Reactions from around the UK business community
Low level of tax changes
“There are very substantial tax changes taking effect from April 2017, raising tax from companies, employers and public sector engagers of freelancers and from landlords,” says Garry Tetley, Tax Partner at Deloitte in Scotland.
“The flagship Making Tax Digital project will affect 5 million small businesses and landlords, starting from April 2018, with a one-year deferral for smaller businesses with sales or rent below the £83,000 VAT threshold.
“With this background, the Chancellor chose to focus mainly on increasing income tax/national insurance payable by the self-employed and those who provide their services through companies.
“Increasing Class 4 NIC (currently 9%) to 10% from April 2018 and 11% from April 2019 raises over £500 million and will cost individuals up to £720 pa in 2019. Cutting the dividend allowance from £5,000 to £2,000 from April 2018 will bring in over £800 million annually.
“The Chancellor also repeated that in summer/autumn he will release a consultation around all the issues of employment, self-employment and freelancers, following the Matthew Taylor review into working practices.
“This is one of the biggest issues for the UK economy as we see changing patterns of work.
“The key announcements and confirmations relevant to Scotland included:
“Confirmation that higher rate taxpayers in England and Wales will pay £400 less income tax than Scottish residents from April 2017 due to the higher rate threshold increasing to £45,000 in England and Wales, while it remains £43,000 in Scotland. The chancellor confirmed the intention to increase the threshold to £50,000 by 2020. However, in a break with usual practice, the income tax rates and bands for 2018/19 for outside Scotland were not announced today. Scottish taxpayers will, therefore, keenly await announcements from the Scottish Government on future higher rate thresholds.
“The Chancellor also announced a commitment to review how the tax system can be used to maximise the length and productivity of oil fields in the North Sea. While there was little detail, it is another step forward in the right direction for the industry.”
“While there was no further mention of the off payroll rules in the public sector in the budget speech, a policy paper published immediately afterwards suggests that the only change to the draft legislation is that it will be optional to take account of the contractor’s expenses when calculating the tax due, operating on the premise that contractors will be on the same basis as employees,” says Samantha Hurley, Operations Director at The Association of Staffing Companies (APSCo).
“Within this the government published an impact assessment with which we strongly disagree. It states that: ‘Affected businesses will incur one-off costs for familiarisation with the new rules’. In reality, costs will be on-going, which materially undermines the conclusions of this assessment.
“The government also states that ‘smaller agencies may be disproportionately affected by familiarisation costs if they provide workers to the public sector.’ Despite the fact that the Chancellor said today that he is ‘determined to make Britain the most attractive place to start up and grow a business’, the government actually admits that: ‘These costs to smaller agencies may be significant.
“We were disappointed that, despite press reports to the contrary, a Government review into how different workers are taxed failed to materialise. APSCo has been lobbying for a number of years for a complete review of tax and national insurance contributions for Personal Service Companies (PSCs) and the self-employed, rather than the ill-conceived bolt-on legislation such as the public sector off payroll rules.
“However, we eagerly await the results of the Matthew Taylor Review referenced by the Chancellor – and at which APSCo was invited to present evidence. We hope that the review will address the issue of differentiation between the professional and potentially vulnerable ends of the labour market, simplify employment status legislation and suggest a vehicle to allow professional contractors to work through whichever employment model they choose.
“However, we are very concerned that the Chancellor made clear that preliminary thoughts from the review suggest that the main drive for individuals to incorporate as companies is to maximise tax savings. In the professional sector this is simply not the case – these are bona fide business to business relationships where the individual has no guarantee of continuity of assignments, has genuine business risk and liability – and none of the benefits enjoyed by permanent employees.
“We welcome the T levels initiative and the commitment by Government to improving the technical skills base of UK PLC by getting young people into technical careers and improving the perception of their education – however our members would argue that the skills gap is very much here and now.”
“Today’s budget provides further evidence that small businesses remain the lifeblood of the UK economy,” says Jacyn Heavens, Epos Now, CEO.
“For many businesses, the three stages of tax relief outlined by Philip Hammond will act as lifeline for many and the discount on bill rates for 90% of UK pubs is essential to safeguard the future of pubs across the country.
“While these measures will provide some relief to the small business community, it is important that the government continues to focus on these businesses in favour of large corporations. To support this feeling, our research found that 92% of small businesses feel that the government favors larger enterprises over SMEs.
“Small Businesses entrepreneurial ideas and willingness to embrace innovation help fuel dynamic growth, which is why it’s so important that government continues to listens to their concerns and give them a chance to succeed.”
“UK beer drinkers, pubs and brewers have been let down by the Chancellor’s decision to increase beer duty for the first time in five years,” says Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman
“The announced two penny a pint increase marks a return to the days when the much-hated Beer Duty Escalator contributed to 75,000 job losses, 3,700 pub closures and a 24% fall in beer sales in pubs. The rise in beer duty will ultimately hit consumers in their pockets and lead to pub closures across the country.
“The government’s U-turn on beer duty is a real missed opportunity to support consumers. The UK still pays one of the highest rates of duty across Europe, only consuming around 12% of the beer yet paying nearly 40% of all beer duty in the EU. Further beer duty increases will lead to unsustainable price increases in pubs. The decision completely ignores the pressures that are being faced by the beer and pub sectors.”
“The news could have been worse for the self-employed,” claims Old Mutual Wealth pensions expert Jon Greer
“A small increase to 10% and then 11% will still see the self-employed paying a lower rate of national insurance than their employed peers. But the dividend allowance cut was a surprise and will be really unwelcome for business owners and investors, effectively reducing the amount you can take free of tax from their business by 60%.
“The measure will also undoubtedly prove controversial and attract criticism from those that believe it breaches the government’s pledge not to boost personal taxes.
“The number of self-employed people in the UK has risen steadily over the last two decades, and has accelerated significantly since the economic downturn in 2008.
“The most recent ONS figures show well over 4.5 million people are registered as self-employed and the growth in self-employment has made a substantial difference to employment figures and economic recovery since the financial crisis.
“But it is estimated an NICs cross-subsidy of around £5 billion exists the self-employed and employed. These concerns will have been exacerbated by the rise of the so-called ‘gig’ economy, with online platforms creating an increasingly flexible workforce with more opportunities to work for themselves.
“By updating the national insurance system, Hammond has guarded the government’s coffers against the risk of a growing tax gap, but stopped short of completely equalising national insurance for the self-employed.
“Reducing the tax-free dividend allowance from £5,000 to £2,000 for 2018 will impact people who have direct holdings over £50,000. This mean people will be With the ISA allowance increase to £20,000, people would be wise to maximise ISA contributions if they aren’t already doing so.
“Despite this double-whammy tax change, pitched as a measure to ensure ‘fairness’ for the employed, it should not be forgotten that while the self-employed currently enjoy a reduced rate of national insurance, they also miss out on sick pay, holiday entitlement and other perks enjoyed by those in employment. However, the Government will consult on changes to Parental benefits in the summer.
“Also, later this year the government will review the pension reforms, known as auto-enrolment, which ensure all employees save by default for their retirement. They benefit from tax-relief and pension contributions from their employer in the process. But the self-employed are currently excluded from the private pension system unless they make their own arrangements. Today’s news strengthens the case for the government to address this imbalance and ensure the self-employed enjoyed a comparable opportunity to save for their retirement.”
Tackling tax avoidance
“The government needs to think more carefully about the impact its anti-tax avoidance tools have on those individuals affected,” warns Andrew Tate, president of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.
“Tackling the abuse of the tax system is needed, but efforts to do so should not tar everyone with the same brush, while inflexibility can have disproportionate or unproductive outcomes. Attention should be given to how people can pay new tax demands, especially if their ‘avoidance’ is the result of a simple mistake, naivety, or poor advice.
“Penalties for tax avoidance won’t bring in extra money if people don’t have the money on hand to pay them.
“The receipt of an Accelerated Payment Notice (APN) can force people into bankruptcy if they have no means to pay the bill on demand. The government may need to be open to alternatives to bankruptcy, like IVAs, if people can’t pay bills when due.
“An understanding that not everyone who has been involved with, for example, a film scheme has been deliberately seeking to avoid tax would help. Some people have become involved in such schemes unwittingly or following what they believed to be professional and reliable advice.
“Businesses are also significant recipients of APNs, which can put jobs and livelihoods at risk.
In June 2016, 16% of respondents to an R3 member survey said they had offered advice to an individual who had received an Accelerated Payment Notice.
1.5% of respondents to the same survey said they had already been appointed as an Office Holder in an individual’s insolvency triggered by an Accelerated Payment Notice.
26% of respondents said they had offered advice to a business which had received an Accelerated Payment Notice.
12% said they had already been appointed as an Office Holder in a corporate insolvency triggered by an Accelerated Payment Notice.”