
So if you're likely to run the risk of being impersonated, it may be something you want to consider. But if not, rest assured you're in good company - Beyoncé, Oprah and myself, we aren't verified anymore either.
'Don't accidentally leave your pension to your ex', Martin Lewis warns
When was the last time you thought about your pension?
Probably not for a while, but if you have had a change of circumstances since you first signed up for it, you might want to check your paperwork...
Consumer expert Martin Lewis has urged people to check the expression of wishes (EOW) form they submitted to their pension provider.
This tells your private/company pension scheme what to do with the money in the instance you die before you can withdraw it.
If your relationships have changed you could end up leaving a chunk of change to the wrong person, so it's worth making sure it's up to date.
Your company's pension/HR department should know the best way to submit a new form.
Rise in people turning to crowdfunding to survive cost of living crisis
By Megan Baynes, social affairs and health reporter
There has been a worrying rise in the number of online fundraisers mentioning the cost of living as people turn to online platforms in a bid to make ends meet.
Data from crowdfunding platform GoFundMe found there was five times the number of fundraisers mentioning "cost of living" on the site between 1 January and 31 March 2023 compared with the same time last year.
When comparing 2019/20 to 2021/22, there has been a 55.5% rise in people mentioning "rent increase" in their fundraisers.
Among those desperately turning to the site is a man trying to prevent his family from becoming homeless.
Fergie lost his wife and partner of 17 years in April 2022. On the same day his job ended, his landlord also asked them to leave his home so he could sell it. He is now raising money to keep himself and his two young boys off the streets.
Jan and Rob lost their home when Rob was diagnosed with throat cancer just before the birth of their first child.
He and his family are fundraising for a stable home.
Dylan lost his job in January. After finding a new one, he has now been hospitalised with a case of sepsis.
Because his job is physical, he can't pay his rent, so had to turn to fundraising until he is back on his feet and back at work.
Dina Rickman, senior director at GoFundMe, said: "GoFundMe is often a leading indicator of where people are starting to feel the pinch - and how people are standing up to help.
"It’s inspiring to see more and more kind-hearted people supporting friends and neighbours even during the toughest of times. GoFundMe exists to help people help each other and the generosity of local communities is testament to that."