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Equilibrium's finance and investment news roundup

In our roundup this week we report on figures showing that many married couples are failing to take advantage of marriage tax allowance, subdued retail spending in September, improved protection for master trust pensions and a report claiming that significant changes are required at the financial bodies the FCA and PRA.

 

HMRC: Married couples missing out on tax allowance

Many married couples are failing to take advantage of a useful tax perk, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has revealed. According to the body, less than one-quarter of those eligible for marriage tax allowance are actually claiming it, despite HMRC running an advertising campaign highlighting its benefits.

It was found that only one million couples out of a possible 4.2 million have taken full advantage of the initiative, which was introduced in April 2015 and is worth £220 in 2016/17 but can also be backdated for the previous year, leading to a £432 total.

The allowance works by allowing one half of a married couple to transfer part of their tax-free allowance to their partner, provided one of the two is not earning more than the personal allowance limit of £11,000 and the other is paying income tax at the basic rate. 

September's warm weather led to subdued retail spending - ONS

Warm weather in September played a part in UK retail sales remaining subdued for the month. This is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which also claimed trade in the future may be impacted by rising inflation and falls in the value of the pound.

It was revealed that last month saw weak sales of clothing, footwear and food, with purchases remaining flat compared with the month before. It was also shown that prices edged up by 0.1% between August and September.

Despite this, it was also revealed that growth was stronger across the three months to September, with a 1.8% year-on-year increase in retail sales volumes recorded for the period. 

Master trust pensions 'to be better protected'

Individuals who pay into a master trust pension should benefit from better protection of their money following the publication of a new bill. Pensions Minister Richard Harrington revealed that these types of pension will now be required to meet higher standards of governance and improved regulatory powers are to be introduced.

The bill stands to benefit more than six million workers who pay into master trust pensions and comes following concerns that a collapse of one such pension scheme might place a person's savings at risk.

Mr Harrington commented: "We want to make sure that people saving into master trusts enjoy the same protection as everyone else, which is why we are levelling-up that protection, to give these savers more confidence in their pension schemes." 

FCA and PRA 'sleepwalking into next banking crisis'

A new report has warned that significant changes are required at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to prevent the two watchdogs from 'sleepwalking' into the next financial crisis.

The report from the New City Agenda think tank and the Cass Business School highlighted various problems that need addressing at the two bodies, including the watering down of rules, box-ticking and a lack of internal challenging.

It was argued that while the FCA needs to demonstrate its independence from politicians and industry, the PRA must improve accountability and openness.