Autumn Statement: A missed opportunity, as Chancellor delivers a series of safe measures

Kelly Greig, Partner and Head of Estate Planning and Tax at Bournemouth-based law firm, Steele Raymond, sets out her reaction to the Autumn Statement:

“When Chancellor Jeremy Hunt took to the stand, he announced that he arrived with ‘good news’. Given the numerous leaks and earlier announcements – which have now become customary in the lead up to his delivery – it was believed that there would be few surprises, which turned out, in the main part to be true.

“Contrary to what we’d expected and dare-say hoped for, today’s announcements resulted in a ‘safe budget’.  The Chancellor had the opportunity to go further, and faster, but he did neither.

“Instead, he set out measures that will continue to support employees, self-employed, those looking to get into work and businesses seeking growth.

“We welcome his pledge to reduce the rate of employee’s National Insurance (NI) contributions to 10% and scrapping the class 2 NI contributions for self-employed, alongside reducing the class 4 NI contributions to 8%.  These measures will undoubtedly support individuals as they continue to grapple with the cost-of-living crisis.

“Likewise, increasing the national living wage to £11.44 per hour, extending Universal Credit and increasing the state pension by 8.5% all contributed to this budget being a ‘safe’ list of measures, in the run-up to an election year.

“There was also welcome news for businesses, as the Chancellor announced a permanent extension for the ‘full expensing’ tax break, allowing companies to deduct spending on new machinery and equipment directly from profits.   In a bid to continue to support businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality, the 75% business rates discount will be extended by a further year.

“Covid has proved to many employers that work can be delivered just as effectively from home, as it can in a workplace.  Recognising this, the Chancellor announced that he would reform the Work Capacity Assessment, to reflect this shift and mandate employers to offer working from home arrangements, as part of the assessment.

“In the pipeline, but still for consultation, is forcing new employers to pay employer pension contributions into existing pension pots, which will simplify the process and ease the administration burden on employees.

“Billed by the Chancellor as an Autumn Statement for growth, I feel that he’s tinkered with several measures, to appease voters, but has missed an opportunity to go much further to make significant improvements for individuals and businesses alike.”

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