x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

HSBC kept this man waiting - but they finally responded

Have a problem? Been treated unfairly? Our consumer advocate is on the case for you.

My wife and I have been trying to close our bank account and credit card account at HSBC since June 17, but we still have not succeeded because the person who took our request that day did not know or follow procedures and did not close the account properly. We are still being charged the monthly account fee and the late credit-card payment fee. We have had to go to the branch four times so far, and we are being bounced from desk to desk without anyone capable of taking any decisions without having to ask his or her superior. I have sent a letter to the manager of the Airport Road branch of HSBC and I am awaiting their response. Can you assist?

IW Abu Dhabi I contacted HSBC, who have investigated the matter. Their response is as follows: "At the outset, we would like to apologise for any inconvenience our customer may have experienced. We ... would like to advise you that this occurred due to an inadvertent oversight from our end. We have arranged to close his account and credit cards and will also be sending him a cashier's order for the charges incurred on the credit card. An apology letter will be issued to IW for the inconvenience he faced. We have contacted him, advised the above and he is satisfied with the resolution." IW is in fact satisfied with the outcome, and I am pleased to see that one bank is taking complaints seriously and dealing with them.

I have owned shares in several companies for many years, but only recently have I started looking closely at what I have and how they have been performing. I have been reading some of the literature I have been sent, but do not understand it all. Could you please explain the term standard deviation in simple terms? HS Abu Dhabi In terms of finance, standard deviation is a tool to measure your investment's risk. When reading your stock's share price, recent performance is just one part of the equation. The standard deviation is the amount by which performance swings from the average over a given period. So, one stock may average an annual return of only 8 per cent, but may not have fallen or gained more than 20 per cent in any one year. Meanwhile, a riskier stock averages 12 per cent returns, but that includes years where your investment fell by half and others where it doubles. In the end, only you can decide how much risk you are comfortable with.

I own a business with a partner, and we each have a 50 per cent stake. I would like to know what I can do to protect myself should we fall out, want to go our separate ways, or one of us dies. Can you tell me what steps I should take? MB Dubai As in any relationship, business partnerships can fail, so it is important to have written agreements in place in the event of philosophical differences, separation or death. You and your partner need to agree on these details now, while all is going well, and have a formal document written up so that there can be no dispute later on. Generally, should one partner want to leave the business, the other gets first choice to buy his shares, and you need to ensure his half of your business cannot be sold without your approval. I would also suggest that the two of you consider taking out life assurance on each other, which can be used to buy out the inheritor of the shares should your partner die, so that you do not end up in business with someone who knows nothing about the business, has no interest or can become a potential liability. I recommend that you obtain professional legal advice regarding a partnership agreement so that all is properly formalised and there is no future confusion. If you both decide in advance how you want matters to be arranged, then drawing it up should not be too costly.

I have bought a property in Cyprus that I rent out as a holiday home for much of the year. The rental income is paid to a bank account in Cyprus, which I use for my expenses when I am out there myself. I am a UAE resident so I don't pay personal tax, but it has been pointed out that this may not apply to the rental income I am receiving. Can you look into this for me and let me know if there is anything that I am supposed to pay?

TF Abu Dhabi You are in fact liable for tax on the income received from your rental property. Income earned through rent is taxable at the normal income tax rates, but some specific deductions are applicable. The taxable amount is computed as your rental income less an exemption of 20 per cent. The appropriate rate is then applied. The tax bands are nil up to ?19,500 (Dh105,250), then 20 per cent up to ?28,000, 25 per cent up to ?36,300 and 30 per cent on the income above ?36,301. Married couples are taxed separately, so if a property is jointly owned you should each have your own allowances. If you sell the property, you will be subject to capital-gains tax at a rate of 20 per cent, which applies to all properties acquired after January 1, 1980. This tax is calculated from the gross sale price, less acquisition costs and improvement costs. If, however, you have lived in the property for at least five years, there is a cumulative exemption of ?85,430.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write her at keren@holbornassets.com Letters can also be sent to onyourside@thenational.ae