It is the time of year when many household budgets are stretched, yet many of us are missing out on an additional source of income - tax refunds.

Christine Kiely,, says the most commonly overlooked tax reliefs include medical expenses relief and third level tuition fees. Ms Kiely says that people can make €900 savings a year alone on these. She also points out that households can claim back reliefs for four years, which means that refunds can still be claimed for reliefs that have actually been phased out - including bin charges and reductions in rental credits. figures show that the average tax refund can total €840, while some refunds can be a lot bigger if refunds for four years are claimed. 

MORNING BRIEFS - Two recruitment firms are reporting signs of improvement in the Irish jobs market. Sigmar Recruitment said it saw an 18% increase in jobs placements last year. The majority of the placements it made in 2013 came from the multinational sector. But, Sigmar said, it saw strong growth in employment at indigenous companies last year - the first time it has seen any uplift in that sector since 2007. And recruiter Hays recorded a 30% increase in fees over the final quarter of the year. Compare that with the UK, where it saw 10% rise in net fees during the same period. Richard Eardley, Hays Ireland managing director, said it had seen a dramatic increase in business over the past six months. Most significantly, he said, Hays had seen a rise in construction recruitment which is up 52% in the last quarter.

*** The deadline for businesses to overhaul their payments systems to bring them into line with the new Single European Payments Area system has been extended by six months. The new SEPA system, which aims to help businesses and consumers make and collect payments across the EU as easily as within their own member state, was due to come into force on February 1. The new system has now been pushed back to August. Given that surveys here reported a lack of awareness and a lack of readiness among businesses for SEPA, the move will be seen as good news. If businesses do not migrate to the SEPA system, they will be unable to collect or effect payments after August 1.

*** China has become the world's top trading nation following a sharp rise in the volume of imports into the People's Republic over the past five months. Already well established as the world's top exporter, China has been trying to boost domestic demand and the latest figures show some evidence that may now be happening. December figures today that that Chinese exports were up 7.9.% to $2.21 trillion in 2013. The value of imports rose by 7.3% to $1.95 trillion.