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Spring Budget Newsletter

  • Monday, March 8, 2021

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the ExchequerIt is less than a year since Rishi Sunak presented his first Budget, after having been in the role of Chancellor for less than a month. His despatch box première featured an allocation of £12bn towards mitigating the impact of the Covid-19. Ironically, on the same day as Mr Sunak revealed that boost to spending, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic. Total expenditure on dealing with the pandemic is now estimated to be around £300bn.

The March 2020 Budget was what should have emerged in the Autumn of the previous year, before being deferred because of the General Election. The March 2021 Budget is the result of a similar delay. Last September the Chancellor decided that the uncertainties created by the pandemic meant it wisest that he waited until Spring 2021 to present the Budget. Since then, Mr Sunak has been kept busy announcing extensions to the various Covid-19 support schemes introduced in 2020. Whether the Chancellor feels the economic outlook today is much clearer than six months ago is a moot point.

One financial aspect which has been painfully clear for some time is that the government’s finances have been fundamentally changed by the pandemic. A year ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast that the government would borrow around £55bn in 2020/21. Twelve months later its estimate has risen to £400bn. The coming year, 2021/22, should see borrowing more than halve according to the OBR, but the deficit is still projected to be running at over £160bn – more than three times the figure of just two years ago.

Dealing with this level of borrowing is probably not what Mr Sunak signed up for when he moved into 11 Downing Street. He now has to deal with total government debt of about £2,100bn, equal to the UK economic output for the year. The last time debt was as high was in the early 1960s, when the UK was still in the business of paying down the bills incurred in the World War II.

Despite the lack of red ink, Mr Sunak was never going to introduce significant tax increases in this Budget. For a start, nearly all economists, were saying that economic recovery was the priority and sorting out the debt could wait. Secondly, Mr Sunak’s boss, Boris Johnson, cannot even bring himself to mention the A-word (austerity) which would ruin his ‘levelling up’ agenda. As a result, the Budget was one of tax pain largely deferred.

The proposals of most interest were:

  • The addition of £70 to the personal allowance and £200 increase in the basic rate band, in line with indexation requirements. However, after 2021/22, the personal allowance and higher rate threshold (outside Scotland) will be frozen for four tax years.
  • The inheritance tax nil rate band, the pensions lifetime allowance and the capital gains tax annual exemption will all be frozen at their current levels for the next five tax years.
  • For companies with profits of over £250,000, in April 2023 the rate of corporation tax will jump by 6% to 25%. A new smaller companies’ rate of 19% for companies with profits of up to £50,000 will be introduced at the same time.
  • A new ‘super-deduction’ 130% first year allowance will be introduced for companies investing in plant and machinery between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023.
  • The temporary £500,000 0% band for stamp duty land tax will continue to apply for residential property purchases up to 30 June 2021. The band will then be halved for the following three months before reverting to its original £125,000 level from 1 October.
  • The coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS – furlough scheme) and the self-employed income support scheme will be extended to September, albeit with reductions in the final three months of their life.
  • The business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will also be extended. Until June 2021 100% relief will apply and thereafter reduced (and capped) 66% relief will operate until the end of March 2022.

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Chris Davies

Chris Davies

Chartered Financial Adviser

Chris is a Chartered Independent Financial Adviser and leads the investment team.