Five stars

1. Child Trust Fund

The Child Trust Fund allowance has been increased for all children born after 1 September 2002. This means that parents will now receive a further payment of £250, or £500 for families on lower incomes, when their child turns seven.

2. Inheritance Tax

The Inheritance Tax threshold has been raised to £285,000 for the 2006-7 tax year. The government has also announced that the threshold will be raised further to £300,000 in 2007-8, £312,000 in 2008-9 and £325,000 in 2009-10.

The Chancellor estimates that in the coming financial year only 37,000 estates will pay the tax, so careful estate planning is vital for all those who do not want their loved ones to be lumbered with a tax bill which could have been avoided with early action.

Getting advice from a financial planner at an early stage may be the most cost-effective route.

3. Tax-efficient donations

Gift Aid donations from taxpayers attract basic-rate tax relief of at least 22%. This means a gift of £100 entitles the charity to claim a further £28.20 from the tax man on top of your donation – tax that you would otherwise have paid.

Higher-rate taxpayers can claim back a further 18% of the total amount the charity receives. For instance, a £100 gift becomes £128.20 for the charity and through your tax return you can claim back £23.08. The up shot is that your Gift Aid donation ends up costing you less.

If you\’re a UK taxpayer, always make sure you tick the relevant Gift Aid box on any charity donation form, or tell the phone operator when donating over the phone that you want Gift Aid to apply.

4. Sell your house fast – without redecorating

It’s impossible to turn on your TV these days without coming across one of those home improvement programmes that help you sell your house quickly and at a good price.

However, is getting the price you deserve for your family home really just all about fancy accessorising and giving the walls a few coats of magnolia paint? Could the answer be more logical and, dare I say it, practical?

According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of Britons are prepared to pay more for energy-efficient homes. It seems that, despite a stagnant housing market, one in four of us would pay between £1,000 and £5,000 above a property\’s asking price if it was energy-efficient.

One in 10 people, according to the same survey, said they would pay £10,000 over the odds for a house if that property was energy efficient.

5. Say no to expensive phone numbers

A huge number of companies use 0844, 0845, 0870 or 0871 phone numbers. Although 0870 numbers are supposed to be charged at ‘national rates’, and 0845 numbers at ‘local rate’, they are still more costly than geographical calls.

Often when you call one of these numbers, you will find yourself put on hold for what seems like an eternity. What you may not know is just how much you are paying for the privilege of being sat in a queue and waiting for a response.

The solution is an ingenious website – This enables you to search an online database and find the corresponding geographical number.

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