Personal Finance: Happy returns for Peps investors.
There's excellent news for those of you who have built up savings in the individual savings account forerunner - the personal equity plan.
These tax-exempt schemes are subject to rule changes for the financial year 2001-2. In effect, Peps have now been brought up to date with ISAs.
This means there will no longer be a distinction between general and single company Peps, and investors can merge the two elements if they wish.
Introduced by Chancellor Nigel Lawson in the 1980s and refined by his successor John Major, Peps have carried one fundamental flaw.
Pep packages have stated that 75 per cent of investment capital must purchase stocks in the UK and Europe.
However, from April 6, Peps will follow identical qualifying regulations as ISAs.
Therefore, Pep holders will possess the same freedom as ISA investors, being eligible to buy shares on stock exchanges anywhere in the world.
This new framework provides the opportunity to sink cash into the US, the world's biggest market.
People will also have access to a wider range of investment funds, corporate bonds and gilts.
Apart from being able to spread risks on a global basis, it will be permissible to transfer part of a Pep to another Pep manager, and not just a whole Pep, as applies at present.
Furthermore, people should realise that they will no longer be required to make a written request to their Pep manager to withdraw funds. In future, they can choose between telephone, fax or Internet.
The restructuring of the Pep system may prove an ideal time to reassess the value and prospects of Pep holdings.
Indeed, if your funds have been underperforming for at least the past two years, then you may well wish to seek new pastures for your hard-earned money.
In order to gain maximum benefit for your Pep portfolio it may also be prudent to procure valuable advice from an independent financial consultant before the proposed changes take place.