Budget 2018: What can we expect from the Chancellor's speech?
PUBLISHED: 10:38 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:38 22 October 2018
James Geary, Corporate Tax Manager at Randall & Payne Accountants in Cheltenham, discusses what could be Chancellor Philip Hammond's most crucial budget yet
Philip Hammond will deliver his Budget speech earlier than usual on Monday October 29 instead of the predictable Wednesday, as it’s widely believed that his advisers warned against choosing Halloween as the date due to the potential for unsavoury headlines such as “Hammond’s House of Horrors”. However, Monday or Wednesday we are pleased to be hosting our business leaders’ networking event at Kingsholm to discuss his announcements with immediate consideration.
All in all Mr Hammond would appear to have very little room to manoeuvre, but what is certain is that this budget will be of great interest both to those in the UK and overseas, and could be his most crucial budget yet.
Particular areas of taxation and duty that may well feature include the following:
• Fuel Duty – there have been reports that the eight year freeze may end this year, however, the Prime Minister used her party conference speech to confirm that the freeze would continue again, so going back on such a stark statement is unlikely. A continued freeze could cost the Exchequer an eye-watering £38 billion over the next three years
• Digital Services Tax – there has been significant talk about a new tax on digital businesses, particularly targeted at online retailers like Amazon, as well as in respect of advertising revenues received by companies like Facebook. These taxes have been discussed at international level as it is important that we have a joined up approach worldwide, to avoid these large companies simply relocating their operations to avoid them. Mr Hammond has indicated that the UK could “go it alone” on this new tax.
• Inheritance Tax – a number of sources have reported both possible increases and decreases to this tax and we could see implementation of some of the findings of the Office of Tax Simplification who recently carried out a report into the tax as a whole. Areas that could be targeted to increase the tax may well be around eligibility for Business and Agricultural Property Reliefs, to tighten up the criteria for qualification bringing less direct business interests back into the tax net.
• Capital Gains Tax – many sources predict an attack on Entrepreneurs’ Relief which affords a generous 10% tax rate on an individual’s first £10 million of business gains. However, sources have been predicting this for years and in our view this is too important a relief for any sweeping changes. More likely would be an increase in Capital Gains Tax rates generally, currently 28% for residential property and 20% for other assets.
• Pensions – barely a year goes by without more tinkering with the rules around pensions. He may “bite the bullet” and restrict tax relief on pension contributions to basic rate tax only.
• Corporation Tax – evidence shows that tax receipts are at record levels, showing that the strategy of lowering rates is making the UK more attractive for business. The rate is due to drop from 19% to 17% in April 2020, and while it is possible that this change could be accelerated, as Brexit negotiations continue, it is unlikely as it could be seen by other nations as distorting international competitiveness even further.
• Insurance Premium Tax – this has already been increased three times from 6% to 12% over the last three years, and many predict that it could rise again.
• Off-payroll working in the private sector – following the changes to the public sector, it is expected that these will also apply to private sector businesses from April 2019. This will result in a significant tax increase both for owners of personal service companies and for the companies that contract them.
• Income Tax – perhaps the most controversial move that might be implemented would be to abandon the 2015 election promise to raise the basic tax allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate income threshold to £50,000 by 2020. This is the most valuable tax relief in the UK system and freezing these thresholds could raise an additional £2 billion per year for the Exchequer.
We consider it unlikely that all of the above will happen, but these are probably the principal options Mr Hammond will have been considering.