Steep energy bill hikes are expected to have kept inflation painfully high in the latest official figures due out on Tuesday.
Most economists are predicting the benchmark Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to remain at 2.7% for the third month in a row in December after a wave of energy tariff hikes came into effect.
But some experts believe inflation may have even increased further away from the Government's 2% target, highlighting yet more pain for hard-up households.
Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec Securities, is pencilling in a rise to 2.9% last month and warned that CPI is heading for 3% by the summer.
He said: "This is getting close to the level - above 3% - where Sir Mervyn King or his successor Mark Carney would have to write another explanatory letter to the Chancellor. We think this is likelier than not to happen, but on our profile we do not expect it until around mid-year."
Price increases from four of the "big six" energy suppliers came into effect by the end of December in a winter blow to consumers. It is thought that this will have been partially offset by lower fuel costs as oil prices have fallen, while food inflation is also likely to be below the 1.4% jump seen a year earlier. This is not expected to remain the case for long, with food inflation set to soar over the coming months after poor UK harvests due to last year's severe wet weather, as well as crops hit overseas by adverse conditions.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "It looks likely that consumer price inflation will hit 3% in the early months of 2013 as it is pushed up by increasing energy tariffs and further rises in food prices." But he said inflation should fall "markedly" in the final months of 2013, down to around 2.2%.
Above-target inflation is proving a headache for Bank of England policymakers as they weigh up mounting signs of economic gloom against faster increases in the cost of living.
The economy is looking likely to have suffered a fresh contraction in the fourth quarter, according to some estimates, and could be heading for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.
But the Bank may be reluctant to push the button for more quantitative easing (QE), given the outlook for inflation. It remained firmly in "wait and see" mode this month, keeping rates at 0.5% and QE at £375 billion.