A straight answer finally brings down mortgage payment

Advice on mortgage problems, UK tax requirements and ADCB credit card difficulties.

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I have a mortgage with Mashreq Bank that I took out in mid-2007. I gave the bank three years' worth of post-dated cheques and these ran out in July. I tried to speak to various staff members about setting up a standing order, but after many calls and four e-mails, nothing has happened. I found out that Mashreq dropped the interest rate from about 9.5 per cent per annum to about 7.5 per cent earlier this year and I am still being charged the original Dh10,908 per month for my repayments. I want to discuss the issue of reduced monthly repayments in line with the lower interest rate, but cannot get anyone to talk to me. The only replies I have received from Mashreq are to say that my future payments are Dh10,908 and to attach a standing order form. SL, Dubai

Despite her efforts, SL had still not received any proper responses from Mashreq and so on August 26, she paid Dh11,000 into her account to avoid any potentially adverse repercussions, following this up with an e-mail, but without response. The agreement was that if monies were in her current account, then the mortgage payment would be taken out, but this has not happened. The problem was referred to senior staff at the bank and a spokesperson from Mashreq has advised: "SL is a mortgage customer and as per her request, we have successfully accommodated to change the recovery method from post dated cheques to standing instruction order. This means direct debit from SL's Mashreq account for her monthly installment. Since the recovery method changes from PDC to SIO, the installment has been recalculated based on the current interest rate and this will take place from the next installment onwards." A few other minor issues are to be cleared up, but the matter is largely resolved to SL's satisfaction.

I hope you can help me with an issue relating to UK tax. I moved to Dubai in November 2009, but I have been offered a really good job in the UK and am considering going back in a month's time. As I have been out of the UK for nearly a full year, do I have to pay any tax or does the fact that I have spent less than 90 days in the UK in this time mean I am now exempt? EF, Dubai

The 90-day ruling, which states that a person must not spend more than 90 days in the UK per tax year to retain non-resident status, relates to the tax year that runs from April 6 to April 5. This issue concerns two separate tax years. In the tax year ended April 5, 2010, you clearly spent much more than this in the UK so will be liable for income tax, including on overseas earnings. For the current tax year, 2010-2011, you will again be spending more than 90 days in the UK, so will also be liable for UK income tax on overseas earnings in this year. Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has a "split-year concession" relating to partial tax years abroad, but that can only potentially apply if a person has been out of the UK for more than one full tax year. Note also, any benefits you have received while overseas will be taxed as "benefits in kind", so you may be taxed on the value of accommodation and other benefits provided by an employer.

I applied for the new Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) Guest Above card over two months ago, just as they started their big advertising campaign. I spoke with a telesales lady, passed all the criteria for the Platinum card (good credit/no debt/pay off credit card every month/enough salary/existing Guest miles customer) and faxed over three months of statements, application form and passport copy and visa. And then weeks of silence. I managed to track down the original telesales woman who told me that my application had been rejected because the "application parameters" had changed and I did not qualify for the card. She would not tell me what the changes were, so, alas, I shouted at her, she apologised and then agreed to resubmit a second application. That was three weeks ago and guess what? Silence. Phone calls and e-mails go unanswered and I find myself deeply irritated (and inconvenienced) by yet another Abu Dhabi bank. The Platinum card was a great offer - lots of Guestmiles, access to Silver lounge, two chauffeur-driven trips to the airport. Was it just too good to be true and an advertising wheeze? As a loyal customer of Etihad who has always enjoyed good service, I feel duped. Are you able to find out what happened as I am not getting anywhere myself? KD, Abu Dhabi

The issue was referred to ADCB, which found the application, and the bank has now confirmed that KD's application has been approved. She is going to the bank this week to collect the card and is happy with the outcome. It is disappointing that so many banks in the UAE are still having such fundamental service issues and that a newspaper has to get involved for action to be taken, although ADCB acted very quickly once senior staff were aware of the problem.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.