"In making his Budget speech as the Chancellor of a majority Conservative government, George Osborne managed to delight many. The introduction of a living wage, together with a bolder increase in the personal tax allowance, will go a long way to mitigating the effects of benefit reduction for those in work.
"However, much of the detail highlights some of the ways in which the costs of these measures will be met.
“Osborne is a clever politician and he knew that he had to ensure that welfare cuts, signposted before the election were introduced in a way that doesn’t look to be penalising working people. The introduction of a living wage and the increase in personal allowance goes some way to compensate and mitigate against this.
"It is worth remembering that whilst the minimum wage will become tax free, it will still incur National Insurance Contributions (where employees start paying NICs at around £8,000 per annum). Similarly, whilst increases in the threshold at which higher (40%) rate tax is paid are welcome, this doesn't change the threshold for additional NIC charges and the increase in the Employment Allowance (from £2,000 to £3,000) is worth just £1000 in total per business.
"We have called for the Office of tax Simplification (OTS) to be put on a permanent, statutory footing so we are delighted that the Chancellor has confirmed he will do this. Setting up the OTS five years ago was a bold move and we welcome its continuation. Grant Thornton has called for a radical new work programme for tax simplification, including alignment of income tax and National Insurance – and we are therefore also delighted that this will be one of the first new projects for the OTS, together with a review of how to create a simpler tax regime for small firms.
"On Corporation Tax, the measures announced will assist many that are within the scope of tax. The permanency of the Annual Investment Allowance will mean that many smaller and medium sized companies will reduce their profits liable to corporate tax. Yet it's not all good news with the change in the Quarterly Instalment Payments regime to require earlier payment This will apply where a company (or group of companies) has profits of over £20m per annum and in these cases, tax will have to be paid on account once this threshold is breached. If the limit is an increase from the current level of £1.5m of profit per year it will be welcomed. It is unclear if that is the case but it seems unlikely. Draft legislation will be published in the Autumn.
"We also welcome the encouragement of investment in skills, especially apprenticeships, although the question remains whether a regulated approach is the right way forward. In any event, we need to understand what 'large' is in the context of a levy on companies to provide apprenticeships.
"Export performance was notable by its absence. The Office of Budget Responsibility has revised its export forecast downwards. Although the Chancellor mentioned exports at the outset, there was no mention of detailed measures to boost our performance – something vital for the UK's growth prospects.
“Overall, the Budget added costs and complexity for business, balanced with some moves towards tax simplification. The bold move of introducing a national living wage was not matched with a bold position on tax simplification. But we are yet to get the full picture – Friday’s productivity report will be key.
"This budget also takes a lot of cash out of the hands of consumers. Given the reliance of the UK economy on consumption, and with uncertainty in Europe and in far eastern economies, the Chancellor may have been better off allowing more to keep a greater amount of cash in their pockets."