Following the autumn budget announcement yetrerday, Finance Monthly has heard the initial reactions from experts at top accountancy firm Crowe UK. From Corporate Finance to Small Businesses and IR35, there are tax implications for many…
Matteo Timpani, Corporate Finance partner:
Entrepreneur’s Relief (ER) remains an attractive, and essential, tax incentive that drives UK innovation and entrepreneurship. That said, it is disappointing to see amendments made to the relief which may impact the ability of certain individuals to benefit from it in the short term. There will be a number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions currently in progress which will likely be put on hold to ensure participants are able to qualify for Entrepreneur’s Relief in due course.
This change only emphasises the importance of business owners taking specialist advice, and being prepared, long in advance of the time they are considering succession and exiting their business. We await the specific details of when this change will be implemented but anyone who is considering selling their business in the next 12 months, and is unsure if they, their management team and/or other shareholders will qualify for ER, should seek advice now and consider immediately the implications of this change.
Tom Elliott, Head of Private Clients:
It is not surprising to see The Chancellor reaffirm the government's commitment to Entrepreneurs' Relief, albeit with tighter conditions (qualifying period doubled to two years). However, it might have been more effective if the minimum shareholding requirement was abolished altogether – this would incentivise all employee shareholders and not just the C-suite.
The changes to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) reliefs for the sale of main residences look like an attempt at modernisation. Lettings relief has changed so as not to apply to the AirBnB model - relief applies only for shared occupation. The shortening of the ‘period of absence’ from 18 to nine months for Principal Private Residence relief will need to be monitored closely, as any slowdown in the housing market (where it may take more than nine months to sell) may result in an overall reversal.
Rebecca Durrant, Private Clients partner:
It was pleasing to see the personal allowance and higher rate tax brackets raised a year early, but it will be interesting to see whether the Chancellor treats this as a ceiling. Rates could now be frozen for following years, which would turn the tax cut into a hike very quickly. In the mid to long-term, this may not protect the inflationary impact that a no deal Brexit may have.
Phil Smithyes, Managing Director, Crowe Financial Planning
The move to raise the personal tax allowance to £12,500 and raise the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000 from 6 April next year is a move that should be welcomed by most pensioners, making their pension savings go that much further.
Under the pensions ‘freedom and flexibility’ rules, individuals could take up to £16,666 each tax year from their pension fund before they begin paying income tax. This is achieved through a combination of 25% tax-free cash (£4,166) and the new £12,500 personal tax allowance. Careful planning will help pensioners money go that further and minimise their liabilities to tax in retirement.
Susan Ball, Head of Employers Advisory Services:
In April 2017, the government reformed the IR35 rules for engagements in the public sector and early indications are that this has resulted in an increase in compliance within the public sector. This will now be replicated for the private sector, but a reasonable implementation period is vital so the effective date of 2020, and the fact the rules will only be extended to large and medium sized private businesses, are both sensible steps. The Chancellor clearly took on board the feedback from the consultation process over the summer. Engagers should start planning now based on the experience of the public sector in order to have an effective procedure in place for the start date of April 2020.
Laurence Field, Corporate Tax partner:
The Chancellor's statement was made against a background of political uncertainty, mixed economic signals and an increasingly protectionist agenda from many of our trading partners. Tax is one of the most politically high profile things a government can do, and this was one of the most political budgets a Chancellor has had to deliver for decades.
The UK doesn't raise enough tax to keep providing public services at the current level, especially given the aging demographic. A tax system that raises more tax will need to be more efficient, perceived to be more fair and find new 'pockets' of wealth or bad behaviour that can be taxed without political risk.
An autumn budget also has the advantage of kicking the can down the road given that the majority of changes will only kick in from April next year if not later. However, this is the first glimpse we have of the type of post Brexit fiscal landscape the government wants to create.
The announcement of a potential digital services tax (DST) makes sense. Global companies need to be seen to be paying their 'fair share'. They don't have votes, so are an easy target. Playing tough with the digital services tax is politically attractive even if this causes conflicts with other tax jurisdictions. It is unlikely such measures will find much opposition in Parliament given the ground has been well prepared. How our trading partners (and particularly the US) react will be the real challenge. Retaliatory measures will not help the British economy. Therefore by outlining a timetable to introduce measures in 2020 he has provided cover for trying to get international agreement. Talking tough, but deferring action makes other parts of the Budget more palatable.
Elsewhere, plastics have found themselves in the environmental firing line and it was an easy, and politically popular decision, to try and find ways of taxing its use. Requiring more usage of recycled plastics is a way of stimulating that industry while being seen to be tough on pollution. The challenge with all sin taxes is that if they are too effective, the source of revenue will dry up. The damage that plastics can do is all too obvious, the Chancellor is no doubt sincere in his desire to reduce our use, but would no doubt be grateful if industry doesn't take action too quickly.
Following the Chancellor’s promise this month to ensure giant technology companies pay a fairer portion of tax, Chris Denning, tax partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, argues low tax rates for multinationals are a key fiscal tool to encourage investment into the UK. We’ll have to see how this pans out in the autumn budget next week.
Philip Hammond may have impressed the Tory conference by threatening to “go it alone” with a digital sales tax but in practice there will be a strong reluctance to take unilateral action as it could damage the UK’s economic and fiscal competitiveness. HM Treasury clearly stated in its updated position paper of March 2018 that the preferred solution for the UK needs to sit within the international corporate tax framework.
The constant negative focus on the level of corporation tax multinationals pay in the UK fails to account for the fact that the UK’s low rate is a hook for multinationals to locate here, and means they employ thousands of people as a result. The full benefits to the UK economy don’t show up in corporation tax statistics, and people must remember they don’t reflect the full story.
Amazon’s 2017 results for example prompted much furore, but indicated that the company paid more tax to the UK exchequer than in the previous year. Headcount went up significantly, resulting in a significant increase in pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE) and national insurance contributions (NIC).While companies have a “moral obligation” to pay the right amount of tax they are also still obliged to create shareholder value which directly benefits thousands of individuals whose pension funds will be heavily invested in these stocks.
The Chancellor also needs to consider what defines the “digital economy” as opposed to the “digitalisation of the economy”, which impacts every business. The UK Government sees business models that profit from user participation, such as social networks, search engines and intermediation platforms as the targets for reform and not online content providers, e-tailers or software/cloud service providers. This is on the basis that remote selling cross border is not unique to “digital businesses”. This is a significant departure from the EU’s proposed Directive where remote content sellers and service providers are targeted. Going it alone is only likely to muddy the waters further.
Here below MHA MacIntyre Hudson Partner, Jason Mitchell outlines the impact of the Autumn Budget for the UK’s tech sector.
Philip Hammond says a new UK high-tech business is founded every hour. He wants this changed to one every half hour in an attempt to lift the gloom over the country’s prime growth sector and support jobs of the future.
To achieve a new dawn for tech start-ups, there first needs to be an environment conducive to growth. The tech sector is reliant on access to the right talent and this has proved a real bottleneck over the past five years.
I welcome the chancellor’s vision to create skills through the biggest increase in science and innovation funding in schools for decades. There will be a training fund for maths teachers, a £600 "maths premium" for schools linked to the number of pupils taking the subject, and proposals for new maths schools. It was also positive to hear the promise of increased funding of innovation in universities, including commitment to replace European funding if necessary.
Today’s workforce also needs to be reskilled. There was mention of a new National Centre for Computing & initiatives for digital skills retraining, which clearly harks back to recommendations put forward by techUK.
The government also needed to help finance growth. It plans to unlock over £20 billion of patient capital investment to finance growth in innovative firms over 10 years through a new £2.5bn investment fund. This doubles the annual allowance for people investing in knowledge-intensive companies through Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) and backing overseas investment in UK venture capital through the Department for International Trade.
The planned increase in research and development expenditure credits (“RDEC”) for large companies is also great. Mr Hammond has promised to allocate a further £2.3 billion for investment in R&D and will increase RDEC from 11% to 12%. The next step, it appears, is to make everyone aware of it! Many companies currently miss out on the scheme.
He’s also proposing to introduce measures in 2019 to apply withholding tax on royalties and similar payments to “low tax jurisdictions”. It will be interesting to see these proposals set out in detail and how they will interact with existing double tax treaties. This will have a significant impact on cross border tax structuring even where significant substance, activity and risk is undertaken to support such payments from a transfer pricing perspective.
The world is "on the brink of a technological revolution" exclaimed Mr Hammond, and the UK needs to be at the forefront.
Yesterday saw Chancellor Phillip Hammond deliver his second budget. While the abolition of Stamp Duty, several tax revisions, freezes on several duties, increased investment in AI and Technology and a £3 billion investment into the NHS all came as welcome additions they could not prevent a sharp drop in the UK Growth Forecast following the budget.
So with many experts labelling it a ‘make or break’ moment for Hammond and a somewhat beleaguered Government, we spoke to the industry experts to see what the Autumn budget really means for the Financial Sector in a special extended Your Thoughts: Autumn Budget 2017
Choose your sector below or scroll through to read all the insight.
Abe Smith, CEO and Founder at Dealflo
London has been a world-leading financial centre since the 19th century, but low growth forecasts and the lack of clarity around Brexit are unsettling for businesses. The Chancellor has had to work hard to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place to invest and innovate post-Brexit. The new National Investment Fund means that even after Brexit, the UK will remain a hub for FinTech innovation and will attract fast-growing tech companies.
Niels Turfboer, Managing Director of UK & Benelux, Spotcap:
The FinTech industry is going from strength to strength and the UK Government can play an important part in enabling FinTechs to continue to thrive.
We therefore welcome Philip Hammond’s promise to invest over £500m in numerous technology initiatives, including artificial intelligence and regulatory innovation, as well as unlock over £20bn of new investment in UK scale-up businesses.
With this assurance, the government has shown a strong commitment to the FinTech sector, which will hopefully help tech companies all around the UK to flourish and grow.
The reality is that it is not the scientific development of AI that will be game-changing in the next few years, but instead the more prosaic, practical application of AI across many different sectors.
While AI is too often associated with self-driving cars and robots, the truth is the most significant AI applications that are of most significance to businesses, are actually the least visually exciting. AI that improves decision-making, optimises existing processes and delivers more accurate demand prediction will boost productivity far more powerfully than in all sectors.
But it’s not just productivity that will be significantly impacted – business revenue will also benefit. The beauty of AI lies in its ability to be applied with no capital investments – making it an affordable innovation for businesses to adopt. Unlike what is commonly thought, applying AI does not require infrastructure changes – in many processes cases we already have automated process control, so adding AI on top would require no investment at all. Instead, companies will see ROI within just a few months.
Martin Port, Founder and CEO BigChange:
We welcome this announcement and support for tech businesses from the Chancellor. Financial backing and stability is a huge hurdle facing all start-ups, so I am pleased to see the government pledge more than £20 billion of new investment. I just hope this funding is easy to access and readily available for those who need it, rather than being hidden among reams of red tape.
Leon Deakin, Partner in the technology team at Coffin Mew:
As a firm with a growing technology sector and client base in this area we are obviously delighted to see specific investment in the technology sector, particularly in AI and driverless vehicles.
Doom mongers have long been predicting that the UK and its tech hubs will be hit hard by Brexit and there have been numerous reports of rival cities within the EU which have sought to position themselves as alternative options. However, we are yet to see this materialise and incentives and commitments such as those announced by the Chancellor in these innovative but essential areas have to be great news for the economy, the sector and those who advise businesses in it.
Of course, creating the next unicorn is no easy task but a serious level of investment of the magnitude announced should at least ensure those businesses with promise have the best chance to scale up even if they don’t reach the $1billion level. Likewise, there is little point developing these new technologies if the infrastructure and support is then not there to utilise them properly
Matthew Adam, Chief Executive Officer of We Are Digital:
With the UK economy now expected to grow by 1.5% in 2017, a downgrade from the 2% forecast made in March, coupled with the challenges of Brexit, the need for the UK to sit at the forefront of digital skills and inclusion is more pressing than ever. We need to be able to grasp, with both hands, the digital opportunities that present themselves to us in order to make us a true global digital force.
The reality is that we simply cannot afford not to. Independent analysis shows that getting the UK online and understanding how to use digital tools could add between £63 billion - £92 billion to UK Plc’s annual GDP. Indeed, it is my belief that economies which focus strongly on getting its citizens online are also more productive.
The Chancellor has said that a new high-tech business is founded in the UK every hour, which he wants to increase to every half hour. It is imperative we support this growth through the announced £500m investment in artificial intelligence, to 5G and full-fibre broadband. However, to bridge the need for the 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people which are required by 2022, we must create and support retraining opportunities across society to make the UK truly digital.
Technology improvements are causing widespread changes in every market and the public sector should be no exception, especially as it often faces the biggest social problems to solve. I’m glad the government is waking up to the fact that the latest technological advances don’t need to be assigned only to the private sector, but can do a lot of good to the community at large. We know from our direct work with the Home Office that every government and council department is moving its processes online. Whether it’s chatbots to automate processes, or solving how people engage with Universal Credit, there is so much we can do here with ‘Gov -tech’
I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s digital announcements today and consider this budget as not so much a leap in the right digital direction, but more a necessary conservative step.
Owain Walters, CEO of Frontierpay:
The Chancellor’s efforts to win younger voters from Labour by abolishing stamp relief for first-time buyers on homes up to £300,000, and on the first £300,000 of properties up to £500,000, come as no surprise. The potential for such an announcement has been a hot media topic in recent weeks and as such, we don’t expect to see any significant impact on the value of the pound.
“In the wake of this Budget, any real movement from the pound will be caused either by developments in the Brexit negotiations or the potential for a further interest rate rise. I would therefore advise any businesses that want to stay on top of turbulence in the currency markets to keep a close eye on inflation data.
Markus Kuger, Senior Economist, Dun & Bradstreet
It’s not surprising that the Chancellor opened this year’s statement with a focus on Brexit; even as businesses absorb the implications of the Budget, they have a close eye to the ongoing negotiations and any likely trade agreement, which is likely to profoundly impact their future. The government’s move to provide a £3bn fund in the event of a no-deal outcome is designed to increase business confidence. In the meantime the business environment remains challenging, and Dun & Bradstreet forecasts that real GDP growth in 2018 will slow to 1.3% (from 1.8% in 2016). Businesses should continue to follow the Brexit negotiations closely and consider that operating conditions could change dramatically over the next 18 months as the Brexit settlement is clarified.”
Damian Kimmelman, CEO of Duedil
We welcome the government’s announcement that the Enterprise Investment Schemes’ (EIS) investment limit, for knowledge intensive scale-ups has been doubled.
The EIS has been great for attracting investment for small businesses, however we need to ensure investment through the scheme is not being used for capital preservation purposes, but instead to encourage the growth of companies.
The key to increasing investment in ‘higher risk’ growth companies through the EIS scheme, is to eliminate information friction. With more data, investors can price risk effectively, so they can lend to support the small businesses forming the backbone of the economy, driving growth, and creating jobs.
Lee Wild, Head of Equity Strategy at Interactive Investor:
This budget was always going to be especially tricky for the chancellor. Hitting fiscal targets amid wide divisions over Brexit, while also spending more on populist policies to distract voters from Conservative party infighting and dysfunctional cabinet, was a big ask. Hammond wasn’t fibbing when he promised a balanced budget. Once tax giveaways, downgrades to growth forecasts, billions more for the NHS and the rest are put through the mincer, both the FTSE 100 and sterling are unchanged.
Given Britain’s housing crisis was an obvious target for the chancellor, he really needed something substantial to make his aim of 300,000 new homes built every year anything more than a pipe dream. Committing to at least £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the housing market will go a long way to achieving the chancellor’s ambitious target. Abolishing stamp duty for first-time buyer purchases up to £300,000 is a tiny saving, however, and buyers, especially in London, will still require a huge deposit to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The market hung on Hammond’s every word, causing a comical yo-yo effect as the chancellor slowly revealed his strategy. A threat to use compulsory purchase powers where builders are believed to be holding land for commercial reasons, could cause sleepless nights.
Overall, Hammond’s ideas are sound, but probably not enough of a catalyst to get sector share prices rising significantly near-term, given mixed results in the run-up to this budget.
Mihir Kapadia – CEO and Founder of Sun Global Investments:
The Autumn budget statement from Chancellor Phillip Hammond was as expected, with a few pleasant surprises. While Mr Hammond set out his policy proposals with a "vision for post-Brexit Britain", he also acknowledged that his Budget was "about much more than Brexit". With the Conservatives struggling in the polls, the Chancellor was under pressure to regain support for his party, which is currently in a fragile coalition.
The expected announcements include the decision to abolish stamp duty for first time buyers on properties up to £300,000, addressing the housing crisis, an immediate injection of £3.75 billion into the NHS, investments into infrastructure (transport and network), freezing duty on fuel, alcohol and air travel, and finally a Brexit contingency budget of £3 billion.
While today’s budget was populist and aimed at the electorate, it has to be noted that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) sharply downgraded both Britain's productivity and growth forecasts, as well as its business investment forecasts, meaning the UK's finances look set to worsen over the coming years. This does not factor the possibility of a Brexit-related downturn or a wider global recession, which has already been seen as overdue by many forecasters.
We expect the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers on properties up to £300,000 will draw extra attention and headlines from much of today’s announcements. It is vital that we acknowledge the warnings from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Angus Dent, CEO, ArchOver:
The UK’s productivity growth continues to decrease and we’re looking in the wrong place for answers. It’s not just a case of everyone working a bit harder. Investment in public infrastructure and fiscal policy will be the defining factors that help the UK catch up, while real growth will come from our SME sector.
Britain is known as a nation of entrepreneurs. Yet we’re in real danger of not giving our SMEs the support they need to thrive. We need a bottom-up approach where small businesses with bright ideas have access to the finance and advice they need to grow. Only then will we have the firm economic foundation we need to build our productivity post-Brexit.
The expansion of the National Investment Fund in today’s Budget is a good start, but too many SMEs still have to pay their way with personal savings or put their houses on the line as security if they turn to the big banks for help.
We need to inspire a new culture. We know there is an army of willing investors out there who want to support British business - lending across P2P platforms is on course to rise by 20 per cent by the end of this year according to data from 4thWay.
However, we need to raise awareness among SMEs of the different options available to help them finance their growth. SMEs need to take control of their own destiny. With the right finance in place, they can drive the whole country forward to new heights of productivity. We can’t just leave it to government – small businesses must be given the power and the cash to fulfil their potential.
Paul Falvey, tax partner at BDO:
It’s clear that the headline grabbing news revolved around the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first time buyers on properties purchased up to 300,000, at a cost of £600m a year to the tax man. Whilst this is important for people getting on the property ladder, there were other key assertions.
Firstly, HMRC will start to charge more tax on royalties relating to UK sales when those royalties are paid to a low tax jurisdiction. Although this is only set to raise approximately £200m a year, it sets a precedent that tax avoidance will continue to be on the governments agenda. Implementing the OECD policies is a tactic we expected.
Furthermore, companies will pay additional tax on the increase in value of their capital assets from January 2018. The expected abolition of indexation allowance will mean that, despite falling tax rates, companies will be taxed on higher profits. By 2022/2023 this is expected to raise over £525m.
62% of the businesses we polled before the Budget said they will be willing to pay more taxes in return for a simpler system. Yet, once again, the government has done nothing to tackle the issue of tax complexity. It is a huge obstacle to growth and businesses will be disappointed that there was no commitment to setting out a coherent tax strategy.
Craig Harman is a Tax Specialist at Perrys Chartered Accountants:
Although it was widely anticipated beforehand, the only real rabbit out of the hat moment for the Chancellor was confirming the abolishment of stamp duty for first time buyers. This equates to quite a generous tax incentive for those able to benefit resulting in a £5,000 saving on a £300,000 property purchase.
The Chancellor has also stood by his previous promises, by raising the personal allowance to £11,850, and the higher rate threshold to £43,650. This is in line with the commitment to raise them to £12,500 and £50,000 respectively by the end of parliament.
Small business owners will be pleased to note that speculation regarding a decrease in the VAT registration threshold did not come to fruition. It was anticipated the Chancellor would look to bring the UK in line with other EU countries, however this will be consulted on instead and may result in changes over the next couple of years. Any decrease in the threshold could place a significant tax and compliance burden on the smallest businesses.
Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent
I don’t believe that this is a particularly positive Budget for the micro-business sector. Rather than actually offering real support or meaningful legislation to people running their own businesses in Britain, the Chancellor has simply kept the status quo.
While it’s pleasing to see that the VAT threshold has not been lowered - which would have added a significant new administrative burden to millions of UK business owners - this is hardly cause for celebration. Neither is the exemption of ‘white van men’ from diesel charges, which is the very least that the Government could have done to protect the country’s army of self-employed tradespeople.
It’s also disappointing that there are still a number of issues including digital tax that have not been expanded in this Budget. I would have preferred to see the Chancellor provide clarity on those issues, as well as introducing new legislation to curb the culture of late payment that is plaguing the micro-business sector and further simplifying National Insurance, VAT and other business taxes.
Rob Marchant, Partner, Crowe Clark Whitehill
The Chancellor announced that the VAT registration threshold will not be changed for the next two years while a review is carried out of the implications of changing this (either up or down).
Having a high threshold is often regarded as creating a ‘cliff edge’ for businesses that grow to the point of crossing that line. However, keeping a significant number of small businesses away from the obligations of being VAT registered allows them to focus on running their operations without additional worry. Many small businesses will welcome the retention of the threshold.
The consultation should look at ways to help smooth the effect of the “cliff edge”, while continuing to reduce administrative obligations for small businesses.
Jane Mackay, Head of Tax, Crowe Clark Whitehill
The tax avoidance debate has centred around large multinationals and their corporate tax bills. High profile cases have eroded public trust in how we tax companies. By maintaining the UK’s low corporate tax rate, currently 19%, and reducing it to 17% from 2020, the Chancellor accepts that corporate tax is only of limited relevance in our UK economy. It accounted for around just 7% of UK tax revenues last year.
The Budget announces changes to extend the scope of UK withholding taxes to tax royalty payments in connection with UK sales, even if there is no UK taxable presence. There will be computational and reporting challenges, but this measure may pacify those who feel the UK is not getting enough tax from international digital corporates which generate substantial sales revenues from the UK
Hitesh Dodhi,Superintendent Pharmacist at PharmacyOutlet.co.uk
With a focus on Brexit, housing and investment into digital infrastructure, it was disappointing to see a many healthcare issues overlooked in today’s Budget. The additional £2.8 billion of funding for the NHS in 2018-19 is a undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it falls short of the extra £4 billion NHS chief executive Simon Stevens says the organisation requires.
What’s more, the Budget lacked substance and specifics; it did little to progress digitalisation in the healthcare sector – an absolute must – while the opportunity to promote pharmacy to play a greater role in delivering front-line services to alleviate the burden on GPs and hospitals was also overlooked. These are both items that should feature prominently on the Government’s health agenda, but the Chancellor did little to address either in today’s announcement.
Jeremy Cooper, Head of Retail Crowe Clark Whitehill:
There is little in this Budget to bring cheer to the struggling retail sector.
The changes to bring future increases in business rates into line with the Consumer Price Index in 2018, two years earlier than previously proposed, is welcome, but is it enough for hard-stretched shop owners?
The National Living Wage will increase for workers of all ages, including apprentices, which is excellent news for lower paid employees. Retailers would not begrudge them this increase, but retail tends to have a higher proportion of lower paid employees and the impact on store profitability and hurdle rates for new stores should not be underestimated.
There is more positive news for DIY, home furnishings and related retailers in the form of the abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for first time house buyers. This should help stimulate the first time buyer market and free up the wider housing market which in turn should boost retail sales for DIY and home furnishings retailers from buyers decorating and furnishing their new homes.
Paresh Raja, CEO of bridging specialist MFS
After an underwhelming Spring Budget that completely overlooked the property market, this time around the Chancellor has at least announced some reforms that will benefit homebuyers. While stamp duty has been cut for first-time homebuyers, the amount of money this will save prospective buyers is in reality still limited – the average first-time buyer spends £200,000 on a property; abolishing stamp duty for them will save them just £1,500.
Importantly, homeowners looking to upgrade to another property still face the heavy financial burden of stamp duty, which will ultimately deter them from moving house. I fear this will have significant implications in the longer term, decreasing the number of people moving from their first property purchase, and thereby reducing the number of properties available for first-time homebuyers, and reducing movement in the market as a whole.
Fareed Nabir, CEO and founder of LetBritain
“Having acknowledged the growing number of Brits stuck in rental accommodation, it’s pleasing to see the Government deliver a Budget heavily geared towards the lettings market. With 7.2 million households likely to be in the rental market by 2025, the Chancellor has seized the opportunity to continue with the recent wave of reforms by offering tax incentives for landlords guaranteeing tenancies of at least 12 months. This should hopefully have a trickle-down effect on rental prices, offering more financial manoeuvrability for tenants saving to buy their own house – something the Chancellor has made easier – while also providing additional security for renters.”
Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP
We should to see house price increases almost immediately on the back of this announcement. His commitment to building an extra 300,000 homes a year is not going to happen until 2020s, so this measure could lead to market overheating in the meantime.
The removal of indexation allowance will come as a further blow to buy-to-let landlords, many of whom have been transferring their portfolios into companies since interest the restriction rules were introduced. This will mean paying more tax on the future sale of properties.
Now that all sales of UK investment property by non-residents after April 2019 will be subject to UK tax, it effectively means one of the incentives to invest in UK property by non-residents has been removed.
Jason Harris-Cohen, founder of Open Property Group
There was a lot of speculation before the Budget that the Chancellor would reduce or temporarily suspend stamp duty for first-time buyers, in a bid to help young people get on the property ladder. What we got was the complete abolishment of the tax on first-time house purchases of up to £300,000, effective from today, and in London and other expensive areas, the first £300,000 of the cost of a £500,000 purchase by first-time buyers will be exempt from stamp duty. This is arguably the biggest talking point of today’s announcement and as the Chancellor says will go a long was to "reviving the dream of home ownership".
It was equally refreshing to hear that the Government is committed to increasing the housing supply by boosting construction skills and they envisage building 300,000 net additional homes a year on average by the mid-2020s. However, I was surprised that local authorities will be able to charge 100% premium on council tax on empty properties, though I appreciate that this is a further stimulus to free up properties sitting empty and bring them back to the open market to increase supply. Conversely this could result in falling house prices if there is further supply and lower demand following a period of political and economic uncertainty.
What was disappointing, however, was the absence of any mention to reverse the stamp duty change that were introduced in 2016 for buy-to-let and second homes, which is currently deterring people from investing in the private rented sector. The longer it is around the more of a knock on effect it will have on the growing homelessness crisis, a problem the Government plans to eliminate by 2027 - a bold statement from Mr Hammond!
We’d love to hear more of Your Thoughts on Phillip Hammond’s Autumn Budget. Will it benefit Britain and will the reduced growth forecasts have an impact? Let us know by commenting below.
From diesel tax penalties and calls to rule out a further rise in insurance premium tax, to housing ambitions and planning laws, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has faced a lot of pressure this week, ahead of the announcement due tomorrow.
Below Finance Monthly has heard from a number of source in the industry on what they expect, predict and would like to see come from the announcement, in this week’s Your Thoughts.
Adam Chester, Head of Economics, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking:
Tomorrow’s budget will have to strike a difficult balance. Improvements to the public finances had given some room to ease policy, but that will be squeezed when the Office for Budget Responsibility revises down its growth forecasts on Wednesday.
The commitment to reducing the so-called structural budget deficit to below two% of national income by 2020-21, gives us a framework to assess how much room there is for any giveaways.
At the March Budget, the structural deficit was forecast to undershoot the two% target by £26bn. It’s now set to fall £6-8bn short of the March forecast, mainly due to stronger-than-expected tax receipts.
However, the OBR warned it will dial down its productivity forecasts, and we estimate a 0.4% downward revision would increase the structural budget deficit by around £15-£20bn.
On top of this, new funds are being sought for areas including Northern Ireland, public sector pay and the NHS, which would likely mean breaching the two% cap.
However, we suspect any available wiggle room would be used to fund a modest fiscal giveaway in order to keep borrowing and debt projections on track.
Matthew Walters, Head of Consultancy & Data Services, LeasePlan UK:
Fleets have been subjected to a lot of change in 2017. April saw the introduction of a new Vehicle Excise Duty system and new rules for Optional Remuneration Arrangements. July saw the publication of the Air Quality Plan, with its promise of Clean Air Zones around the country. And now it’s the turn of the Chancellor’s first Autumn Budget.
This Budget cannot add to the uncertainty facing fleets and motorists. In fact, it should provide clarity. The Chancellor must take the opportunity to reveal the rates of Fuel Duty for next year, as well as the rates of Company Car Tax for 2021-22 – and preferably beyond.
We’d like to see the Chancellor maintaining the freeze on Fuel Duty rates for another year – or perhaps even cutting them for the first time since 2011.
In addition, the UK Government is working hard to encourage the uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). We will have to see what incentives the Chancellor has up his sleeve.
Stephen Ward, Director of strategy, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC):
An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but purchasing that castle, family home or two bed flat is an archaic process that needs to be updated. The conveyancing market has never been in more need of attention and next Wednesday’s autumn budget presents Philip Hammond with a real opportunity to let the genie out of the lamp and demonstrate a real commitment to innovation in the property transfer process. We have three wishes for next week, namely:
James Hender, Partner, Saffery Champness:
Stagnating productivity means that any rabbits which the Chancellor wishes to pull out of his budget hat are not looking too healthy. OBR forecasts have eaten into the £26bn headroom the Chancellor thought he had, and though the expectation may be that Mr Hammond will spend to win some political capital, any tax gift will come at a price, and is likely to be subsidised at someone else’s expense.
The government is arguably stuck between a rock and a hard place on corporation tax. A fine balance will need to be struck between ensuring the UK demonstrates that it is open for global business, and being publicly seen to tackle any perception of big business not paying its way.
In this climate, the 2020 commitment to 17% Corporation Tax may be looked at again, and we can certainly expect rhetoric, if not concrete action, to further reinforce the government’s position in taking a central role on international tax transparency and anti-avoidance.
On appealing to younger voters: This is perhaps one of the most politically-charged Budgets of recent years, with many predicting that the Chancellor will use the occasion to try and appeal to a younger generation of votes. If Phillip Hammond is as bold as some have called for him to be, the implications of this political move on taxpayers could be significant.
Michael Marks, CEO, Smoothwall:
After Philip Hammond’s pledge in last year’s Autumn Statement to invest £1.9bn in cybersecurity, we can expect further funding (or at least reference) to this issue as the cybersecurity landscape heats up. Following a year that included the biggest cyberattack on the NHS and the Petya malware attack across the continent, cyber security needs to be an absolute priority for investment; without extra funding and protection, the Government risks undoing a lot of the hard work. So far, the near £2bn cyber windfall doesn’t seem to have had quite the desired impact.
Along with cyber security, I would like to see continued investment in the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). It’s thought that the EIS investment may be reduced from 30% to 20%, thereby reducing entrepreneurial growth, and the UK could suffer consequently in the long term. As a country with a great track record of innovation, reducing investment in this scheme will have a detrimental impact on driving technology and business growth at a time when we need more people to ‘take that step’.
Stuart Weekes, Tax Partner, Crowe Clark Whitehill:
We would welcome a simplification of the rules and the removal of one of the two sets of Patent Box incentive rules as part of tomorrow’s announcements.
Very few companies are taking advantage of Patent Box incentives, which tax the profits from patented products at 10%, a nine-percentage point discount on the current 19% rate of tax. Many companies do not know about this and, for those that do, the complexity of the legislation has been a major barrier to making a claim. Once the UK exits the EU, will the government improve the benefit of the Patent Box, especially as the UK Corporation Tax rate will drop to 17%, making the margin for the Patent Box less attractive than it might otherwise be? Will this prompt a cut in the applicable Patent Box tax rate from 10% to 8%?
Chris Wood, CEO, Develop Training:
The UK Government has recently published an independent review concerning the increasing applications for artificial intelligence (AI). Its recommendations focus largely on the provision and development of training and education in academia and for master-level and PhD students. Support is recommended for organisations such as, and amongst other, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Alan Turing Institute, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. AI is likely however not only to influence academia but, over the next 10-30 years, affect almost all of the current activities we perform at work and at home.
The current skills shortage, felt most keenly in the utilities, construction and engineering sectors is the end-result of under-investment on the part of both government and industry over the last 30-40 years. It is inconceivable, and somewhat terrifying, that this will continue into the mid-21st century particularly against a backdrop of such monumental change. Therefore the 2017 budget should include provision not only for a greater understanding of AI from an academically-driven research perspective but also from that of every individual. Children, school-leavers and those who will be in employment for the next 30-40 years must be educated in how AI is likely to affect their jobs, careers and lives. To achieve this the government would do well to establish a national institute for the promotion, understanding and application of AI for the benefit of all.
Mark Palethorpe, CFO, Cox Powertrain:
There are Government incentives for small innovative businesses like ours, but the Patient Capital Review has promised to address the need to encourage long-term investment in step-change innovation. For some people, the investments required by smaller innovators are just too small to get excited about and, for others, investment levels are too big for the risk. You can get caught out whatever size you are. Results of the Patient Capital Review are expected to be announced as part of the Autumn Budget and we’d like to see more opportunities for investment in innovation. We’d welcome an increase in the cap that exists for tax relief investment schemes like EIS, which has worked really well for us but does limit the amount an individual company can invest.
Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director, the Institute of Economic Development:
For the good of the economy, in tomorrow’s announcement on the UK Autumn Budget we need clarity on the structures and budgets for elements of the Industrial Strategy; clarity on how Structural Funds will be replaced for regions and clarity on local authority funding – how the business rate retention mechanism and re-allocation system will work. Specifically, we are seeking commitments from the Chancellor to transport infrastructure that equalises expenditure per head between regions, greater recognition of the social care costs falling on local authorities and funding for state aid interventions for business. We also recognise that National Insurance contributions from employers need to be looked at – it is an important economic issue that variations in different types of employment contracts are allowing corporations to be avoiding contributions when the economy is at full employment. The tax take of the economy is increasingly disconnected from the level of activity.
Damian Kimmelman, CEO, DueDil:
The abnormally low level of interest rates could be weighing on productivity growth by allowing weak and highly indebted firms to survive for longer than they normally would, by alleviating the burden of servicing their debts. Better information is needed to identify these firms, understand their business and support those with potential.
We have seen the government put their full weight behind opening data initiatives, such as Open Defra, to huge effect. DueDil would like to see the government put their full weight behind Open Banking and ensure that all of the CMA 9 banks (and beyond) open up as much banking data as possible to stimulate innovation in financial services and put the UK at the fore-front of Open Banking globally.
The UKEF committee has pledged to continue supporting exports and export finance. More interestingly, they have pledged that they will digitalise and standardise the application and on boarding process for businesses applying for export financing. DueDil would like to see the government to fund a competition to build a solution that would support the digitalisation of UKEF, in order to ensure that SMEs can painlessly and efficiently access a market of export financing and to ensure the ongoing success of SMEs following Brexit.
William Newton, President & EMEA MD, WiredScore:
The UK has the largest digital economy of any G20 nation, but it is important that technological skills and innovation continue to be employed across a range of industries. The service sector, for example, currently accounts for the greatest share of hours worked at lower productivity levels in the UK. Therefore, digitising existing processes in this sector presents a massive opportunity to address this productivity concern.
If the Government is to enable increased productivity, it must ensure that the existing generation has the necessary skills to meet the demands of modern industry. We would like to see a policy on business rates incentives for organisations who can prove they are investing in their workforce's digital skills.
Earlier this year, the Government announced its intention to support business rate reliefs on new 5G Mobile and full fibre broadband in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill. This proposal was received favourably by network providers, and we are now witnessing commitments such as that made by Openreach chair Mike McTighe confirming a plan to bring fibre to 10 million premises before Christmas. As such, the impact of business rates incentives has already been shown to be successful in spearheading improvements to the country’s digital infrastructure. We now need to see digital skills getting the same treatment.
Katharine Lindley, Chartered Financial Planner, EQ Investors:
It could be a tricky Budget for the Chancellor with limited legislative time due to ongoing focus on Brexit. But first one of current Parliament so generally Chancellors like to increase taxes and hope people forget by the next general election. However, minority government makes controversial changes difficult:
Mark Tighe, CEO, Catax:
The UK’s reputation as a world leader in Research and Development is essential to the welfare of the British economy as the Brexit process gathers pace.
In order for these smaller firms to compete on the world stage they must be innovating - which can be expensive. As it stands, current R&D tax credit legislation allows SMEs to take the risk of developing a new product, service or process - without undue worry over the financial impact if it fails or is never used. This creates a fertile environment for businesses to experiment and grow and supports the economy moving forward.
Mrs May used her speech at the CBI earlier this month to call on business to innovate more. She’s absolutely right to do so. The key now is making sure Philip Hammond follows through and makes sure the Government properly supports the firms that do.
Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder, FreeAgent:
Assuming that the VAT threshold is lowered - as some reports are suggesting - a huge number of contractors, freelancers and micro-business owners would be faced with a significant new administrative and financial burden.
It’s very unfair to position freelancers and contractors as not being on a level playing field with those who are employed. These business owners have none of the employment rights or the security that employed workers have and there must be some recognition for that - unless the government wants to slow the growth of this very important part of the UK economy - representing more than 95% of the UK’s 5.5 million businesses.
We would like to see some positive news in the Budget for the micro-business sector; whether it’s new legislation to help them overcome the chronic issue of late payment, easier tax rules to navigate or simply recognition of the recent Taylor Review and the ongoing status of those working in the gig economy. Freelancers and micro-businesses play a huge role in our economy - it’s time the government started supporting them.
Steven Tebbutt, Tax Director, MHA MacIntyre Hudson:
There’s a growing expectation that Entrepreneurs’ Relief will be attacked as part of the Autumn Budget 2017, which will prove an unpopular move with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Such a change might appeal however to younger generations who feel that wealthy business owners shouldn’t benefit from such a generous tax saving measure.
The Government has already introduced “anti-phoenixing” rules to combat business owners abusing the relief by extracting profits through liquidation, only to resume the same business, sometimes multiple times or even ad infinitum. However, there remains a number of planning opportunities which the Government could still look to limit or close.
For example, it would be relatively simple for the Government to amend the legislation so that qualifying conditions have to be met for, say, five years, rather than the current one year which generally applies. This would immediately make it more difficult to structure disposals in advance of a sale to secure Entrepreneurs’ Relief, as business owners looking to sell would have far less opportunity for eleventh hour planning. Such a change would help ensure that only business owners meeting the conditions over a substantial period qualify for relief.
Robert Gordon, CEO, Hitachi Capital UK:
We know that clean air is on the agenda, as we have seen the Government proactively move towards legislation aimed at tackling the UK’s pollution problem, therefore we fully expect that tomorrow’s announcement will include some form of punitive measure towards diesel vehicles.
Growing uncertainty from consumers around the future of diesel vehicles has already fuelled a rapid decline in the market, with October sales falling by nearly a third compared to last year and any additional deterrent could prove to be decisive, in encouraging a phasing out of diesel vehicles altogether.
If this happens, the Government must be prepared to outline how it plans to fund the infrastructure improvements required, to give businesses and consumers the confidence to make the transition to vehicles powered by alternative fuels at a faster pace than we have seen to date.
Jonquil Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance, The Open University:
The Chancellor is expected to follow an Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) recommendation to reduce the VAT threshold, currently £85.000, possibly as low as £25,000. This must look tempting since it could bring up to £2 billion into the government coffers, sucking 1.5 million business minnows into the VAT system. Depending on whether traders can pass the tax on to customers and who their customers are, this extra tax will be paid partly by firms and partly by households through higher charges for their plumbers, builders, taxis and hairdressers.
Quite apart from paying the tax, HMRC has estimated the cost per business of dealing with the VAT admin is £675 a year. Moreover, if there is no change to the exemption level for Making Tax Digital, currently set at the VAT threshold, from April 2019 those small businesses will also suddenly find themselves sucked into mandatory quarterly digital accounting.
By extending the VAT base, cutting the threshold narrowly skates around the Conservative Manifesto promise not to raise the level of VAT. And, no doubt, it will be dressed up as a tax avoidance measure aimed at traders operating in the informal economy. But make no mistake: this will be a stealthy and substantial tax rise.
Martin Ewings, Director of Specialist Markets, Experis:
As we await the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget with anticipation, the focus must be on driving growth in key areas and ensuring the long-term economic prospects of a post-Brexit Britain. Increased infrastructure spending is expected to be one of the pillars of the budget, injecting regions around the country with much-needed jobs and investment. But we must have the skills in place if the nation is to deliver on such projects, both now and in decades to come. The recent announcement of £21m to boost regional tech hubs around the country is a positive step, but more needs to be done if we are to close the ever-widening skills gap.
Digital investment will be an important component of this, and new technologies could hold the key. Philip Hammond is poised to focus on AI (£75m investment), electric cars (£440m investment) and 5G (£160m investment), while also pledging £76m to improving digital and construction skills more widely. With so many different priorities, it’s important not to lose sight of nurturing future talent. The Cyber Discovery programme is a great example of what needs to be done. The £20m government initiative, announced on Saturday, will aim to encourage and inspire 15-18-year-olds to enter the cyber security industry via a comprehensive curriculum. There will be three million unfilled jobs in cyber-security by 2021, but investing in programmes like this could go a long way to help ministers and businesses plug the UK skills gap, both now and in the future.
Craig Harman, Tax Specialist, Perrys Chartered Accountants:
Following the introduction of the help to buy ISA, first time buyers could once again be one of the winners from the budget as the chancellor is expected to announce changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax. This could include either a reduction in the rate for first time buyers or even a ‘holiday’ period providing a complete exemption for those able to benefit. It has even been suggested that there could be a fundamental overhaul by making the seller liable for Stamp Duty instead of the purchaser. This would benefit any individuals moving to a more valuable property as the liability would be based on the lower value of their current home.
Tax relief on pensions has been a bit of an easy target over the past few years with both the annual and lifetime allowance significantly reduced. It is likely that we will see a further cut in the tax relief available on funding for retirement. Some have even suggested a complete change to an ‘ISA’ like system, however this may be a step too far.
Individuals with significant dividend income have been penalised heavily over the past couple of years and this may be set to continue with many predicting either a cut in the tax-free dividend allowance or an increase in the tax rate.
Aziz Rahman, Founder, Rahman Ravelli:
The Paradise Papers have placed the issue of non-payment of tax back on the news agenda at a time when the Chancellor is announcing his tax priorities.
A large part of the Chancellor’s job is to assess and determine what taxation can be brought in from business. And in the current climate, everyone in business is under scrutiny to ensure they are paying what they should. This scrutiny can only increase if new or heavier taxes are announced tomorrow.
This may seem alarmist. But the Criminal Finances Act, which only came into effect two months ago, makes companies criminally liable if they fail to prevent tax evasion by anyone working for them; even if they were unaware it was happening. They can face unlimited penalties.
If businesses are to avoid prosecution, they must be able to show they had reasonable measures in place to prevent such wrongdoing. To ensure this is the case, they must review their practices and procedures to minimise risks.
This means ensuring staff are aware of the legislation regarding tax offences, having procedures in place for monitoring workplace activity and introducing procedures so that suspicions of wrongdoing can be reported in confidence.
The government is under huge pressure to tackle the non-payment of tax. At a time when the government is outlining its tax priorities, it would be foolish for those in business to fail to make sure their tax affairs are legal and above board.
We would also love to hear more of Your Thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below and tell us what you think!
Below David McDonnell, VAT Director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson provides insight into the question, Is HMRC set to tackle the VAT cliff edge?
HMRC could be on the verge of making far reaching changes to the VAT system. The UK has far and away the highest VAT registration threshold of all EU Member States at £85,000. This is more than four times the EU average of £20,000 and a stark contrast to countries like Italy, Spain and Sweden where there’s no threshold whatsoever and VAT registration is effectively compulsory.
The high UK threshold relieves the administrative burden of VAT compliance for small businesses. It also creates very real net savings in not having to charge and account for VAT on income. However, this in itself can cause a problem. Although many small and start-up business begin life outside the VAT “net”, as they grow they will likely need to register. They must then decide whether they can pass the VAT cost on as part of their existing pricing structure, or whether it needs to be adsorbed. This is the VAT “cliff edge” – one day your income is all your own and the next a sizeable chunk is payable across to HMRC.
One of findings of a review by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) was that, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are a large number of business “bunched” just below the VAT registration threshold, with a significant fall off in businesses trading just above the threshold. The review stopped short of making firm recommendations to address this, but options include dramatically increasing the threshold to take more businesses out of the VAT net. This obviously reduces Treasury revenues, so much more likely is a dramatic reduction in the threshold, bringing it in line with the EU norm, tipping more businesses over the VAT cliff edge and generating more money for Treasury coffers.
The OTS also made suggestions to “smooth” current VAT registration issues, including a tiered system of registration and changes to the administrative process. It’s difficult to see how these options would achieve anything other than add further layers of complexity and confusion, flying in the face of the stated aim to simplify taxes across the board.
Which way will the Government jump? In the challenging pre-Brexit environment they may decide to keep the status quo, for now at least. But the issue is now firmly on the agenda and we shouldn’t be surprised if the Chancellor acts quickly to shake things up.
(Source: MHA MacIntyre Hudson)