x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Loan problems, tax refunds and visiting relatives

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

Last week you wrote about the VAT (Value Added Tax) Refund Scheme for people shopping in the UK. I'd like to know if you can reclaim the VAT if you shop online? JL Al Ain I have checked with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs and they have advised that the scheme does not apply to mail order internet purchases. You must be in the UK, in person, at the time of purchase for the refund to apply. Like many people in the UAE, due to redundancy my husband and I are experiencing some financial difficulties, and we are concerned that we may have problems in meeting a few loan repayments. He is due to start a new job in a month's time, but it will be nearly two months before he is paid and we have some income. Is it best to speak to our bank about the situation now, or would it be worse to alert them of potential problems? What is your advice? WG Abu Dhabi

I have spoken a to senior member of staff at a major bank for their view on the situation, as the reader did not wish to disclose which bank she is with. I was told that banks in the UAE follow a legislated path for defaults as determined by the UAE Central Bank. His advice is to be upfront about the situation and arrange to meet with a customer service representative. The correspondent has the advantage of knowing that there will shortly be some income and that any problems are likely to be short-term. Before advising the bank of the problem, she may wish to inquire about the option of loan payment holidays, as many of the larger GCC banks give loan holidays over the summer months, between June and September. Any unpaid instalments are usually added to the loan. Before a bank will allow this, customers need to have an unblemished repayment record and to have taken the loan at least 12 months earlier.

I have been in the UAE for nearly five years, but have just realised that I may be due a refund of tax from time spent in the UK before I moved here. Have I left it too late to make a claim? TD Dubai According to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, if you want to make a claim for any tax year there is a time limit within which you must do so. Each tax year ends on April 5, and for any particular tax year you have until January 31 in the next year, plus a further five years to make a claim. For example, a claim for the tax year ended April 5 2004 must be made by Jan 31 2010. You may have even more time, provided HMRC are notified of your Intention to Claim (Notice of Intent) by the relevant date. They will consider a claim received after that date provided it is received without undue delay.

I recently bought an expensive ornament from a well-known store in Dubai, but when I got it home I decided that it didn't really fit where I intended to put it. I took it back to the store, with the receipt, and asked them for a refund. But they refused. You have written about consumer protection so can you tell me how I go about getting my money back? Can I make a complaint to somebody? GB Dubai

Retailers are not obliged to provide a refund just because someone has changed their mind about an item they have bought. There are indeed consumer-protection laws in the UAE, but these are designed to ensure people are given refunds or replacements when items are faulty. A few stores in the UAE offer refunds in this situation, but this is purely a goodwill gesture and not a legal obligation. I am a resident of Dubai and would like my mother to come and stay with me for a while. She is from India and so cannot just come in on a tourist visa as many westerners can. Can you tell me what I can do to get them visas and how much it will cost?

KV Dubai You may obtain a visit visa for immediate family member provided your monthly salary is not less than Dh4,000, or is Dh3,000 with accommodation provided and paid for. You can apply for a 30-day short-term visa or a 90-day long-term visa, and you should note that no extensions are permitted beyond this period. The fees are Dh620 for the short-term visa and Dh1,120 for a longer-term visa, with additional typing fees payable on top. You must also pay a deposit of Dh1,000, which will be reimbursed after your relative has left the country. The documents you will require are as follows: a typed application form, a copy of your passport as sponsor and a copy of your family member's passport, one photo of the family member, attested work contract if the sponsor is working in a private company, or a salary certificate if working in government, plus travel insurance. In cases where the relationship cannot be proved by family names in both passports, you may need to provide attested proof of the relationship. You need to visit the visa section of the Dubai Naturalisation & Residency Department carrying the typed application form, along with the other items. Once the visa has been issued, you can send either the original or copy to your mother. But if you choose to send a copy, then the original must be deposited at the airport or at the DNATA counter at DRND prior to her arrival. I suggest that you write your mother's flight details on the reverse of the original.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. She can be reached at keren@holbornassets.com