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Southport & Mersey Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 15 October 2007

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OPERATION Christmas Child this week launches its 2007 appeal in Merseyside with the aim of collecting gift–filled shoeboxes to distribute to needy children at Christmas in Eastern Europe and Africa.  Last year the Christian charity project delivered 1.24 million shoeboxes from the UK, including 51,100 from Merseyside and is aiming to continue this success in 2007. Originating in 1990, Operation Christmas Child is now one of the UK’s biggest annual charity programmes, and is calling on schools, churches, businesses, organisations and individuals throughout Merseyside to build on the help they gave last year.

Communities in The Wirral, Wallasey, St.-Helens, Southport, Liverpool, Formby, Bootle and Birkenhead contributed to the area’s total. The gift-filled boxes were checked at the charity’s processing centres in Liverpool, Wirral and Wrexham before being transported to Belarus, Bosnia, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Swaziland and Ukraine.

Operation Christmas Child’s Regional Manager Ian Taylor hopes to collect even more shoeboxes in 2007: “People throughout Merseyside made a tremendous contribution last year. Indeed, Merseyside communities have shown great generosity over several years, and we need their help to keep this effort going because there are many places where children are suffering from natural disasters, illness, war and poverty. We all see in the news, far too often, sadly, children left with nothing through no fault of their own, and the simple act of packing a shoebox with a few gifts has a very positive impact on them, and their families, too.

We deal with people living in some dreadful situations. For example, in Serbia, there are Roma families living in makeshift shelters under bridges in Belgrade, meaning children die of bronchial diseases in the low winter temperatures; in Belarus, some parents who cannot find work turn to alcohol and abandon their children in orphanages, many which are grey, colourless, draughty and have no budget for heating or nourishing food; we help children orphaned as a result of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in several countries, including Ukraine, Mozambique and Swaziland; in Armenia and Azerbaijan many thousands of IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) still live in converted water tanks and old railway carriages; and in Kiev homeless children are living in the sewers.

The shoeboxes have a very positive impact on the children receiving them, as many would have nothing at Christmas time if it were not for these gifts. Often the children watch aid arrive in their communities, but it always goes to the adults - this programme crouches down to the level of the children, giving them significance for the first time in their lives. It reminds them that someone is thinking of them at Christmas and has taken time to choose presents for them. It is very much a direct gift, going from someone here in the UK to a child who greatly appreciates what he or she receives, and that is what is special about Operation Christmas Child.

Any school, church, company, organisation or individual that wants to help can contact Operation Christmas Child via our web site or Helpline and they will receive a simple set of instructions explaining what they need to do. The guidelines explain what to put in the shoebox, how to pack it, and where to send it for collection and onward transportation. All we ask is for a £2 contribution towards promotion, transport, processing and distribution, and that boxes be ready no later than November 20.

At the final destination the boxes are distributed to needy children regardless of their nationality, political background or religious beliefs. It’s a very simple process, but means so much to the children.”

Anyone wishing to participate in the Operation Christmas Child 2007 appeal should log on to or contact the Helpline on 0870 011 2002 or 01993 770652.

Darling Labours IHT threshold rise

EXPERTS are dismissing the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report changes to the Inheritance Tax (IHT) threshold as a 'smoke and mirrors' stunt to win back public support for the under-fire Labour Party. 

In the Pre-Budget Report, Alistair Darling announced that from the 9 October 2007 the IHT nil-band rate threshold would increase from £300,000 to £600,000 for married couples. It will then rise to £700,000 by 2010. However, this new rate is no different to the current minimum amount (the threshold) that is subject to so-called 'death tax'.

Howard Burns, a wills and probate lawyer at national law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, explains:- "In his last Budget report, Gordon Brown increased the threshold from £275,000 to £300,000 per person. This means that prior to this year's Pre-Budget Report couples with properly prepared wills could already leave up to £600,000 tax free to heirs.  Brown also pledged to increase the IHT threshold to £350,000 per person by 2010. Again, this amount is no different to the £700,000 rate that the Chancellor is promising by 2010. Essentially, the Chancellor's nil-band rate increase is a con and will have no added financial benefit for married couples."

Announcements were also made in the Pre-Budget Report that spouses and civil partners can now transfer their nil-band rate allowances. This means that any part of the nil-band rate not used when the first spouse or civil partner dies can be passed to the surviving partner.

Burns continues:- "It is more positive to see that allowances have been made for couples to fully utilise their total nil-band rate. People should ensure that they keep a record of the value of their estate and check it regularly to see how it affects their IHT allowances."

HM Revenue and Customs is planning to offer more detailed guidance on IHT and how to transfer nil-band rates via its website ( To make a transfer, the surviving partner will need to complete a HMRC claims form.

Burns concludes:- "The new transfer rules will make provision for existing wills containing discretionary trusts, but it is strongly recommended that these wills are reviewed by a specialist.  Mitigating IHT is a complex process. It can be achieved by making IHT non-exempt gifts, but this varies widely according to the value of a gift and the timescales in which it is made. A more effective way is for people to reassess their wills and distribution of estate.  A tailored will can help protect estates against unnecessary levels of IHT."

Useful information:-

What is Inheritance Tax?
Inheritance Tax is the tax that is paid on your estate. Broadly speaking this is everything you own at the time of your death, less what you owe. It's also sometimes payable on assets you may have given away during your lifetime. Assets include things like property, possessions, money and investments.

Inheritance Tax exemptions:-

There are also a number of exemptions which allow you to pass on amounts (during your lifetime or in your will) without any IHT being due, for example:-

1. If your estate passes to your husband, wife or civil partner and you are both domiciled in the UK there is no IHT to pay even if it is above the nil band rate.

2. Most gifts made more than 7 years before your death are exempt.

3. Certain other gifts, such as wedding gifts and gifts in anticipation of a civil partnership up to £5,000 (depending on the relationship between the giver and the recipient), gifts to charity, and £3,000 given away each year are also exempt.

Click on to find out more!
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