Tuesday 17 September 2019

Your Questions: Are there any ways I can help to offset the cost of getting braces?


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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Question: I am 27, working full-time and was recently told I need to get braces by my orthodontist. I don't have a medical card, and I don't have private health insurance. Is there any way I can help offset the costs? 

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A: If you pay for your orthodontic treatment and you are not covered through private health insurance or the public health system, then you can claim tax relief on the cost of the expenses made, according to Eileen Devereux, commercial director at Taxback.com.

Dental benefits are somewhat less generous since the recession and tax relief is not available on routine dental costs, such as check-ups and cleaning. But there is some relief available for what are known as non-routine dental expenses, which include root-canal treatments, crowns, veneers and orthodontic treatments.

You must have the dentist complete a Med 2 Form after your treatment. Tax relief on qualifying medical expenses is available at the standard rate of tax, which is 20pc. So for every €5 you spend, you will get up to €1 back.

Also important to remember is that you must have receipts and/or Med 2 Forms to back up what it is you are claiming for, Ms Devereux added. Keep a record of all expenses somewhere safe. A good tip is to create a digital copy by scanning and saving them; that way, you always have them on file.

It is good practice to store your receipts and/or Med 2 Forms going back four years at least, as you can claim a refund for qualifying expenses up to four years after the treatment, be it for dental, or other qualifying medical expenses and procedures, as well as doctors' visits.

Question: I have inherited some money from the proceeds of a house sale, and would feel more comfortable not having all my cash sitting in a bank. Can I hold gold and silver as an alternative?

A: Bank deposits are currently protected up to €100,000 per person, per financial institution. However, bank deposits can now be used to stabilise failing institutions, according to the chief executive of Goldcore, Stephen Flood. This means certain deposits may be at risk of loss.

As such, it is always a good idea to spread amounts above €100,000 in multiple financial institutions. A golden rule of investing is never having your eggs stored in one basket.

So if it is a significant sum of money you have inherited, you should employ this investment ethos and consider all options. Everything on offer to you will carry varying degrees of risk. Gold and silver are relatively low-risk in the scheme of things, Mr Flood insists.

The belief is that in a financial crisis, bank deposits may be at risk, and property prices and stocks may fall. Gold and silver tend to do well in uncertain times, as investors seek out safe-haven assets and shun traditional investments. Recent research from the World Gold Council shows that over 10 years, a 5pc allocation of gold reduced a portfolio's volatility (price changes) and improved overall returns, he added.

In terms of the practicalities, gold and silver can be shipped to your home, but if you are not comfortable with this, they can be stored in specialised vaults in Dublin, London or Zurich. It is always best to store your gold and silver in segregated accounts, where the metals are not commingled with other clients' holdings, and allocated in specific bars. This way, you can quickly take delivery or sell to different dealers.

Other options are to invest in exchange-traded funds or in guaranteed Perth Mint Certificates.

Question: We have a family travel insurance policy. But my 14-year-old is travelling to the US alone this summer. He will be met by his grandparents on the other side and is staying with them for a couple of weeks. Will the policy still apply, even though neither parent will be with him?

A: It sounds like a very special trip for your son but there are a number of things to watch out for. Most annual family travel policies should cover this, as he will be cared for while he is in the US and will only be unaccompanied during the flights, according to Deirdre McCarthy of Insuremyholiday.ie.

You should check if the cover under your existing policy includes the US.

It is usually a specific upgrade over other countries, as medical bills tend to be far higher there.

Also, you should contact the airline to advise it that a minor is travelling unaccompanied. Most airlines will ask their ground staff and the flight attendants on the plane to ensure they are comfortable, and generally look after them during their flight.

Dental benefits are not available for routine costs such as check-ups and cleaning, but there is some relief for non-routine expenses such as root-canal treatments.

A golden rule of investing is never having all your eggs stored in one basket. Everything on offer to you will carry varying degrees of risk.

Irish Independent

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