The beginning of April and the new tax year will bring a flurry of changes to household bills, taxes, benefits and schemes.
The boost to the state pension and minimum wage will mean you could have more money in your pocket, although hikes in some bills such as car tax and council tax could leave you worse off.
This year, there are also a number of changes on housing purchase schemes, including a new 95% mortgage guarantee scheme and changes to the Help to Buy scheme.
Here, Which? reveals the 19 changes coming up in April to watch out for and explains how they could affect your money.
1. The personal allowance will rise
The personal allowance – the threshold above which income tax is levied on your income – will rise from £12,500 to £12,570 in the new tax year, while the threshold for higher-rate taxpayers will rise from £50,000 to £50,270.
The rise means that millions of people will be able to earn more before paying tax in 2021-22.
However, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the Budget that these thresholds will be frozen for the next five years.
This means you could be drawn into a higher tax bracket, or stay in the same tax bracket but have to pay a bigger proportion of your income tax if your wages rise.
2. Payment holidays will end
Since 25 November 2020, borrowers have been able to apply for further payment holidays on mortgages, credit cards, loans and other finance agreements, as many people have been struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
The deadline for applications is 31 March and won’t be further extended. To get a payment holiday, you’ll need to contact your lender directly. Some banks have online systems in place, but others will require you to phone them.
Payment deferrals won’t be reported as missed payments on your credit file, so they won’t affect your credit score.
It’s still possible, however, that lenders will look at whether you’ve taken payment holidays when considering applications for further credit in the future.
- Find out more: coronavirus payment holidays
3. One-off £500 working tax credit payments
If you get working tax credits, you’ll be able to get a £500 one-off payment to help you through the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The new payment is being introduced to provide extra support when the temporary increase in Working Tax Credit from £1,045 to £3,040 ends as planned on 5 April 2021.
HMRC should contact you by text message or letter in April to confirm you’re eligible. If you are, you should get your payment direct to your bank account by 23 April 2021.
- Find out more: working tax credits explained
4. Universal Credit uplift extended
The £20-a-week universal credit uplift will be extended for another six months.
Universal Credit is a government benefit system for those who are out of work or on a low income, which was raised in March last year temporarily to help families through the pandemic.
How much you get depends on your age and circumstances. For example, if you’re single and aged 25 and over, you can expect £409.89 per month.
- Find out more: how Universal Credit works
5. TV licence fee hike
The cost of the annual TV licence fee will rise from £157.50 to £159 on 1 April.
In 2016, the government – which is responsible for setting the level of the fee – announced it would rise in line with inflation for five years from 1 April 2017.
Some streaming services have also hiked their prices.
Disney+ customers must now pay £7.99 a month instead of £5.99, while yearly plans have also risen from £59.99 to £79.90.
Netflix also increased its monthly subscription costs this month for its standard package, which allows you to watch two screens on high definition, and its premium package, where you can watch on four screens in 4K and HD.
Prices went up by £12 per year (£9.99 per month) and £24 per year (£13.99 per month), respectively. The basic package, which costs £5.99 per month has remained at the same level.
6. NHS prescription charges to increase
NHS prescription charges in England will rise to £9.35 on 1 April 2021, from £9.15.
The price of a three-month prescription pre-payment certificate (PPC), which allows you get as many NHS prescriptions as you need for a set price, will cost £30.25, an increase of 60p, and a 12-month PPC will set you back £108.10, an increase of £2.20.
7. Energy price cap hike
From 1 April, customers on standard tariffs with seven of the biggest energy providers will see their prices rise.
The price cap, which limits the amount firms can charge for standard tariffs, is increasing. That means energy firms can up the rates – adding around £95 to a household’s bill per year, based on using a medium amount of gas and electricity.
But there’s still time to avoid your bills increasing if you act soon.
8. Minimum wage boost
Millions of people will see their wages rise on 1 April.
Employees under the age of 23 will get a 2.2.% increase to the national minimum wage band they fall into.
The national living wage is increasing to £8.91 an hour, and the government’s highest rate will also include workers over the age of 23 for the first time ever, meaning 23 and 24-year-olds who are currently on £8.20 an hour will see wages increase by 71p.
9. Council tax bills to rise for some
Which? has found that every local authority in England and Wales increase council tax bills for 2021-22, with 83 councils increasing rates by more than the 5% cap recommended by the government.
Residents in Wellingborough, which will become part of newly formed North Northamptonshire from 1 April, will see the biggest increase to their council tax bills in April, which are set to increase by 7.5%, according to the latest government data.
However, residents in Scotland will see no change to their bills; all Scottish councils have announced that they will freeze council tax rates for 2021-22 after it was announced in the Scottish Budget that any councils that froze their rates would receive extra funding from the Scottish government equivalent to the maximum 3% council tax increase.
- Find out more: how council tax bills are changing in April
10. State pension pay rise
The state pension will rise by 2.5% in the 2021-22 tax year.
State pension recipients who are entitled to the full level of the flat-rate state pension will get £179.60 a week from 6 April 2021, up from £175.20. The change means pensioners will be up to £228.80 better off by the end of the 2021-22 tax year.
Those who reached the state pension age before April 2016 receive the basic state pension. At its full level, this is worth £134.25 a week, rising to £137.60 next year. The increase equates to a £174.20 pay rise in 2021-22.
You may be able to get the full amount if you’ve previously built up an additional state pension.
The 2021-22 rise is thanks to the triple lock guarantee, which states that the state pension must rise by either September’s price inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5% – whichever is higher.
As September 2020’s level of inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) was 0.5%, and average earnings growth was recorded at -1% due to the effects of furlough pay and reduced bonuses, the government used the 2.5% measure to increase state pension payments.
- Find out more: use the Which? state pension calculator
11. Your mobile phone bill could go up
From 31 March, your mobile phone bill could increase by as much as 4.5%.
Networks including BT, EE, Three and Vodafone have announced price hikes.
For example, those who signed up with Three as a pay-monthly customer or renewed their pay-monthly contract on or after 29 October last year will see their bills increase by 4.5%.
For Three customers who joined the network between 29 May 2015 and 29 October 2020, there is a smaller increase of 1.4% from May.
Check with your provider to see if and how you could be affected.
- Find out more: mobile phone billing advice
12. Your water bill could drop
Average household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales are set to fall by around £2 a year from April.
This takes the average bill from £410 to £408, according to Water UK.
However, prices will vary depending on where you live – some households could see average increases of up to £14 per year.
13. Child benefit to rise
On 12 April, child benefit is rising to £21.15 for the first child and £14 per week for subsequent children, an increase of 10p and 5p, respectively.
This means the new monthly payments will be £84.60 for the first child and £56 for additional children.
You should get your payments every four weeks and be awarded National Insurance credits which can count towards your state pension.
While child benefit isn’t means-tested, you’ll pay an additional tax charge if you or your partner has an annual income over the £50,000 threshold, known as the ‘high-income child benefit charge’. If either you or your partner earns more than £60,000, the tax means you’ll pay back your entire child benefit entitlement.
- Find out more: child benefit calculator
14. Pension credit to rise
If you’re less well off, there is help available to you to boost your state pension. This comes in the form of pension credit.
From April, pension credit payments are rising to £177.10 a week from £173.75. For couples, it will jump from £265.20 to £270.30 a week.
Pension credit is awarded to you based on your earnings – known as a means-tested benefit – and tops up your basic state pension.
It’s made up of two parts, called guarantee credit and savings credit. Around four million people are entitled to pension credit but, according to the government, a third of those fail to claim it.
- Find out more: how to claim pension credit
15. Marriage Allowance backdated payments
Marriage Allowance is a perk that enables one partner to transfer some of their tax-free personal allowance to their spouse, providing their spouse earns less than the current personal allowance. This can reduce their tax bill by up to £250 a year.
The deadline for submitting backdated Marriage Allowance tax claims to HMRC is 5 April 2021.
Claims can be backdated up to four years – you can make claims back to 2017 right now – which would mean a £1,150 back payment.
From 2021-22, the earliest you can go with your claim is 2018.
- Find out more: do I qualify for the Marriage Allowance?
16. Car tax will rise
Car, or motor vehicle tax – a tax which has to be paid on, or included with, a wheeled vehicle to use it on a public road – is rising in the new tax year.
The amount of tax you’ll have to pay will depend on your car’s CO2 emissions.
Cars that emit zero grams per km of CO2 won’t have to pay anything, while petrol and most diesel drivers (including hybrid models) that put out between 1g and 50g per km will be required to pay £10 for the first year.
Cars that emit between 51g and 5g per km will continue to pay £25 for the first year.
However, drivers with cars that generate between 76g and 150g per km of CO2 will see an increase of £5 more this year – taking their annual car tax bill to £220.
- Find out more: how car tax works
17. New 95% mortgage scheme to launch
The 95% mortgage guarantee scheme will launch in April. It will see the government ‘guaranteeing’ 95% mortgages for buyers with 5% deposits.
The scheme was announced in the March Budget and has been designed to encourage banks to start offering 95% mortgages again, after nearly every single one was withdrawn during the pandemic.
Under the terms of the scheme, the government will guarantee the portion of the mortgage over 80% (so, with a 95% mortgage, the remaining 15%). This might sound complicated, but in practice, it just means the government will partially compensate the lender if a homeowner defaults on (fails to pay) their mortgage.
- Find out more: how the 95% mortgage scheme works
18. A new Help to Buy scheme will start
From 1 April, the government’s Help to Buy scheme will be restricted to first-time buyers only, and regional price caps will be put in place to limit how much homes can be sold for.
The government launched the Help to Buy equity loan scheme in April 2013. It allows first-time buyers and home movers in England to benefit from a 20% equity loan (40% in London) on a new-build home, allowing them to buy with a 5% deposit. Equity loans are provided interest-free for five years.
The new caps are set at 1.5 times the average price paid by first-time buyers in each region, as of autumn 2018. The maximum prices are as follows:
|Yorkshire and the Humber||£228,100|
|East of England||£407,400|
- Find out more: the Help to Buy scheme explained
19. Shared ownership changes on ‘staircasing’
The shared ownership scheme – that allows you to buy a share of a property and pay rent on the rest – is also changing.
Currently, the minimum share a buyer can purchase in a home is 25%. However, the government’s new model for the scheme will see this lowered to 10% at the end of March.
Buying a share in a property requires saving a smaller deposit and taking out a smaller mortgage, which is meant to make it an affordable route into homeownership.
The idea is that shared owners will be able to incrementally buy a larger proportion of the home until they own all of it. This is known as ‘staircasing’.
- Find out more: how the shared ownership scheme works