What has the Coalition ever done for us?
Filed under: The Budget
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Pension guru Ros Altmann highlighted the strange decision by the Chancellor to begin an "assault against hardworking middle class" pensioners. More importantly 4.5 million potential Tory voters will fall within the bracket of the age-related allowance freeze from April 2013 (£10,500 for those over 65 and £10,660 for those over 75). The average over-65 pensioner will now be £83 a year out of pocket. HMRC figures show that 360,000 pensioners aged 65 would lose £285.
The National Pension Fund Association (NAPF) pointed out that over the course of this Parliament, "pensioners stand to lose over £2bn in age-related tax allowance". Modest pension savers, already crippled by low interest rates, would be the biggest losers.
The wealthy pensioner would only really suffer if they wanted to flee the UK austerity years by selling their £2m retirement home which is now liable to a 7% stamp duty charge.
The state pension however will rise by £5.30 a week from next week, just in time to cover the 37p rise in a packet of cigarettes and the next hike in crude oil prices.
What will really hurt is that the Chancellor didn't tinker with cash ISA rules any further than the increased limit to £11,280 beginning on 6 April. These have become safe havens for the majority of elderly savers. George Osborne's Budget "rewards work" and business - so the retirement age will be reviewed and people will work longer. And not even a carriage clock to look forward to at the end.
Credit easing for the SME sector has been greeted with positive reactions. The £20bn will make a small impact though on the current economy as the majority of firms will still have to persuade those banks which have signed up to the deal to actually lend. The Federation for Small Business was quick to welcome the consultation on simplifying the tax and accounting regime for those firms under a turnover of £77,000. It said that 50% of small firms spend between five to eight hours a day trying to understand and then completing tax returns.
Cash accounting should be the answer. However that helps teachers and gardeners. What would help the majority of firms would be cheaper fuel but the Chancellor decided to side step the issue. Maybe the long-term plan to make 10 UK cities broadband centres of excellence is the beginning of the cyber super highway. White van man will soon be virtual van man.
Budget winners and losers
Scorecard: 8 out of 10
Those who lament the loss of the UK's heavy manufacturing and ship-building past will shudder at the thought that animated films and gun-toting gamers are the country's primary exports. It cannot be denied however we are very good at it.
TIGA, the association of the gaming industry, was delighted with the decision to offer tax relief to creative industries. Its CEO Dr Richard Wilson said the industry had fought a long relentless campaign to get recognition from the Treasury. "Like a boxer knocked down by his opponent, we refused to accept defeat and kept getting back in the ring," he added. The figures are impressive with the Games Tax Relief helping sustain 4,661 direct and indirect jobs; increasing the games sector's contribution to UK GDP by £283m; and generating a further £172m in new and protected tax receipts to the Exchequer.
Wallace and Gromit's creator Aardman Animations said the deal would be "transformational". More cheese anyone.
Ed Miliband turned on poor Calamity Clegg, sarcastically claiming that he was the only one duped into thinking a Tory Chancellor would tax the wealthy and give to the poor. Liam Byrne the shadow work and pensions minister made this observation: "About 14,000 millionaires in Britain will get a tax cut of £40,000. An average family with children will lose £253".
The Guardian's Patrick Collinson homed in on the reality of the cut, calculating that this was a budget for "Porsche dealers". Earners of £150,000 plus, roughly 300,000, will benefit from the 45p cut and a banker on £1m will save £42,500 a year in tax - enough for a new Porsche.
But at least the opportunity to establish an offshore shell company to buy new properties has been stopped. Phew.
Britain versus the rest of the world
Economists Fathom Consulting have pointed out that the US is dealing with its recession better than the UK. US output surpassed its pre-recession peak in in the third quarter of last year while the UK remains 4% below its previous peak.
Fathom suggests the Treasury should create a 'bad bank' to place all the toxic assets from the legacy of the financial crisis at "marked-to-market" prices. This would be funded by bond issuances with investment from more QE.
Pension fund managers however are still cold on the offer of 100 year gilts, believing 30, 40 and 50 years are more manageable timescales. GlaxoSmithKline's announcement that it would be building a £500m manufacturing facility in Cumbria, its first in the UK for 40 years, is a sign that the UK may be attractive again. And the OBR says we are on track to pay back the debt by the end of 2015.
Get the bunting out, and start singing the national anthem.