Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pre-Budget report: Uncovering the hidden tax rises

By Anne Redston,
Professor of Tax Law at King's College, London

Shopper with purse
Some people will have less money in their purse

This budget introduced penal taxes on bankers' bonuses - these will now cost banks more than 100% of the payment. However, the real pain is elsewhere.

From 2011, those with earnings above £20,000 a year face higher National Insurance contributions, the equivalent to an extra 1% rise in the basic rate of tax.

For those on less than £20,000, other changes operate to reduce the increase to 0.5%.

The message for businesses is mixed.

VAT rates are back up from 1 January and employer National Insurance contributions - effectively a levy on employment - also increase by 1% from 2011.

The only bright spot is that small business taxes have been frozen for the second year in a row, at 21% rather than the expected 22%.

Targeting evasion...

National Insurance up by a further 0.5% from April 2011
Economy to shrink by worse than expected 4.75% this year
New 50% tax on banker bonuses
Household boiler scrappage scheme
1p rise in corporation tax for small firms scrapped
Tax rebates for electric cars and wind turbines
Bingo duty falls from 22% to 20%
State pension to rise by 2.5% next year
More help for young unemployed

Tax avoidance and evasion are big targets, with the maximum penalty for under-declared tax to be doubled, to 200% of the tax.

This means that deliberately hiding money from the taxman will be very expensive - he'll want the tax, and then twice the tax on top, plus interest on the tax.

On the same theme, there are dozens of specific anti-avoidance measures.

Most of these are targeted at specific schemes and will affect relatively few people.

One which may have a wider impact is the crackdown on salary sacrifice schemes that relate to staff canteens, where people swap wages for free or cheaper meals in their workplace restaurants.

Businesses who have introduced this as part of a flexible benefits scheme should review their position.

...and the well off

There is also a nasty surprise for the rich.

In the March budget, those with earnings of more than £150,000 were told that their pension contributions would be capped at 20%, and anti-avoidance measures were put in place to prevent them making large contributions to their pension before the start date in 2011.

In the pre-Budget report, these anti-avoidance measures have been extended to those earning £130,000 or more. This measure is effective now.

And there is further bad news for those in many public sector pension schemes. Government contributions will be capped for higher earners.

Finally, the big picture.

The chancellor did little to reduce the real levels of UK debt, and is thus gambling on a general increase in the economy. It is fitting, therefore, that bingo was one beneficiary of this budget.

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