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BrumLETS further information

BrumLETS: Exchange goods and services without money!

LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) enables people to trade services without exchanging money. People join a non-profit making club to exchange services, using their own local “currency” and accounting system. A directory of goods and skills is made available to all members— services offered can range from darning to computer skills, babysitting to counselling. Members trade with each other whenever they wish, and record their transactions on the BrumLETS website. Members who don't have ready access to the Internet can use paper cheques and send them to the Hearts Treasurer to be entered on the system.

Local Currency

There are many LETS schemes throughout the country, and each has its own local currency. In Birmingham, our currency units are called Hearts (as Birmingham is the "Heart of England"). When you come to advertise your services, we recommend a typical rate of 6 Hearts per hour, but you are free to set your own rate, or put “neg” to indicate a negotiable rate. It is worth remembering that, unlike the mainstream economy, LETS encourages people to place equal value on all services, from accounting to cleaning. There is no penalty for having a 'minus balance' on your LETS account (unlike mainstream banking, where people are charged fees and interest for going overdrawn).

The BrumLETS Members' Website

Once you have joined, you will receive a membership number and password that will give you access to the members-only area of the BrumLETS website. On the website, you can: update your contact details and personal information enter details of the skills and goods you wish to offer search the services and goods offered by other members make hearts payments for services and goods received give feedback on services and goods received find contact details for other members check your hearts account balance and trading history see other members' balances and trading history

Making a Trade

When you've found a service or item for sale that you're interested in, you contact the person who has placed the offer and negotiate the "deal". Once the service has been completed to your satisfaction, you log in to the website, and pay the provider the agreed number of Hearts. You can also leave feedback, which will be visible to all other members. Don't forget ­ you don't need to be in credit to trade!

How you keep in touch

A weekly email is sent out informing members of any new or updated offers and wants - members can also opt to have this sent on a daily basis, or switch it off, by editing their personal information via the My Profile link on the sidebar. An occasional newsletter is produced to which all members can contribute, and info on forthcoming events can be found in the 'News & Events' section of the website. You can meet other members at LETS social events and members’ meetings, which can be set up individually via an "-Event" offer. BrumLETS has a “Core Group” of active and experienced members who help with the running and development of LETS; members can approach them for advice, and can discuss new ideas with them.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What if I don’t have anything to offer? Everyone has something to offer. You don’t need to be “skilled”, just willing and available to help with ordinary tasks. LETS members can help others move house, hold up shelves while someone drills the holes, run errands or offer household help to someone who is very busy, ill or just stressed. You can give as much or as little time as you want — some members do the occasional hour or two here and there, others contribute whole days. Some jobs you can even do in your own home. And if you do have a special skill, so much the better.

Can I trade if I have no Hearts in my account? YES! You do not have to be in credit to trade. Your account can go into debit (“minus balance”) but no interest is charged. (In fact, as the total number of Hearts in the system is always zero, it wouldn’t work at all if everyone tried to stay in credit all the time!)

• What is a Heart worth? A Heart is approximately equivalent to £1, and some people charge exactly the same in Hearts as they might in £s for their goods or services. However, because there are no debit limits, LETS members find they can afford to be much more generous in Hearts than they could be with £s. Therefore, the value of the Heart is flexible, and it often depends on what the two people involved in the transaction agree upon.

• What if I still need cash? Hearts can be used along with cash. You can ask for a proportion in cash (eg. 25% cash, 75% Hearts) or for cash to cover materials, petrol etc. Only Hearts are recorded in your accounts. What if I’m not satisfied with someone’s work? LETS functions on the basis of goodwill and trust, and problems like this are rare. However, you can try to avoid misunderstandings by agreeing in advance the price, timescale and standard of work, and you are free to ask the person about their qualifications and experience. If you have problems, a mediation service is available. Normal trading laws still apply to LETS. In the very last resort, claims for compensation can be made in the county court.

• What if I run up a large debit? In LETS, having a minus balance does not present a problem. LETS cheques cannot “bounce”, and it is more important to keep trading than to keep your account in credit. If someone goes further and further into debit, a member of the Core Group will discuss the situation with them and offer advice. However, in LETS there is no embarrassment attached to having a minus balance. It is better to spend Hearts than to hoard them! Is trading on LETS taxable? Most LETS trading is of an occasional “social favour” type, which is not taxable. However, if a member conducts trade on LETS as part of a regular business, any profits (after deducting business expenses and personal allowance) will be taxable in sterling. Such members should declare the Hearts earned in their normal line of work in their tax returns. They can ensure that they cover their tax liabilities by asking for a percentage in sterling.

• Will earnings in Hearts affect my benefits? Most benefits should not be affected as long as claimants are not trading for more than 16 hours a week, and are available for work.


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