These are the items that the press focused on after George Osborne’s budget. In reality the effect of the first two will be rather minimal. It has been pointed out that in order to save a £1 you would need to drink 100 pints which I would suggest is significantly beyond the capacity of even the worst binge drinkers.
Whilst we applaud the Chancellors efforts to give people more opportunity and choices as to what to do with their own pensions the idea as it stands is so open to abuse that we cannot believe that either prior to or shortly after its implementation there will be a whole load of conditions introduced and “the devil will be in the detail”.
The previous Government was fond of producing large budgets the Finance Acts for which stretch to several volumes. This created an ongoing game with the tax profession who were constantly seeking the loopholes that this complexity caused in order to generate tax avoidance schemes. No sooner had they been found then the Government would try and introduce further legislation which would close them but would inevitably leave further gaps in the legislation. George Osborne has chosen to remove himself from this game and instead of focusing on the loopholes he has focused on the benefits of these schemes and is slowly but surely closing them down.
In a previous budget he limited the maximum loss that could be generated by these schemes to be set against ones taxation liabilities and in this budget he has gone one step further by denying relief for the scheme until it has been approved by the Courts rather than the current system whereby relief is instantaneous and only if the Courts prove that the scheme does not work does the tax have to then be paid which normally is in excess of five years later thereby providing the taxpayer with a relatively cheap form of finance. By focusing on minimising the benefits of tax schemes rather than focusing on whether they work or not George Osborne is slowly but surely suffocating the tax avoidance industry and in recent years a number of major players have already fallen out of the market and we would expect to see further reductions in the number of schemes available moving forward.
The Chancellor continued his policy of lifting the nil rate band beyond the level of inflation to take out more taxpayers from the system but we were also pleased to note that for the first time in several years he has also raised the rate at which the 40% tax rate commences so that higher rate taxpayers can also benefit from these changes as well.
One measure that will be of interest to higher net worth clients is the fact that the ISA limit will be significantly increased to £15,000 and that the whole amount can be put into a cash ISA rather than half the previous limit. This means that on an annual basis a couple can move £30,000 to a cash ISA which whilst at current interest rates will not provide a massive benefit if this were to be done on a consistent basis and interest rates were to rise this could prove to be of significant benefit in the long run.
The Chancellor also extended the child care support scheme although there were changes to be terms and we will need to look at it with clients on an individual basis to decide whether they are better to stay in the existing scheme or opt into the new one.
I suppose when the Chancellor sat down with his planners their starting brief was to design a budget which did very little but appeared to give away a lot and on initial review to some extent he has succeeded in that. Whether in the long run the changes turn out to be as significant as originally envisaged we will have to wait and see.