Nothing is certain but death and taxes, so the saying goes.
For hundreds of thousands of Britons the day of reckoning, on taxes at least, finally arrived this week. From last Wednesday, the start of the UK tax year, 750,000 of them were dragged for the first time into the 40 per cent income tax band.
They are not the only ones feeling the impact of last summer's emergency budget, which dramatically cut public spending and raised taxes to plug the nation's deficit.
Many households will see their income fall from what the media has dubbed "Worse off Wednesday".
Apart from the higher tax rate threshold changing to £42,475 (Dh254,582) from £43,875: national insurance - contributions to state benefits - has gone up by 1 percentage point to 12 per cent; stamp duty on property valued at £1 million or more has risen to 5 per cent; while pension tax relief has fallen from £255,000 to just £50,000.
Of the 44 tax and benefit changes that took effect this week, only 13 will have positive impact on people's pockets, says the financial education group Credit Action.
Even the 500,000 people who will gain by no longer having to pay income tax - the threshold rose £1,000 to £7,475 - will be hit by cuts and freezes on tax credits and benefits.
Include last January's sales tax increase to 20 from 17.5 per cent and almost everyone is going to be worse off.
Then add stubbornly rising inflation and it is no wonder optimism among manufacturers has slid to its lowest since the second quarter of 2009.
Even the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has been highly supportive of the government's austerity measures, expects the UK to expand at a snail's pace. This week the OECD predicted only 1 per cent annualised growth for this quarter, way behind other developed nations.
The grim news is likely to hit the north of England harder as it depends more on the government for spending and jobs than the south. The north risks being left behind as the rest of the country recovers, however slowly, from the downturn.
This risk is highlighted by a Halifax bank report that showed the number of property sales in England and Wales had almost halved in the past three years.
But it also revealed a clear north-south divide, with sales in the south down by 42 per cent, compared with a 51 per cent drop in the north. Across Britain, home sales have dropped 47 per cent since 2007.
"There is a north-south divide coming through clearly both in house prices and in sales," Martin Ellis, the Halifax housing economist, told The Guardian newspaper. "The north is suffering and the south is doing relatively well - if relative is the right phrase in the current environment.
"The market as a whole has been affected by the financial crisis and recession, but the north has been hit the hardest and households have been knocked sideways by a lack of growth and rising unemployment. Economic activity has been better in the south."
From the beginning of 2009 to the end of last year, there was a 6 per cent rise in home sales in England and Wales, with a 22 per cent rise in London, helped by foreign investment and City bonuses. The unrest in the Mena region has boosted the capital's property market with an influx of wealthy Arabs.
But despite the tough outlook for the year, the industry remains cautiously optimistic with Halifax, which is part of Lloyds Banking Group, and Nationwide predicting a flat year, while others such as Hometrack forecast only a small decline.
One problem on the horizon, though, is inflation, which is running at 4.4 per cent, double the Bank of England's target figure. Sooner or later, the central bank will have to raise rates, which are at an all-time low of 0.5 per cent.
It's a prospect that many Britons, whose pay packets will be smaller at the end of this month will not be looking forward to.