Have a problem? Been treated unfairly? Our consumer advocate is on the case for you.
I'm a good driver - why is car insurance so expensive?
I moved to Abu Dhabi a few months ago and, having had a hire car for a while, I am now looking to buy a car. So far I have found all insurance rates to be expensive. Is there anything that can be done to negotiate a decent deal? JH Abu Dhabi It turns out that JH is from the UK and had his own car there for many years without having made any claims. All motor insurance companies keep records of all the claims they have paid out. So, he should be able to obtain a letter or certificate from the UK insurer confirming his track record. A few larger, international companies operating in the UAE have decided that a person driving in the UAE who has a licence from another country where driving standards are high, and has a transferable licence, is a lower risk. This, coupled with a provable good track record, has led certain insurers to offer preferential rates with discounts of up to 20 per cent. JH needs to present his case to insurers to obtain an appropriate discount.
I am having a little problem with the bank through no fault of my own and they have been very uncooperative in trying to resolve the issue with me. I would like to know if the UAE has a banking ombudsman and if so how I can contact their office. ND Dubai There is, as yet, no banking ombudsman in the UAE. If this is a local bank, then the regulator is the UAE Central Bank. If it is a Dubai International Financial Centre-based bank - unlikely if it is a retail operation - then you can complain to the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).
I am changing jobs, but have a query. Can the transfer of my residency visa be sorted while I am serving my notice period, or is it normally done at the end of a notice period - in which case surely I would be either out of work for the period it takes, or the company would be employing me illegally. How does this get sorted? CM Dubai Your new visa cannot be processed until labour card cancellation is complete. The visa itself does not have to be cancelled, but your official work status has to end so that the new company can apply for its own labour approval for you. Your visa can be transferred, but it takes as long as a cancellation, which is also easier to do. This whole process should take only a few days, so it should not cause any delays in starting your new job.
I have previously read some of your comments about being liable to pay tax in the UK and property ownership there. My situation is a bit different. I am not British, but own property in the UK that is rented out. The letting agent is deducting tax from all of the rental income. I thought that as I no longer live there, I don't have to pay any tax. Am I wrong, and what can I do about it? GT Ajman
Income that is generated in the UK is normally taxable wherever you live in the world. If the property has a mortgage on it, the interest element of the mortgage payments can be offset against the rental income for tax purposes. You have not told me where you are from originally, which can make a difference. Anyone can earn up to £6,475 in the UK (for the 2009/10 tax year) without having to pay tax. This concession is also given to anyone within the European Union and any Commonwealth citizens. So, if you are from any of the accepted jurisdictions, you pay tax on any earnings over the £6,475. If you can claim this allowance, then you should contact Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to obtain the paperwork for the Non Resident Landlords Scheme, which may allow you to receive your rent without the deduction of tax.
I have a number of unit trusts in the UK, some shares and an offshore bond, as well as cash in the UAE and offshore, all of which I would like to invest. I have stopped making any more investments, as I already receive too many annual statements and confusing pieces of paper, but I know I ought to do something. Is there any way of investing that could keep matters simple for me? FT Dubai Without knowing full details about your circumstances I cannot make a recommendation, but it sounds as if a portfolio bond may be a suitable vehicle. Assuming the total assets that you wish to be managed have a combined value of at least £75,000 (about Dh451,000), you can set up a bond that allows you not only to make new investments within it, but also allows you to hold cash and to transfer in existing investments without changing their structure. You can move in your unit trust and shares by what is known as an "in specie" transfer. The manager of the portfolio bond, usually a major insurance company based in a tax-efficient offshore jurisdiction, becomes the nominee as far as shares are concerned, but the applicant remains the owner for benefit purposes. Other advantages include aggregated statements issued up to four times a year, but with additional valuations also available. The bond provides access to some 15,000 funds, allowing any new investment to be structured fully in accordance with your own views on risk. Institutional charges, as opposed to retail fees, usually apply. This type of bond is highly tax efficient, even if you become a UK taxpayer again in the future, as numerous provisions apply and you have good control over your money.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org Letters can also be sent to email@example.com