Questions of Cash: October 2015

Questions of Cash: Mystery of the British Airports Authority shares that have disappeared into thin air

Q | Can you solve the mystery of what happened to my investment in British Airports Authority? I bought shares in the company more than 27 years ago at the time of privatisation. In February, I found the share certificate proving I am the rightful owner of these shares. I contacted Computershare, the registrar of what is now Heathrow airport. It replied that I am not on the list of shareholders, despite my share certificate. In July, I received a letter from Computershare saying it would treat my communications as a formal complaint, but I have heard nothing more. KK, London

A | British Airports Authority was privatised as BAA Plc in 1987. In 2006, BAA was bought by Ferrovial and other investors and in 2012 was renamed Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd. The company is no longer listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A spokeswoman for Computershare says the certificate you hold was an interim certificate confirming receipt of your initial payment for BAA shares. She says you were issued with a new certificate after a bonus share issue was made, increasing your shareholding. Your older share certificate was no longer valid.

According to Computershare’s records, you sold your shares in 1991. As this was before Computershare took over responsibility for share administration, it does not have any records of this transaction. It adds that this was explained in a letter sent to you in July, which it seems you have not received. It is resending it.

Tax credits that don’t add up

Q | We have three young children and my wife and I claimed tax credits in our joint names. In June last year, my wife and I separated and I moved out. I informed HMRC soon afterwards and a new tax credit claim was submitted by my ex-wife in her sole name. We have since received letters stating that tax credits have been overpaid by £320 for the period from April to June 2014. We disputed this as the overpayment was for the exact amount of tax credits paid to us during that period. The overpayment figure was reduced to approximately £65, but we were advised not to pay it pending confirmation. 

In July this year, I was asked to complete a summary of my income for the whole 2014 tax year. I queried this as I had been removed from the claim from June last year. My income substantially increased after that date as I had to work lots of overtime to pay the maintenance costs and for new accommodation. My income would not have been this high had we remained together. 

I have now received an overpayment demand for £319. Apparently, my whole 2014 income is taken into account, even though it didn’t relate to the period in question. It seems that for a 10-week period, we are entitled to a tax credit of only £7 because my total income for the year was £39,000. So our entitlement for the period before we split up has been based on my income after we split up. We would have received £25 a week for that period based on my actual income at that time. SG, by email

A | Pól Callaghan, an executive director at Citizens Advice, says: “In this case it would be necessary to review all relevant paperwork relating to the claim. However, one of the key principles of tax credits appears to be at the root of this enquiry.

“The income used for assessment of the credits is annual income and entitlement is calculated on this basis – which can sometimes lead to apparent or actual unfairness.

“Citizens Advice and other organisations campaigned on this before, during and after the introduction of tax credits. Their annual nature often causes significant difficulty for claimants. The reader should contact his local Citizens Advice office.”

When in rome… book caREfully

Q | We used Expedia to book a trip to Rome in August. Our problems began when the site had a technical issue, which meant we needed to rebook. I did so a few minutes later and got the same message. I then had incoming emails that showed I had booked twice. 

After a long phone call, I was reimbursed for the airport-transfer element of the booking. The rest of the money could not be repaid immediately as Expedia needed approval from the hotel and the airline. I was promised a refund of the rest. As that was not processed, I had a series of frustrating phone conversations with Expedia. 

When we arrived in Rome, the hotel transfer did not happen. After two hours, we had to make our own arrangements. More than 20 people were similarly waiting. On our return home I requested a refund of the €45 [£33] charged for the transfer. We have not heard from Expedia since.  AP, Oxfordshire

A | A spokeswoman for Expedia said: “We can confirm that the refund for the duplicate booking was processed in July and we have looked into this case to see if there were any signs of a significant website error impacting multiple bookings; this does not appear to have been the case. We are addressing the problems the reader faced with his airport transfer with the company concerned, and have refunded him for the transfers he booked and the additional costs he incurred. In recognition of the delay involved in resolving this case, and the fact that his experience did not meet our usual standards for customer service, we have also offered… a gesture of goodwill.” You have received a £100 voucher to be used on future Expedia bookings.

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