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How to get the best deal on gas and electricity

Energia has announced new deals that make it the cheapest energy supplier. But are these only for new customers? I am already signed up to them. Do I get any benefit? 

Energia's new offers aren't just for newbies - they include good retention discounts for existing customers. However, these are only available after your contract is up - and you have to ask for them. They will not be automatically applied.

If you're still under contract, you won't get any reduction in electricity costs, although you should be getting some kind of discount. Once that expires, you can get 18% off electricity and 17% off gas to sign up again - if you ask to.

Otherwise you'll be left on Energia's standard tariff which hasn't been cut since June 2015. And like all energy customers you should avoid being on this standard rate at all costs.

When your deal expires, keep switching or ask for Energia's retention discounts, which are the best around. At least their discounts provide some reward for loyalty as consumers need a rest from the endless merry-go-round of switching.

The discounts for existing customers are actually higher than the 16% and 15% new customers get for switching electricity and gas through normal channels.

The deal lasts for 12 months, which is also the length of the contract.

However, new comers can do even better than that by availing of an extra discount available for switching online through comparison website Bonkers.ie. This offers a discount of 25% off electricity and 24% off gas. Switching to a dual-fuel plan from standard tariffs can save you up to €322.86 per year.

But don't assume dual fuel is best - it's actually cheaper to have separate gas and electricity suppliers. Flogas is still tops for gas (saving €141.77) with Energia now best for electricity (saving €206.49). The two deals combined would save around €348 – €25 more than Energia's dual fuel package.

I am in my 50s and looking for a mortgage. What are the main tenders' maximum age limits and mortgage terms?

Most tenders will lend over a maximum of 35 years, apart from

Pepper, whose limit is 30. But you can't be over a certain age - 65-71 depending on the lender-before the mortgage period is up.

So if you were 55 now you would only get a loan period of 10-16 years depending on the bank, your pensionable age and whether you are self-employed or not. Here are the various limits.

I have a buy-to-let, and I have to Q make a first tax return for it by October 31.What can write off besides my mortgage payments?

Taxback.com says it's a common mistake by novice landlords to think they can write off the full mortgage payment. Actually, it's only 75% of the interest paid if it's a residential property. The following allowable expenses may also be deducted:

Rates payable to local authorities

  • Maintenance of the property, i.e. repairs,cleaning, decorating and painting insurance Management fees
  • Accounting fees
  • Advertising costs
  • Legal fees for drafting up a lease

My wife and I are struggling to get a mortgage with the main lenders. I am self-employed and have only been so for two years. Can you suggest alternatives?

Try Pepper. This recently arrived Australian-based tender has a home loan product (Essential Plus) aimed at the self-employed. The rate is 3.65%, which is about average. (The cheapest for 80% loan to value mortgages is KBC's 3.2%.)

It also requires only two years of self employed income, whereas some lenders may want to see three years of accounts.

We ran a B&B from our home up to ten years ago. Much of the time, most rooms were unoccupied. Can we now sell it without a tax bill?

I'm afraid not. Capital Gains Tax at 33% is due on any portion of a family home that was run as a business, for the period when it was run as a business. The period includes whenever the rooms were available to let even if they weren't fully occupied.

I bought and restored an old Jaguar car a few years ago which I used as my personal transport. I recently sold it for a lot more than it cost. Am I due to pay Capital Gains Tax on it?

Gains on the disposal of wasting chattels (e.g. animals, private motor cars, etc.) are exempt from Capital Gains Tax.

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