In this month’s eNews we look at the measures taken in the Spring Budget and the business reaction to the Chancellor’s statement. We also update you on the abolition of the pensions lifetime allowance and the rising interest rates. With details on voluntary national insurance contributions and Welsh freeports, there is a lot to update you on.
- Capital allowances reformed in ‘Budget for growth’
- Business groups welcome Spring Budget
- HMRC issues guidance on abolition of pensions lifetime allowance
- Bank of England raises UK interest rates to 4.25%
- HMRC late payment interest rate hits 6.75%
- Taxpayers given more time for voluntary national insurance contributions
- Two freeports confirmed for Wales
- Small businesses at risk as energy costs rise
A £27 billion transformation of capital allowances from April was announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as he delivered a ‘Budget for growth‘.
The Spring Budget followed an improved forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The OBR said it expects the UK to avoid a technical recession this year, with a stronger-than-expected performance from the economy as inflation continues to fall.
The Chancellor announced that a £27 billion transformation of capital allowances from April this year will include ‘full expensing’ of investment on IT and plant and machinery for three years, plus an extension to the 50% first-year allowance in the same period.
There was also a £500 million package for research and development (R&D)-intensive businesses. In addition, Mr Hunt announced 12 investment zones across the UK, with funding for skills and support.
Reforms to childcare, which will see free care expanded for children over the age of nine months, were key to Mr Hunt’s plans to remove the barriers to work. A range of other measures were also announced to encourage parents, the disabled and the over-50s back into the workplace.
The Chancellor also made changes to the pension system to provide incentives for doctors and other highly-skilled workers to remain in the labour market.
As high energy costs continue to affect the UK, the Chancellor extended the Energy Support Guarantee (ESG) at £2,500 for another three months, while fuel duty was frozen once more.
Mr Hunt said:
‘Our plan is working – inflation falling, debt down and a growing economy.
‘Britain is on a lasting path to growth with a revolution in childcare support, the biggest ever employment package and the best investment incentives in Europe.’
Internet link: GOV.UK
The UK’s business groups largely welcomed the measures taken in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) branded the Budget as a ‘strong second act’ in Mr Hunt’s plan for stability and growth. Matthew Fell, Interim Director General of the CBI, said:
‘The CBI called for action on people and productivity and the government has delivered support for both. Measures to help households and businesses will secure the growth we need to boost living standards for all.
‘Boosting childcare provision is a big win for businesses struggling to recruit and retain, and parents balancing care and career needs.’
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) praised the Chancellor for his changes to free childcare for working parents.
Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, commented:
‘The Chancellor has acted to address the unfilled jobs blighting our economy. It is especially good to see the help on childcare and for over 50s workers. The plans for full capital expensing are also a step in a right direction to offset the rise in corporation tax, but the jury is out on how it will impact businesses compared to the super-deduction scheme.’
Meanwhile, the Institute of Directors (IoD) said that it ‘strongly supports’ the Chancellor’s decision to allow all investment expenditure to be set against revenue for tax purposes in the year it is spent.
Kitty Ussher, Chief Economist at the IoD, said:
‘Our economy has been held back in recent years because people running businesses have felt nervous of committing to investment when the climate is so uncertain. The introduction of 100% full expensing for the next three years is therefore very welcome, and we urge it to be continued thereafter.’
However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) stated that the Budget ‘will leave many feeling short-changed’.
Martin McTague, National Chair of the FSB, said: ‘The distinct lack of new support in core areas proves that small firms are overlooked and undervalued. Budgets are about tough choices, and with . . . billions being allocated to big businesses and households, 5.5 million small businesses and the 16 million people who work for them will be wondering why the choice has been made to overlook them.’
HMRC recently issued preliminary guidance in regard to the abolition of the pensions lifetime allowance.
At the Spring Budget, Chancellor Hunt announced that the lifetime allowance charge will be removed from 6 April 2023. The allowance will be fully abolished from the 2024/25 tax year via a future Finance Bill, HMRC said.
HMRC states that pension scheme administrators ‘will need to continue to operate lifetime allowance checks when paying benefits (for example, assessing whether an individual has available lifetime allowance) and to issue benefit crystallisation event statements.
‘However, following the standard lifetime allowance checks, for a benefit crystallisation event occurring after 6 April 2023 no lifetime allowance charge will arise and there will be no requirement to report lifetime allowance charges on the accounting for tax return (AFT).’
As a result of the abolition of the lifetime allowance, the maximum amount most members can take as a pension commencement lump sum will be frozen at £268,275, which is 25% of the current standard lifetime allowance of £1,073,100. However, members with a protected right to a higher pension commencement lump sum on 5 April 2023 will continue to be able to access this right.
Internet link: HMRC website
Interest rates have been increased to 4.25% from 4% by the Bank of England (BoE) as it tries to slow rising prices.
The BoE’s decision to increase rates for the 11th time in a row comes after figures showed that the cost of living has risen by more than expected. Data published recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that inflation jumped to 10.4% in the year to February, despite predictions it would fall.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted in favour of the latest rise by a majority of seven to two.
Commenting on 23 March, David Bharier, Head of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
‘Today’s decision to increase the interest rate indicates the Bank are still pursuing strong action following yesterday’s surprise rise in inflation. Record high inflation remains the top issue of concern for SMEs and it has been wiping out their ability to invest and grow for almost two years now.
‘However, an interest rate rise alone is a blunt instrument that doesn’t address some of the fundamental causes of inflation, such as failure in the energy market and global supply chain shocks.’
HMRC has revised interest rates with late payment bills charged 6.75% from 13 April, the highest level since January 2008
The late payment and repayment interest rates follow the rise in the Bank of England base rate to 4.25% on 23 March and are applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC currently charges and pays interest. The rates will rise to:
This means that the late payment interest rate will increase by 0.25% to 6.75% from 13 April. This is the highest rate since the start of the financial crisis in November 2008. The previous increase to the rate was to 6.5% on 21 February.
Late payment interest is payable on late tax bills covering income tax, National Insurance contributions, capital gain tax, stamp duty land tax, stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax. The corporation tax pay and file rate also increases to 6.75%.
Internet link: GOV.UK
The government has extended the voluntary national insurance deadline to give taxpayers more time to fill gaps in their contributions and boost their state pensions.
The extension comes after members of the public voiced concerns over the previous deadline of 5 April 2023.
As part of transitional arrangements to the new state pension, taxpayers have been able to make voluntary contributions to any incomplete years in their national insurance record between April 2006 and April 2016. After an increase in customer contact, the government has extended the deadline to 31 July 2023 to ensure people have time to make their contributions.
The extension of the deadline was announced via a written Ministerial Statement, and HMRC is urging taxpayers to ensure they do not miss out.
Individuals with gaps in their national insurance record from April 2006 onwards now have more time to decide whether to fill the gaps to boost their new state pension. Any payments made will be at the lower 2022-2023 tax year rates.
Victoria Atkins, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:
‘We’ve listened to concerned members of the public and have acted. We recognise how important state pensions are for retired individuals, which is why we are giving people more time to fill any gaps in their national insurance record to help bolster their entitlement.’
Internet link: HMRC website
Two freeports have been confirmed for Wales by the UK and Welsh governments.
Celtic Freeport, covering Milford Haven and Port Talbot, and Anglesey Freeport will each be backed by £26 million in seed funding by the UK government.
The sites were chosen to exploit opportunities from renewable energies and the government said they would ‘make a significant contribution to achieving the UK’s net zero ambitions’. They will aim to attract £5 billion in private and public investment and create over 20,000 high-skilled jobs by 2030.
Freeports benefit from a range of subsidies, including tax reliefs, customs advantages, reduced business rates, planning, regeneration and trade and investment support.
Tax incentives include enhanced capital allowances, relief from stamp duty land tax and reduced employer national insurance contributions (NICs) for new employees.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said:
‘The Welsh government has a clear economic mission to transform the Welsh economy, creating a stronger, fairer and greener future. The designation of these sites as Wales’s first freeports will reinforce that mission, building on the significant investments and partnerships we have made in these regions over many years.
‘The joint working between governments on the freeport programme should serve as a blueprint for future intergovernmental work on a whole range of issues.’
Internet link: GOV.WALES
Small businesses at risk as energy costs rise
The end of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) on 1 April could threaten the future of hundreds of thousands of small firms, according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) offers a far lower level of support for small businesses.
Although market prices have stabilised for those fixing their contracts now or those who are on variable tariffs, businesses that fixed last year will see huge increases as they are locked into a high price before the government’s relief.
A business paying £24,528 per year for energy under the old government support scheme will now pay £82,539 under the new scheme.
The FSB is calling for small firms to be allowed to renegotiate their energy contracts that were fixed last year. It is also calling for additional support for businesses to become more energy efficient.
Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair at the FSB, said:
‘The jump in energy bills on April Fool’s Day won’t be a laughing matter but will be a shock to hundreds of thousands of small businesses, who signed up to fixed contracts when the government discount was guaranteed under EBRS.
‘There’s much that could and should be done rather than leaving small firms high and dry. Allowing the most vulnerable small businesses to renegotiate or ‘blend and extend’ their energy contracts to better reflect lower wholesale energy prices is the least the government and energy suppliers could do.’
Internet link: FSB website
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