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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Q&A: How does it affect you?

This year's Budget emphasised the UK's economic strengths of low inflation and low interest rates. But beyond the Chancellor's growth forecasts, how will his measures affect individuals, from the size of their pay packet to the cost of a pint?

Will my pay packet be smaller?

The chancellor has frozen the 4,615 personal allowance for under 65s.

This is a stealth tax of sorts, because the amount people would have hoped to have earned tax free is effectively not rising with inflation.

The chancellor does not appear to have frozen the tax bands, which is better news for taxpayers.

However, these bands have increased by only 1.7%, which is below most people's annual salary increases, and means taxpayers are effectively being caught for more tax.

This is a continuation of a trend which has seen 50% more people paying tax at the higher rate of 40% than five years ago.

In addition, all workers will see their pay packets reduced this month, following the 1% national insurance rise, introduced on 6 April.

People who are concerned about passing on a big inheritance tax bill to their families were not given a reprieve.

The chancellor announced only a nominal increase in the threshold of 250,000 to 255,000 at which point estates incur 40% tax.

And, there is worse news for people who do not file their tax returns, and use offshore bank accounts.

The government is putting an additional 66m over the next three years into cracking down on tax avoidance, in an attempt to generate additional revenue of 1.6bn.

What about booze and fags?

If you are a smoker, you will be hit by another - now predictable - increase in duty.

The chancellor has levied an extra eight pence on a packet of cigarettes.

This is an increase on top of the six pence increase in the 2002 Budget.

Last year, the chancellor had frozen duty on beer, spirits and wine - and cut cider duty by 2%.

This year, he is not so generous.

From Monday, the price of a pint of beer will go up by 1p, while a bottle of wine will cost 4 pence more.

Duty on cider will be frozen and duty on sparkling wine - a big bone of contention for producers in the UK - has also been frozen.

While the chancellor announced the sixth successive duty freeze for spirits.

I've got children. Do I get any additional help?

The chancellor resurrected his long-held plans for a Child Trust Fund.

A child trust fund will be created for every child born since September 2002, and the move will benefit the about 700,000 babies born each year.

Each child will be given at least 250, or 500 for the poorest one-third of children, the chancellor said.

He also said additional payments would be made while children were in primary and secondary school.

Parents and grandparents will also be able to contribute to the up to 1,000 a year to the fund.

The government will publish further details on the fund in the summer.

I'm a pensioner. What was in it for me?

Pensioners over the age of 80 will receive an extra 100 a year.

This is on top of the 200 a year they receive as a winter fuel payment, which is given to men and women over the age of 60.

In a move which will be welcomed by pensioner groups, the chancellor announced pensioners would no longer be penalised for staying in hospital.

Under the current system, pensioners see their state pension cut by 28.30 each week for each week they stay in hospital beyond a six-week stay.

The government had planned to change the six week threshold to 13 weeks from October, but it is now being extended for much longer - to at least 52 weeks.

I am looking for work - do I get any additional help?

One of the chancellor's pet themes is to make work pay and encourage people back into work.

Gordon Brown announced a number of new incentives to help lone parents, and next April new housing benefit rules will be introduced.

Among them is a new housing "benefit disregard" for people who work part-time or more than 16 hours a week.

From April 2004, claims will disregard the first 11.90 of income for tenants eligible for the Working Tax Credit, and the claims process will be simplified.

I want to buy a house. Will I be worse off?

Homebuyers will be cheered by the chancellor's decision to freeze stamp duty on homes, as some had feared he may introduced a new higher rate.

He also opened a big debate on the future of the UK housing market and mortgages, in particular, fixed-rate mortgages.

"Housing finance needs to become more certain and planning more flexible," he said.

Kate Barker, formerly of the CBI, will look into reducing barriers to housing supply.

The Treasury had already announced it was looking into Islamic mortgages and, in particular, the excessive stamp duty which must be paid for the deal to be compliant with Muslim law.

The chancellor said it was now seeking to abolish these double stamp duty payments.

And has the chancellor clobbered motorists yet again?

Vehicle excise duty rates for lorries and for motorcycles have been frozen.

Owners of the most environmentally friendly cars, meanwhile, can bank on a new lower rate of vehicle excise duty of 55 a year.

Excise duty on cars and vans will rise by 5.

And the annual rise in petrol prices has been put on ice for now.

The decision to increase fuel duty by an extra 1.28 pence on a litre would be delayed for six months, until 1 October.

If the current "international uncertainties and volatility" remain, however, duty may not increase at all this year, the chancellor said.




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