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Family Finance.

Byline: TONY HETHERINGTON

Q: Since I retired I have started writing cookery and other household tips for some women's magazines. I do this at home. It is not a proper job with an employer, but I do receive small fees. Is this money taxable? Mrs R W A: The simple rule is that anything you receive as a fee in return for work is taxable, just like any normal wages.

However, whether or not any tax is actually due depends on your total income from all sources. We are all allowed an income of pounds 6,475 this year, before paying a penny in tax. If you are over 65, the starting point may be higher.

But the real advantage in the way you work is that not all your fees will be taxable anyway. You can deduct expenses, such as postage, photocopying, stationery, and even a percentage of household bills such as heating and lighting. These deductions can take a major bite out of your fees, leaving only a small chunk for the tax man.

Q: My late mother had been in a care home for a long time and left very little when she died. There was just a few hundred pounds in a bank account and the same in National Savings. She left no will, but as I am her only child and there are no other relatives, National Savings paid me her money without any problem. However, the bank is suggesting I may need to apply for Letters of Administration, which would mean paying a solicitor more than the account holds. D G A: A grant of Letters of Administration is the same as a grant of probate, except that there is no will, so the intestacy rules decide who gets what - though in your case, this seems clear cut anyway.

You could apply personally and save the legal fees, but there is probably an even simpler solution. Ask staff at the bank branch to contact their head office for guidance. All the major banks nowadays will release modest sums without probate or administration, as long as they are reasonable sure you are the genuine beneficiar y.

Q: Including my house, my estate is likely to be above the starting point for inheritance tax when I die. I want to simplify things for my family, and I believe shares traded on the Alternative Investment Market escape this tax, so would it be a good idea to put my savings into Aim shares? A W E A: Not all Aim shares win this exemption. They must be shares in trading companies that qualify for business property relief - which excludes some popular sector, for example oil exploration and mining.

Aim shares also carry bigger risks than shares listed on the full stock exchange, so do consult a broker familiar with Aim who can suggest shares that qualify for the tax exemption but do not involve massive risks.

Q: How can I find out whether rumours about a local tradesman being bankrupt are true or false? K P A: Bankruptcy records are public.

You can search the register of bankrupts at http://www.insolvency.gov.uk/eiir.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2009
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