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A Budget aimed at neutralising political opposition has been neutral for business

Jonathan Riley, Head of Tax, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:

"Today’s Budget speech, George Osborne’s last before the Election, was primarily aimed at neutralising claims from the main opposition parties that the Conservatives aimed to take public spending back to levels last seen in the 1930s.  Osborne’s focus was on at least denting, if not demolishing this claim. And at the same time knocking opposition taunts of helping the rich, not balancing recovery amongst the many.  He also sought to defuse Labour’s plan to reduce student tuition fees – a proposal by Labour which actually helps those who would be best placed to repay.

“From a business perspective, especially those dynamic mid-market businesses, the Budget was regrettably neutral.  Yes, announcements from the Autumn Statement around National Insurance contributions for the younger workforce and apprentices were confirmed. And decisions around maintaining the Annual Investment Allowance at its higher level of £500,000 per annum were delayed until the Autumn Statement later this year.  There were also tweaks to assistance from UKTI on exports.  And the long awaited review of Business Rates is to be welcomed as well. But overall, many measures that could really liberate growth amongst the mid-market were put off. 

“The news of the abolition of the income tax return is very welcome.  But many will still need help to navigate the reams of legislation that still exists.  And what about companies?  Many smaller and mid-sized businesses will still need an annual accounts audit and effectively a separate tax audit for their corporate tax returns.  What about abolishing one of those?

“Whoever forms the government after the next election needs to act quickly in their first Budget, to stimulate exports, encourage further investment in innovation and skills, and critically simplify the tax regimes we operate within, for example a move towards harmonising the starting point for National Insurance contributions with that for income tax – a measure that would take many lower paid out of all taxes.”