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All of us like to be self-sufficient and independent, but during these difficult financial times, it is important for people who are struggling financially to ask for the help they need. Council Tax Benefit and Working Tax Credits are two benefits that can improve the finances for many who are self-employed and who cannot earn enough to pay the bills.

Money for nothing

Council Tax Benefit is available to people on low income. Ask your local council for an application form. Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to a 100 per cent reduction in your council tax bill. This only applies to your home address, though. This benefit won’t put money in your pocket directly, but it can reduce your household bills by as much as £25 per week.

Working Tax Credits are a way of increasing your income when your income is too low. If your application is successful, the Government pays you regularly so you have enough for the essentials in life. Call the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900 (knowing your National Insurance Number will speed things up), and it will send you the necessary paperwork and help you fill it in. This benefit could be worth £10 to £80 per week,
depending on your circumstances.

The online ‘Benefits Advisor’ at www.direct.gov.uk can help you discover the benefits you might be entitled to. Other useful websites for those in financial difficulty are www.adviceguide.org.uk and www.cccs.co.uk.

If you are suffering from regular penalty charges from your bank, consider cancelling most or all of your Direct Debits. Use a debit card to pay your bills over the telephone instead and write regular payments on the calendar or in a diary. This puts you in charge of your finances so you are less likely to go over your limit.

Finally, don’t hide from your problems or put things off. Open your mail each day, talk to your creditors and seek advice when you need it.

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