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LEE BOYCE: Harness the power of Isas to keep the taxman at bay

Tax haven: This year, Isa cash rates are back in force.  They are now paying up to 4.2%.  At the beginning of last year, you would have been lucky to pocket 1%

A decade ago, the pressure for savers to use their Isa wrap before the tax year deadline in early April was at full steam.

For Money Mail, it’s become an exhausting time of year as we battle to bring you news of all the launches and original offers.

Banks scrambled to offer the best duty-free rates, while the publicity blitz escalated – the Isa Isa Baby Halifax ad in 2010 to the tune of the rap song Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice is still an earworm (unfortunately) for me.

Tax haven: This year, Isa cash rates are back in force.  They are now paying up to 4.2%.  At the beginning of last year, you would have been lucky to pocket 1%

Tax haven: This year, Isa cash rates are back in force. They are now paying up to 4.2%. At the beginning of last year, you would have been lucky to pocket 1%

Santander even had a special Isa golf tied to Rory McIlroy’s US Open win. Seriously!

Banks and building societies would undertake a big push in March to attract last-minute cash before the end of the fiscal year, then do the same in April when the new one arrived.

It all came to a halt in the mid-2010s. As rates on non-tax-exempt accounts plunged, cash Isas fared even worse.

Indeed, the smaller vendors, the only ones competing for money-saving through easy access and patches, didn’t want to bother with the bureaucracy needed to offer Isas.

A few challenger banking bosses I spoke to at the time thought Isa’s money was a go, with only wealthy savers needing the tax-free wrapper.

But this year, cash Isa rates are back in full force (see our special Isa supplement in today’s paper). They are now paying up to 4.2 percent. At the beginning of last year, you would have been lucky to pocket 1%.

With rising rates, many more savers are likely to face a savings interest tax bill, not just the wealthy. The Isa is back, baby.

And every saver should put them at the forefront of their financial planning – it’s a golden opportunity to save tax dollars. And as your savings grow (hopefully), you’ll be grateful for it in the future.

Surge in pensions

During an honest and candid weekend pub chat with a friend – who is a successful professional – our conversation turned to the tricky world of pensions.

It turned out that she believed that the money she was saving in her occupational pension – reaching almost six figures at the age of 36 – would simply be accessible from retirement age.

The total amount, excluding taxes. When I explained that that’s not quite how it worked and asked her if her pension was just parked in a default fund, she looked upset.

Pensions are vitally important, but most people know very well how they work. It is worrying. A one-hour session before the children leave school, as well as a short refresher course organized each year by an employer, should be compulsory.

Meanwhile, an industry-funded pensions dashboard, which is supposed to show people all their pots under one roof, as well as state pension forecasts, has been delayed again.

For me, this pub talk underscored that more needs to be done to get workers to commit to their retirement nest egg – the sooner the better.

Squirrel Sleepover

Last month, when I got a phone call from mom in the early morning, I panicked. It was completely out of the ordinary.

“I have a big problem,” she said. “There’s something running through my roof and it kept me awake all night.”

The way she described it, you would have thought she had found an unexploded WWII bomb up there.

But it turns out she was right to worry. When I poked my head into the attic with a torch, a gray squirrel was staring at me – Mom’s new guest, as happy as Larry.

Pest control officials told us that squirrels have become a much bigger problem this year and, in a nutshell, they can cause huge damage.

We waited for the squirrel to leave and a nice neighbor climbed up a ladder and nailed a wire mesh to plug a small hole between the gutter and the tiles.

Needless to say, the squirrel came back and frantically tried to get back. The mesh had done its job and stopped a series of potential damage.

Keep an eye out for holes in your roof, or you could face a bill of thousands of pounds from rodents looking for a home.

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