Tax Handbook 2013-14 (Which) Paperback – 29 Apr 2013
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An outstanding offering in the Which? Essential Guide series --Pensions World
About the Author
Tony Levene has been a financial journalist for over three decades and worked at the Guardian for 12 years. In 2008 he was voted Consumer Champion of the Year by Headline Money, and in 2010 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Insurers.
Top customer reviews
If you are new to UK taxation then this book may well be for you. If you have a specific set of queries, the book probably won't provide sufficiently comprehensive information to meet your needs. It might direct you to a Which web page, or a HM Government Revenue and Customs site, but in practice Google will probably get you to the same place. You might also be better off with a website as the government continues to develop taxation policy on the fly no longer confined to the Budget or Autumn Statement. This seems to be particularly the case at the moment as the balancing act between economic growth and deficit reduction measures goes on.
So in conclusion, for a small group of people this book will be very useful. For most it will confirm what you already know and you'll find out a bit about taxes that are a little more obscure. If you've got a detailed question you likely won't find the answer here.
There is plenty of good advice and it does explain things in easy to understand terms. It covers a wide range of scenarios so is worth a read before seeking professional help.
But thats about it. Its all very general and if you understand the basics of tax and pensions you will learn little new.
Its brevity means that the contents should not be relied on without further research. There is no mention, for example of the different tax credits rules for over 60s.
It would perhaps be better to move pensions and even self employment into separate books which would enable more detailed information on the core topics. The ridiculous complexity of the tax system means a book like this cannot really be described as a 'handbook'. Read it as an intro by all means but to get the full picture this is no substitute for ploughing through the HMRC website.
And not just Income Tax. Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Excise Duty for Motor Vehicles, the tax on various forms of savings and investments, the all-important allowances and areas of tax exemption within all these taxes, and much more are all comprehensively detailed.
Although I already had some knowledge of each of the main forms of tax that touch most of us, I expected reading this book to be a chore. It wasn't. Admittedly, it would be harder work for those not already familiar with at least some of the terminology, but with perseverance any reasonably literate and numerate person should be able to understand all that is set out here. One of the better pieces of advice, of course, is that if you feel out of your depth you should pay a professional to prepare your Tax Return for you. The book goes on to tell you how much you might expect to pay, that if your income is low you may qualify for free help, and where to access that help (TaxAid). HMRC's own Website can be helpful too, and these days you will be treated humanely if you drop-in to your local tax office with a question. Or you can telephone, though it can take a long time to reach a real person. Even if you use a professional, the overview of the tax system this book provides, and how you might legally minimise the tax you pay, will still be invaluable.
So, five stars! Most of us could think of books that tell a more engrossing story, provide more laughs, or both, but what this book sets out to do it does very well. This edition has been fully revised for the current tax year, leaving no obvious breaks or joins, so full marks for that too.
Over and above these worthwhile features are Tony Levene's use of crystal clear language to explain often very technical or complex tax matters, a wealth of useful tips and clarifications often set in boxes and other graphic devices which draw attention to matters of particular interest or importance.
The text is written in mercifully jargon-free English, and while I can imagine such a handbook being designed differently, I cannot imagine it being done better. Highly recommended.
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