What does the future hold for public sector contractors?

Tax has become something of a thorny issue in austerity Britain.

First it was Jimmy Carr who was pilloried for reducing his tax liabilities through the Jersey-based K2 scheme and it is now it is the BBC in the firing line after details emerged of some of its highest earners being paid via limited companies, therefore reducing the amount of tax they have to pay.

A subsequent investigation found that more than 2,000 contractors in the public sector are being paid via such vehicles, most notably Ed Lester, head of the Student Loans Company, who reportedly saves £40,000 a year in tax on his £160,000 a year salary.

public sector contractors

However, the landscape could be set to change dramatically after leaked documents obtained by the Professional Contractors Group showed a series of measures designed to reduce such payment schemes.

Internal memos sent between the Treasury and the Department for Innovation and Skills set out some major changes, the most notable of which is a plan to pay civil service contractors earning more than £220 a day or on contracts longer than six months as permanent employees.

These proposals have provoked strong reactions from those in the contracting industry, with the general consensus being that they could prove disastrous in the long term. Continue reading

How much will the funeral cost?

The average price of a funeral in the UK in early 2010 was approximately £2,650, and the cost has tended to increase faster than inflation. According to the dailymail, the average price is now as high as £7,600!!! Nine out of ten people get just one quote. There are understandable reasons for this – most people do not have the stomach for shopping around or haggling over prices at a time of grief; moreover, for some people it might even seem disrespectful to the dead – but in many other aspects of life we would not spend that sort of money without looking around at the market to see what is on offer.

The way that funeral directors quote and itemise their services varies from one to another, so it can be hard to make a direct comparison. Nevertheless it is always worth obtaining more than one quote.

Funeral costs are largely made up of the following:

  • Professional services, such as those provided by the funeral director: advice, support, guidance
  • Additional services, chapel of rest, embalming, etc.
  • Coffin / casket
  • Transportation
  • Disbursements: these are payments made on your behalf, typically including burial costs, ministers / non-religious celebrants, funeral flowers, the wake, doctors’ fees. Payment of disbursements is usually required upfront by funeral directors.

funeral cost

Most if not all funeral directors offer a ‘basic funeral’. If that interests you, it is worth asking some to provide information about what is included and whether it is available to all or only those on limited means. It should be noted, however, that a funeral can cost considerably less than the ‘basic funeral’ offered by some funeral directors – that is if the family make some of the arrangements.

There is no VAT on funerals, but there is on things like flowers and catering.

Click here for a good article on the fixed price funeral trend.

The Society of Allied and Independent Funerals commissioned a MORI survey which reported in early 2010. In one week in January 2010 MORI contacted 50 independent funeral directors, 50 belonging to Co-operative, and 50 belonging to Dignity, Co-operative and Dignity being the two largest chains in the UK. They asked each funeral director for a quote for the same basic funeral. Broadly, the independent funeral directors were the cheapest and Dignity the most expensive. The average quote from the independent funeral directors was £2,353, from Co-operative £2,675, and from Dignity £2,916.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance from the state is available in certain circumstances: Funeral Payment from the Social Fund – if both the person who has died and the next of kin had/have no savings, and were/are in receipt of benefits (including pension credit, income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, working tax credit (with a disability component), child tax credit). Continue reading