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Green shoots for 1st time property buyers.

Lending to 1st time property buyers has increased by 11% in 2012, as the numbers of loans extended to borrowers with small deposits rose.

Purchase approvals across the market rose by 3%, and new buyer numbers have climbed to their highest levels in 5 years.
Experts predict that the full effect of the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme (value £80 billion) and a relaxation of bank capital adequacy rules will bear fruit.

This is all good news for our 1st time buying clientele, who are based mainly in London. Our specialist unit of lawyers dealing with 1st time buyers, Layna Thompson and Janak Bakrania have noticed that these clients are now of an older age group (average age now 35yrs old) and that as many as 2/3rds have financial assistance from friends or family.

In response to the fact that the average 1st time buyer in London needs 20% of the purchase price as a deposit and are waiting 10 years before they can buy, mortgage providers are engaging in a price war.

Barclays have introduced a new "Family Springboard mortgage”, which in real terms will give a loan to value (LTV) of 95% at 4.69%.

Essentially, the mortgage is fixed for three years and the family tie up 10% of the purchase price into a connected savings account until the end of the rate fix. Thus the true value of the deposit is 15%.

Our specialist, experienced conveyancing solicitors, based in London, know only too well the pressures that first time buyers are subject to, especially when relying on family assistance. We provide a reasonably priced, fficient, supportive service, gently guiding the 1st time buyer through the biggest financial outlay of their lives.

Contact Layna Thompson or Janak Bakrania on 02073872032.

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Report Reveals Cost of VAT Fraud

Tax fraud accounts for nearly half (44%) of all fraud reported in the UK, according to new research from BDO LLP, the accountancy and business advisory firm. This is the highest level since 2007.

BDO FraudTrack, which looks at all reported fraud cases over £50,000, found that while total fraud in 2012 fell by a third from £2.1bn to £1.37bn, tax fraud in 2012 fell only slightly over the same period. Totalling £603m, tax fraud is roughly double the amount in 2009 (£274m) and 2010 (£309m). Moreover, BDO believes that the vast majority of public and private sector fraud is not reported.

“Politicians and the public at large are presently pointing their finger at various multinationals for allegedly not paying the correct amount of corporation tax,” said report author Simon Bevan of BDO. “However, our latest survey of UK fraud shows that, in reality, it is the fraud element of UK’s VAT gap - the theoretical difference between what the Government expects to collect in sales tax and what it actually collects - that is the bigger drain on the public purse”.

The current UK VAT gap is around £10bn, with fraud accounting for approximately one third of this figure (£3.3bn).

BDO believes that approximately half of the £3.3bn figure relates to general non-compliance due to mistake or deliberate act by legitimate traders, whilst half is produced by a relatively smaller number of professional fraudsters committing missing trader fraud and carousel fraud.

Missing trader fraud occurs when an individual sells goods to a third party, charges sales tax and then either disappears or deliberately takes their company into administration before paying over their VAT liabilities.

Carousel fraud occurs when an individual buys goods from another member state without paying sales tax; they then move the goods through a number of companies (the carousel) before eventually exporting the goods to the original seller. At the point of export they claim their VAT refund (20%) from HMRC. The goods in question can go round the carousel many times leading to large losses to the revenue. Sometimes the goods in question physically move and sometimes they only appear to move through the use of false paperwork.

According to the FraudTrack figures, VAT fraud accounts for 41% of the total UK fraud figure.

For VAT fraud legal advice, please contact our fraud lawyers in London on 020 7387 2032.

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Confiscation Orders Update – by Siobhain Egan

At a time when confiscation orders are on the rise, those who have read the case of R -v- Varma (2012) UKSC 42 would have done so with interest.

To summarise, Varma entered pleas of guilty to be knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of tobacco and was sentenced to a conditional discharge for two years. The Court made a confiscation order and an application was submitted for leave against the imposition of that order.

It was argued that it was inappropriate to punish a defendant by imposing a confiscation order where a conditional discharge had been imposed. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, however, in quashing the confiscation order they certified that there was a point of law of general public importance and the matter was referred to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision by the Court of Appeal and decided that the Crown Court has the power, and often the duty, to make a confiscation order against a defendant following conviction for an offence, regardless of what sentence had been imposed.

This case is of some significance, particularly for those lesser offences where the Court may be minded to impose discharges as opposed to financial or other penalties.  In such cases defendants must be aware of the financial repercussions of pleading guilty to any offences regardless of what sentence is then handed down.

Clearly, advice is necessary and desirable to defendants at an early stage of proceedings as to the likely range of penalties, including financial orders, that the courts may impose.

We at Lewis Nedas are able to offer a comprehensive advice service as to the whole range of confiscation orders that can be made by courts following conviction or a plea of guilty, in addition to advice on cases where the Police and/or prosecuting authorities invoke civil proceedings for the seizure of monies where criminal proceedings are deemed inappropriate or, for whatever reason, cannot be undertaken.

Whilst, on the face of it, the case of Varma is unlikely to trouble too many defendants, what is clear is that the courts are duty bound to consider confiscation orders and/or other financial orders in all criminal cases where a conviction is obtained.  That was not the case until this ruling.

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Thinking of Entering the Buy-to-Let Market?

There is a huge boom in the buy-to-let market, fuelled by the recent price war (and subsequent reduction) in buy-to-let mortgage rates and rent hikes.

There have been seven consecutive months of rent rises, and London investors have seen an average of 7% investment returns annually. These returns cannot really be matched elsewhere.

There are differences between this buy-to-let boom and the previous one. This time, capital gains in the price of property are not really to be seen, therefore anyone investing at this stage has to be looking at the rental return and take a ten to fifteen year view of these investments.

Additionally, there is much more regulation and compliance for a landlord to deal with, particularly if dealing with houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Contact our property & conveyancing solicitors in London, Richard McConnell or Janak Bakrania for advice if you are considering such an investment.

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One Way to Avoid Extradition to the US: Buy Your Way Out of it!

News broke on 28 November 2012 that Richard O’Dwyer, who was in the process of appealing his Extradition to the US on copyright charges (which carried a maximum custodial sentence of ten years), has signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US authorities. He will travel to the US, pay an as yet undisclosed sum, and avoid a term of imprisonment.

This would appear to be another blow against the US and UK extradition agreement; one wonders whether we will see more of these DPA agreements for those facing extradition who can afford to pay.

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