Questions of Cash: The Independent

Q.  I set-up a standing order from my Halifax current account to an Abbey savings account. The sort code and bank account number were correct, but the reference number was wrong – containing an extra digit.  Money was transferred to Abbey, but not paid into my account.  I only became aware of this when I checked my balance.  In trying to sort this out, I have made approximately 12 phone calls to Abbey and Halifax, each saying it cannot help me.   Halifax has written to me saying the money is with Abbey, but Abbey denies this.  Abbey says Halifax is at fault for sending the money incorrectly.  Halifax says it cannot do anything.  TC, Nottingham.


A.  This is an increasingly common problem – it is essential to carefully check the sort code, account number and reference numbers when making payments and transfers online.  Santander – which has taken over Abbey – accepts that it gave you wrong information.  It apologises and has made a goodwill payment to you of £50.   Halifax was initially able to recover £100 of transferred funds, but for some reason it was previously unable to recover the balance of your money.  Halifax now also accepts it gave you the wrong information, it also apologises and it is also making a goodwill payment to you of £50.  In addition, the missing funds – totalling £399 – have been located by Abbey and refunded to your Halifax account.

Q.  My family settled in the UK in 1997 from Iraq and have not returned to our homeland since. We now want to liquidate our Iraqi assets – mainly properties and lands.  We have not received any rent for more than 15 years.  Do we pay Capital Gains Tax on the properties?  One of my brothers who co-owns the property is a US citizen: is his share subject to UK rules?  ZN, by email.

A.  Alex Henderson, tax partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) explains: “If you have been settled in the UK since 1997 you will be resident and ordinarily resident here. And liable to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) at 18 per cent on any gain made on the disposal of assets: i.e. the difference between what you paid for them and your sale proceeds, less applicable costs, such as commission. It does not matter whether the assets are income producing – what is important is the amount of the gain. If you have not developed the intention to reside permanently or indefinitely you may be non-domiciled in the UK. In this case, provided you elect for this status and do not remit the proceeds of the sale of these overseas assets to the UK, your tax liability will be limited to a £30,000 charge to use the non-domiciled regime. This is payable per person, but need only be paid for years in which you wish to take advantage of the non-domiciled regime. If the gain is small then this may not be necessary, as each person whether domiciled here or not is allowed to make £10,100 of gains in the current tax year before any tax is due. (There is a £2,000 per person de minimis exemption for foreign income and gains in the non-domiciled regime.)  A US citizen who is resident in the UK will be liable to tax in both countries, but a credit is generally available so that they will only pay the higher of the two countries’ tax rates. There can be complications with the interaction of the two regimes and obtaining advice in both countries will be important.”


Q.  In January I booked a flight with bmibaby from Edinburgh to Birmingham travelling in late March.  I was charged £7.50 to pay by credit card. On 9 March I received an email telling me that the flight had been cancelled and that I had been re-booked on a flight to East Midlands airport for the same dates.  I was to call the reservations centre if I didn’t want to accept this and claim a refund. I did this and the refund has been paid, but didn’t include the credit card fee. I queried this and was told that the fee is non-refundable. I find this outrageous.  GE, by email.


A. Bmibaby blames an “admin error” for the credit card fee not being refunded and says it is not normal practice to withhold this.  A spokeswoman says: “Any passenger that is affected by a schedule change or cancellation is offered an alternative flight if available, and if this is not suitable they will receive a full refund including card fees.”  You have now been refunded the credit card fee, as well as the cost of the cancelled flight.


Q.  I recently found an old Abbey National share account book, showing a balance of £22.82. The account has not been used since 1992. I have visited the local office of Santander, where various members of staff have promised to trace this account. I have now been told that all accounts that had laid dormant for more than six years were automatically deleted and that I would get any money.  I was later offered £10 for all the trouble I had been put through.  Can Santander close an account like this and keep customers’ money?  JK, Doncaster.


A. The existence of a share account book is not proof that this account was not closed, or that any funds continue to be held in this account.  Customers who contact a building society or bank who have lost account books will typically be asked to complete a form and sign it to receive the balance in their account.  Santander says it does not have any record of your account as it only holds this information for six years – the legal obligation.  A Santander spokeswoman explains:  “The fact [that the reader] still has the old passbook is not considered to be evidence that the account is still in existence.”


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