Thursday, 30 May 2013

Plan Now for a Stress-free Summer



After a long winter, the temperature is warming up and summer is just around the corner.

If you’re a working parent, you’ll know that while summer brings sunshine (sometimes!), picnics and fun days, it also brings the headache of paying for additional childcare on the days you are at work.

Many parents find the long summer school holidays a stressful and expensive time. Planning ahead is vital, taking into consideration how much time you can take off work, the range of childcare available and how much it will cost.

There are many childcare options available for the summer holidays, for children of all ages, including summer camps, holiday schemes, play schemes, child minders and nurseries. All of these can provide great learning experiences and lots of fun for kids, where they can make new friends and acquire new skills.

Working parents can use Childcare Vouchers, taken as a salary sacrifice via employers, to pay for the cost of most summer childcare options.  Parents can exchange up to £243* per month from their salary for a voucher, which is non-taxable and national insurance exempt, bringing annual savings of up to £933*.  Both parents can join a Childcare Voucher scheme, increasing potential savings to over £1800* per year.

If you’re booking summer holiday activities now, ask your employer if they have or will set up a Childcare Voucher scheme and also check that the childcareprovider accepts vouchers as payment.  Remember, Childcare Vouchers aren’t just for small children – they can be used up to the 1st September after your child’s 15th birthday (or 16 if they are disabled).

John Woodward, MD at Busy Bees Benefits said: “Even if you don’t use childcare regularly and only tend to use it during school holidays, it’s worth swapping a part of your salary for Childcare Vouchers each month because you can store them up through the year to make holiday childcare more affordable.”

Childcare Vouchers: a quick guide
  • Childcare Vouchers are available to working parents via their employer. Childcare vouchers are a benefit so parents must ask their employer to provide them. The employer will save money too, so it’s worth them offering the scheme as part of their benefits package.
  • Once the employer agrees to provide Childcare Vouchers, the parent simply registers on the scheme, stating how much they would like to deduct from their wages each pay day in return for the vouchers.
  • Parents can currently exchange up to £243* per month.
  • The amount exchanged for vouchers is deducted from the employee’s wages and no tax and National Insurance is taken. Parents then pay their childcare provider with the vouchers. Taking Childcare Vouchers, means that parents can save up to £933* per year in tax and National Insurance savings.
  • Childcare Vouchers can be used to pay for any registered childcare provider for children up to the 1st September after their 15th birthday, or up to the age of 16 if they are disabled.

For more information about how you can start saving using Childcare Vouchers visit www.busybeesbenefits.com.

*Basic Rate tax payers, subject to individual circumstances.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cycle to Work Saves over 100,000 tonnes of CO2




The continuing benefits of cycling to work have been highlighted by the latest research into this valuable employee benefit. Commuters who would otherwise use the car to get to work, having benefited from the Cycle to Work scheme, are saving 112,210 tonnes of CO2 in reduced car emissions each year.

Cycle to Work schemes help deliver sustainable transport, reduce congestion and improve the environment. They also create direct health, well-being and financial savings for individuals who take up the scheme. The research showed that 550,000 people have enjoyed the savings and benefits of Cycle to Work, offered via 32,000 employers.

The process for offering a scheme is quite simple. The employer sets up a scheme and buys bicycles and cycling equipment from the provider. They hire it to their employees who then have the option to buy the bike and equipment at the end of the loan period.

Offering the Busy BeesBenefits Cycle to Work scheme to employees can save an organisation up to £138 per year, per employee on the scheme. Employees can save up to 50% on the cost of a new bicycle, equipment and accessories and also make savings on tax and National Insurance of up to £410, depending on individual circumstances.

The savings which employees can make are the main reason they sign up to the scheme, but the creation of a healthier workforce, less need for parking and the contribution it can make to the organisation’s corporate social responsibility profile are also important benefits.

Any company can offer a scheme, whether big or small. 57% of the employers surveyed in the research were SMEs, with less than 200 employees.

For more information about cycle to work, click here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Save money on your childcare costs


Now is a time when families are finding managing their household budget a challenge as extra strains are being placed on funds due to the increasing cost of utility bills, food, fuel and childcare.

For many working parents, the heaviest burden on their finances is childcare.  Childcare can be one of the largest monthly bills and as such some parents have even considered giving up work as a large proportion of their wages is spent on childcare.

When parents look at their childcare options they are often uninformed about the financial support they can get to help with childcare costs.  Parents want affordable childcare without having to compromise on quality – Childcare Vouchers are the answer. 

Childcare Vouchers can appear to be complicated; Busy Bees Benefits, a renowned Childcare Voucher provider is on hand to make them as simple as possible:

What are Childcare Vouchers?
Childcare Vouchers are available from your employer to help you save money on your childcare costs.  They are then used by parents to pay their childcare provider.

How do they work?
Vouchers are deducted from your salary before you pay tax and National Insurance.  Tax and National Insurance is then taken from the remaining salary which means you pay less taxsaving up to £933* per year.

Basic rate tax payers are entitled to exchange up to £243* per month from their wages in return for the same amount of vouchers.  Higher rate tax payers can exchange up to £124* per month and additional rate tax payers can exchange up to £97* per month.

Childcare Vouchers are available per parent, which means that both parents can join their employers Childcare Voucher scheme, potentially doubling the savings.

Where can they be used?
Childcare Vouchers can be used to pay for any registered childcare for children up to the age of 16**.  Childcare providers must be registered with Ofsted or an equivalent governing body.  They can be used to pay for:
  • Nurseries
  • Child minders
  • Play schools and pre-schools
  • Nannies and au pairs
  • Créches and play schemes
  • Before and after school clubs
  • Holiday clubs and activity camps

How can you get Childcare Vouchers?
To start using Childcare Vouchers, you will need to join your employers Childcare Voucher scheme.  Check with your HR department to see if your employer runs a scheme, if not you can contact BusyBees Benefits with your employer’s details and they will get in touch to set up a scheme.

Once registered to your employer’s scheme, you can have a deduction from your wages the next time you get paid. 

How do you pay your childcare provider?
Busy Bees Benefits operates a simple system which allows you to log in to your account, select your childcare provider and make payments straight away*.  Busy Bees Benefits will automatically check that your childcare provider is registered with Ofsted or an equivalent governing body. 

Not all Childcare Voucher providers offer this service and registering a childcare provider can be more complex.

What happens if your childcare is more than £243 per month?
You can still use Childcare Vouchers.  Simply pay the outstanding amount using another payment method.

Childcare Vouchers vs Tax Credits
If you are a parent claiming the childcare element of Working Tax Credits (Universal Credit), you might be better off continuing to do so.  Before signing up to a Childcare Voucher scheme you can use this Government calculator to see which is best for you: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/ccin.htm

What will happen to Childcare Vouchers when the new Tax-free Childcare scheme is introduced?
The Government has proposed a new Tax-free Childcare scheme which will see 20% of a child’s childcare costs being subsidised by the Government.  The new scheme is due to be implemented in Autumn 2015.

Childcare Vouchers will remain in existence for a further five years after the Tax-free Childcare scheme is in place.  Those already using Childcare Vouchers can continue to do so; however the scheme will not be open to new entrants once the new scheme is launched.

There will be winners and losers with the new scheme as some parents will be able to save more using Childcare Vouchers.  Those who will be better off using Childcare Vouchers should join their employer’s scheme now to maximise the savings available.  For more information about the new scheme visit: www.taxfreechildcarescheme.com.

For more information about Childcare Vouchers please visit: www.busybeesbenefits.com

*Subject to individual circumstances.
**A child qualifies for Childcare Vouchers up to the first September after their 15th birthday (or the first September after their 16th birthday if they are disabled.)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

How to Save on Spring Holiday Fun



Half term is approaching - for most schools it falls in the last week of May. Are you a working parent who is saving your holiday entitlement for the longer summer holidays? Perhaps you are in a role which means you simply can’t take time off when the children are not at school. If you need additional childcare during half term week, but are concerned about the cost, there is a great way to save money, says Busy Bees Benefits.

Childcarevouchers are basically a tax break to help you pay for childcare.  You give up part of your salary each week or month and you do not have to pay tax or National Insurance on that portion of your wages, which are used to pay directly for a variety of forms of registered childcare. This can save you up to £933 a year if you are a basic rate taxpayer (subject to individual circumstances). If both parents join a scheme, these savings can be doubled.

Childcare vouchers could be used to pay for days at a local playscheme, holiday club or at one of the larger national companies which provide holiday activities, courses and day camps. Many of these companies provide early start and late pick up times so you can still meet the demands of your job and know the kids are not only cared for by a registered provider but will come home inspired by their experiences.

To access childcare vouchers, you will need to check if your employer offers a scheme. If they do not, ask them to do so now. By offering a scheme, both employees and the company will save money. It’s worth knowing too that the Childcare Voucher scheme may only be open until Autumn 2015, when the Government is expected to launch the Tax-free Childcare scheme. Savings for some families will be smaller under the new scheme. If you join a childcare voucher scheme now, not only will you be saving for the next two and a half years, you will be able to choose which scheme is best for you.

How can parents access childcare vouchers and how do they work?
  • Childcare vouchers are available to working parents via their employer. They are a benefit, so parents must ask their employer to provide them. The employer will save money too, so it’s worth them offering the scheme as part of their benefits package.
  •  Once the employer agrees to provide childcare vouchers, the parent simply registers on the scheme, stating how much they would like to deduct from their wages each pay day in return for the vouchers.
  • Parents can currently exchange up to £243* per month.
  • The amount exchanged for vouchers is deducted from the employee’s wages and no tax and National Insurance is taken. Parents then pay their childcare provider with the vouchers. Taking childcare vouchers, means that parents can save up to £933* per year in tax and National Insurance savings.
  • Childcare vouchers can be used to pay for any registered childcare up to 1st September after your child's 15th birthday (16th if they are disabled)

For more information about how you can start saving using Childcare Vouchers visit www.busybeesbenefits.com.