Fergus Muirhead answers your money questions
I'm Fergus Muirhead and I'm here to answer any questions you may have about any money or consumer issues.
I'll be dealing with a selection of your queries every other Wednesday on Scotland Live, on Reporting Scotland and here on the BBC Scotland news website.
Please drop me a line here at email@example.com with your questions.
You can also read more on money and consumer issues on my blog at www.moneysucks.net.
Q. I am going skiing with some friends in March and I have paid the deposit using my MasterCard credit card. Does this cover us if the company we are going with fails or do I need to pay the balance with my credit card as well? Roddie McRae
A. As along as you have spent between £100 and £30,000 on your credit card then the total cost of your holiday should be covered if anything goes wrong with the company with whom you have made your booking. This protection is available under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and applies to goods and services purchased. There are a couple of exclusions to the protection, however, that you need to be aware of and the one that may affect you is where you buy through a Travel Agent. This can be a difficult area because, for a Section 75 claim to be valid, there needs to be a relationship between the credit card company and the company providing the service, and this doesn't exist where a Travel Agent acts as intermediary. Having said that, if you have booked through a travel agent you may be protected elsewhere anyway.
Q. I recently received a back-dated tax rebate from Republic Of Ireland. I received a five figure cheque in Euros. Given current rates, should I exchange this Euro sum to Sterling? If I do exchange this Euro sum to Sterling where can I find the best exchange rate deal? George Macdonald
A. This is a really interesting question. As I write this you could sell 1,000 euro and receive £873. A couple of years ago you might have received a lot less - say £600, but at times last year you could have received substantially more. If you ask 10 economists whether they think the Euro will rise or fall against Sterling you might get at least 10 answers. None of this is helping you I know. If you are resident in the UK and you are not going to use your Euros except when you are on holiday then it would make sense to keep some to use on holiday and convert the rest. Rates vary from day to day and you need to look carefully at what is on offer. Check out rates online but remember not to be drawn solely by the best rate - you need to look at the costs involved in converting your money as well.
Q. I was watching your spot on television after the lunchtime news yesterday and I thought I would let you know about another error HMRC made in my favour. I was sent my Self Assessment - Tax Calculation letter last week, showing that I was due a substantial refund. I knew this was incorrect, but hadn't had a chance to check it out properly before the refund actually appeared in my bank account this week. I have two employers, and pay and tax details for both were submitted in my tax return, but they have completely ignored one of them (the larger) and I have therefore benefited by having the whole of my personal allowance applied against the lower of my salaries, plus the benefit of a lower rate of tax being applied. Ian Stewart
A. This letter raises an interesting point - what do you do if the Revenue makes a mistake, that you know is a mistake? It's one thing if they send you some money that you know you are entitled to, another if they send you money that you think you might be entitled to but how should you behave when the Revenue sends you a cheque that you know that you have absolutely no right to have in the first place?
Well the simple answer is that you should behave in the way you would expect someone to behave towards you - and in this case that means giving the money back. It's probably also true to say that there is no doubt that the Revenue would have noticed their mistake - even if it took a few years - and Ian would have had to give the money back then anyway, so better to be upfront and tell the revenue about their mistake - no matter how much it hurts!
Q. We have £50,000 to invest and we are looking for a regular income from it. Have you any advice as to which of the Institutions is best for us to approach? Andy & Jan Thomlinson
A. There are a few issues that need to be addressed here. The first is to establish exactly the level of income you are looking for your lump sum to provide and whether this sum can be provided by 'capital growth' or whether you are going to have to dip into your £50,000 to provide the income. The alternative to eating away at the capital would be to adopt a riskier investment strategy but you may not be comfortable with this, and the amount of risk you are happy to take is also an important consideration. The next question might be one of tax and to consider how the income you want to take will be taxed, and to do that it will be necessary to have a look at your overall income situation. So at one level it might be simple to have a look online and find out which bank is paying the best rate of interest if you give them your £50,000. If all you are looking for is the 'best' rate of interest then you would not necessarily want to go and pay for advice but, and I would say here that I have only the information you gave me to go on here, if your situation is any more complex than that then it might be worth going to see an IFA and asking them to put a bit of 'planning' round whatever it is that you do.