Chancellor Raises

Chancellor Raises Stamp Duty Threshold To £500k Till March 2021 – Forbes

Red and green doors on a brick facade

The government is increasing the stamp duty exemption to invigorate the market


Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, today announced that residential property transactions costing up to £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty land tax (SDLT) until 31 March 2021. The previous figure was £125,000.

The change takes effect immediately and applies to all residential property transactions in England and Northern Ireland. There will be no distinction between first-time buyers and those who have bought previously.

Scotland and Wales have their own regimes for property sales taxes.

For properties costing more than £500,000, tax will only be levied on the amount paid above £500,000.

The impact of the change will be as follows:

  • Property price up to £500,000 – stamp duty 0%
  • The next £425,000 (the portion from £500,001 to £925,000) – 5%
  • The next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million) – 10%
  • Remaining amount above £1.5 million – 12%.

The 3% higher rate that already applies for purchases of additional dwellings (for example, second homes and buy-to-let properties) will apply on top of the new rates, which means tax will be payable here at 3% on prices up to £500,000.

The rates for the other bands in the case of additional dwellings with therefore be 8%, 13% and 15%.

The chancellor said nine out of 10 people buying property will pay no SDLT while the change is in effect, while those paying will typically save £4,500. He pointed out that property transactions halved in May as a result of coronavirus and said the temporary change would revitalise the housing market.

George Bear at financial analysts IG, says that demand for houses is likely to increase as a result of the stamp duty change: “The number of houses on the market could also increase as people might think that now is a good time to sell up and move. However, the chancellor’s plan might also mean that people who are looking to sell could increase their asking price due to buyers having more cash available to spend.

“The savings from stamp duty might well have a knock-on effect to the wider economy. This is because people could spend the money they’ve saved on stamp duty on property renovations, new furniture, or other things for their house.”

What is Stamp Duty?

Here is a run-down of the stamp duty regime as it applied before the chancellor’s announcement. It is likely this will resume once the temporary change in the exempt amount comes to an end next March.

Outside the temporary measure announced today, SDLT is payable when you buy a residential property worth over £125,000 in England and Northern Ireland (the figure is £150,000 for non-residential land and properties).

In Scotland, buyers pay the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax which in Wales the Land Transaction Tax applies.

SDLT is not paid in full by first-time buyers on properties costing £500,000 or less. Buy-to-let landlords and others buying a second property pay a higher rate of SDLT.

Payments are due within 14 days of completion of the transaction, but if you are using a professional conveyancer, such as a solicitor, they will handle the paperwork (including applying for first-time buyer relief), pay the tax on completion and include the amount on their bill.

How much is Stamp Duty?

First-time buyers (where the property price is £500,000 or less) do not pay any SDLT up to £300,000 and pay 5% SDLT on the portion from £300,001 to £500,000.

If more than one person is buying a property, both or all of them must be first-time buyers to qualify for the relief.

First-time buyers buying a property costing more than £500,000 are treated in the same way as those who have bought before.

Those who have bought before pay increasing amounts of SDLT depending on the price of the property, as follows:

  • Up to £125,000 – 0%
  • Next £125,000 (from £125,001 to £250,000) – 2%
  • Next £675,000 (from £250,001 to £925,000) – 5%
  • Next £575,000 (from £925,001 to £1.5 million) – 10%
  • Remaining amount above £1.5 million – 12%.

As an example, a house costing £275,000 would attract SDLT as follows (for a non first-time buyer):

  • 0% on the first £125,000 = £0
  • 2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
  • 5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250
  • Total SDLT = £3,750.

Anyone buying an additional residential property (so that they will own more than one property) will usually have to pay 3% on top of the normal SDLT rates.

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Raises Study

Study Raises Concerns for Pregnant Women With the Coronavirus – The New York Times

Pregnant women who are infected wind up in hospitals and I.C.U.’s at higher rates, a federal analysis suggests. But the data is far from conclusive.

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

Pregnant women infected with the coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator than are infected women who are not pregnant, according to a new government analysis.

Pregnant women are known to be particularly susceptible to other respiratory infections, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained from the start of the pandemic that the virus does not seem to “affect pregnant people differently than others.”

The increased risk for intensive care and mechanical ventilation worried experts. But the new study did not include one pivotal detail: whether pregnant women were hospitalized because of labor and delivery. That may have significantly inflated the numbers, so it is unclear whether the analysis reflects a true increase in risk of hospitalization.

Admission for delivery represents 25 percent of all hospitalizations in the United States, said Dr. Neel Shah, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard University. Even at earlier stages of pregnancy, doctors err on the side of being overly cautious when treating pregnant women — whether they have the coronavirus or not.

“There’s quite clearly a different threshold for hospitalizing pregnant people and nonpregnant people,” he said. “The question is whether it also reflects something about their illness, and that’s something we don’t really know.”

The results are to be published on Thursday by the C.D.C.; government researchers presented the data to a federal immunization committee on Wednesday. (The slides were posted online on Wednesday afternoon but taken down later in the day.)

The analysis, the largest of its type so far, is based on data from women with confirmed infections of the coronavirus as reported to the C.D.C. by 50 states and Washington, from Jan. 22 to June 7.

The report includes information on 8,207 pregnant women between ages 15 to 44, who were compared to 83,205 women in the same age bracket who were not pregnant.

More than 31 percent of the pregnant women were hospitalized, compared with about 6 percent of women who were not pregnant. Pregnant women were more likely to be admitted to the I.C.U. (1.5 percent versus 0.9 percent) and to require mechanical ventilation (0.5 percent versus 0.3 percent).

These proportions are small, Dr. Shah noted, and the 10-fold difference in the number of pregnant and nonpregnant women in the analysis makes it difficult to compare their risks.

In a separate analysis by Covid-Net of women hospitalized with the coronavirus, C.D.C. researchers noted that “the risk of I.C.U. and mechanical ventilation was lower among pregnant compared to nonpregnant women.” Covid-Net analyzes data from hospitalizations in the network’s surveillance area in 14 states.

Despite the ambiguities, some experts said the new data suggests at the very least that pregnant women with the coronavirus should be carefully monitored.

If many of the pregnant women were hospitalized for labor and delivery, the proportion of women who were hospitalized for only coronavirus infection and became severely ill — those advancing to the I.C.U. or ventilation — would be even higher, said Dr. Denise Jamieson, head of the Covid-19 task force at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“I think the bottom line is this: These findings suggest that compared to nonpregnant women, pregnant women are more likely to have severe Covid,” she said.

Pregnancy transforms the body’s biology, ramping up metabolism, blood flow, lung capacity and heart rate. It also suppresses a woman’s immune system to accommodate the fetus — a circumstance that can increase her susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like influenza.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Because of this heightened risk, scientists have been closely monitoring pregnancy outcomes in various coronavirus studies. So far, few studies have indicated a significant risk for pregnant women or for their children. Infections in newborns have been exceedingly rare.

Still, as the pandemic has progressed, prenatal care has been severely disrupted, Dr. Shah said, and women are being hospitalized for conditions that might have been caught and treated much earlier.

“Things that might have happened in an office setting are happening in a hospital triage setting,” he said.

Dr. Jamieson pointed to a recent study of pregnant women at New York City hospitals who were asymptomatic at admission. Of the 241 women who tested positive for the coronavirus in that study, 48 did not have symptoms at first but then became severely ill.

The study also found that women with more severe symptoms were more likely to give birth prematurely.

“All this information points to the importance of being vigilant when it comes to monitoring pregnant women,” Dr. Jamieson said. “They’re not at as great a risk as, for example, older people, or people with other underlying medical conditions. But they do seem to be at some increased risk.”

The data suggests that hospitals should aim to test all pregnant women for the coronavirus, regardless of symptoms, she added. The new analysis also has implications for a coronavirus vaccine, whenever one becomes available.

“How strongly are we going to counsel pregnant women about the benefits of vaccines?” Dr. Jamieson wondered.

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Apple Raises

Apple Raises AirPods Game To Fight Off Enhanced Google Pixel Buds – Forbes

Wireless Earphones Product Shoot

Detail of an Apple Airpod wireless earphone, taken on January 23, 2017. (Photo by Neil Godwin/T3 … [+] Magazine/Future via Getty Images)

Future via Getty Images

Apple’s resolutely popular AirPods are facing a new type of competition in 2020 from two unlikely sources: Google and Microsoft. 

Not in sound quality, not in design and not in brand awareness. Those fights – largely won by Apple – are old hat. The new battleground is earbud IQ: how smart the headphones are and what else they can do apart from blast music into your ear canal. 

Google set the pace with confirmation that the Pixel Buds will receive “feature drops”, which first debuted on the Pixel phone. In essence, they’re regular feature updates that will bring new functionality to the Pixel Buds months – or even years – after launch. 

Google has remained tight-lipped about what to expect from the first feature drop, but previous updates for Pixel phones have introduced meaty new abilities like portrait mode for old pictures and call screening.

MORE FROM FORBESApple AirPods Can’t Compete With Enhanced Google Pixel BudsBy Jay McGregor

Similarly, Microsoft has laced its Surface Earbuds with smart features, including reading Outlook emails out aloud and live voice transcription for PowerPoint slides. 

But new information about future AirPods suggests Apple may be following the example set by its rivals. A report in DigiTimes (via MacRumours), based on information given to the publication, claims that a future pair of AirPods could include ambient light sensors. 

The light sensors, as DigiTimes speculates, could be used to measure health data including step counts, monitoring heart rate and keeping an eye on other health conditions. 

MORE FROM FORBESApple To Abruptly Slash AirPod Prices And Ditch Famous iPhone FreebieBy Jay McGregor

These newly beefed-up AirPods could land in the next “1-2 years” DigiTimes reports. But the publication’s track record of interpreting supply chain information given to it is mixed, as MacRumours explains.

“DigiTimes’ sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed track record when it comes to interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple’s plans.” 

Continuing with: “early last year, DigiTimes claimed that Apple would release next-generation ‌AirPods‌ with “health monitoring features” in the first half of 2019. While Apple launched second-generation ‌AirPods‌ in March 2019, health monitoring smarts were conspicuously absent.”

With that caveat aside, including health monitoring features in future AirPods would make a lot of sense for Apple considering its ample work in health and fitness tracking via its Health app and the Apple Watch. 

The light sensors in these future AirPods may be conceptually similar to how the Apple Watch measures heart rate. The Apple Watch houses an optical heart sensor, which employs a technique called photoplethysmography to gather data. As Apple describes it:

“Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment.”

MORE FROM FORBESGoogle Confirms Important Pixel Buds Feature Update ComingBy Jay McGregor

As MacRumours notes it’s not clear if this light sensor technology could fit into the current design of the AirPods. It might make more sense in Apple’s larger fitness related headphones, such as the Powerbeats Pro.  

However the technology is deployed, though – and if this information is accurate – it shows how dramatically wireless headphones could be about to change. 

It was only a matter of time before wireless earbuds were given the same ‘smart’ treatment as other tech accessories. But it’s interesting to see Apple taking a different route to Google by drawing on the success of its biometric measurements tech rather than compete with the AI prowess of Google Assistant.

Apple’s Airpods, and wireless headphones in general, could look and behave very differently in the next two years.

More on Forbes

Apple To Abruptly Slash AirPod Prices And Ditch Famous iPhone Freebie

Ruthless Google And Samsung Axe Features To Cut Costs & Rival Apple

Google Pixel Buds 2 Have Serious Competition From Microsoft Surface Buds

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