Budgets probably don’t win or lose elections on their own – but in an election year, the Chancellor surely has one eye on the polls. George Osborne promised there would be no gimmicks and no irresponsible giveaways: he would concentrate on the Government’s long-term aim of reducing the deficit, rather than attempting to fool the public with a short-term bribe.
The speech to the Commons was over in about an hour, which is the usual length these days. That concealed an enormous list of proposals, some large, some small, some imminent, some distant: these are described in more or less detail in the Treasury’s Red Book, available on the Government website the moment the Chancellor sits down. One thing at least is apparent: if Mr Osborne is not returned to office on 7 May, his successor will have a great deal of work in unpicking his plans. Some things may survive because they would have cross-party support; some because they are too difficult to change. But the measures in this Budget come with a warning – many of them are dependent on the election result.
This booklet summarises the most significant tax changes and outlines their likely impact on the average taxpayer. There is too much in the Red Book: the extension to Business Rates Relief has already been announced, the announcement of a consultation on deeds of variation is so vague there is nothing much to report, the 'diverted profits tax' applies only to multinational businesses – all are important, but it is impossible to cover everything here.
One of the most striking announcements, trailed in advance in the press, was the 'abolition of tax returns'. At face value, that could be a vote-winner – but it is not at all clear what will replace them. We can be quite sure that Mr Osborne does not intend to abolish tax, and the collection of tax requires communication with taxpayers. We are told that everyone will have, by the end of the next Parliament, a 'digital tax account'. It seems likely that this will be used to send information to HM Revenue & Customs, and that will form the basis for tax liabilities – it is hard to see how that is not a 'tax return'.
We will have to wait and see what form our responsibilities will take over the next few years, whether they are shaped by this Budget or by the alternative plans of a different party. Whatever happens, we will be ready to offer help and advice.
- No new major changes announced for April 2015
- Increases in allowances announced for 2016 and 2017
- More flexibility for ISA withdrawal and reinvestment later in 2015
- New 'Help to Buy' ISA to be introduced later in 2015
- Requirement to file annual tax return to be replaced by 'digital tax account' over life of next Parliament
- More flexible rules for drawing defined contribution pensions to commence 6 April 2015, as previously announced
- Lifetime allowance for tax-advantaged pension funds cut to £1m in April 2016
- Relaxation of tax on sale of pension annuity for a capital sum from April 2016
- Farmers allowed to average profits over 5 years instead of 2 from April 2016
- Big increases in Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings in April 2015
- Increases in tax charges for foreign domiciled individuals opting to use the remittance basis from 2015/16