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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 18:54 GMT
Q&A: The pre-Budget report and you
What does it mean for me?
Good and bad news for taxpayers
The chancellor was characteristically upbeat about the state of the British economy, and may not be losing sleep over it, but will you? BBC News Online unpicks his pre-Budget statement - and tells you what it will mean for childcare, pension and tax credits.

I'm on tax credits. Will I get any additional help?

Probably yes.

The chancellor is pumping an extra 1bn into tax credits, his pet project.

Families with children who receive the Child Tax Credit could benefit.

The amount someone may get could rise by as much as 3.50 a week or 180 a year.

However, not all will benefit as some elements of both the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are being frozen at this year's rates.

What about my pension?

It is bad news for those pensioners who want their basic state pensions restored to the earnings link.

The chancellor has once again ruled out restoring the link, which ensures the state pension keeps up with the rate at which salaries are rising.

He says it would be too expensive, and it would increase deficits by 3% a year, which would undermine stability.

But there could be some better news for executives who are worried about a tax cap on their pension savings.

The chancellor said he was deferring a decision on creating a 1.4m cap on pension savings.

He has asked the National Audit Office to review the consequences of the proposals.

Under the original concept any savings above this cap would be taxed at 60%.

However, an Inland Revenue paper published to coincide with the pre-Budget report suggests this charge should be reduced to 55%.

He also plans to simplify the tax rules on pension investing, offer more flexible annuities and make it easier for people to combine work and retirement.

As previously announced the minimum age at which a worker can retire will rise from 50 to 55 in 2010.

I'm a small business owner?

Buried in the small-print of the pre-Budget report could be one of the most significant tax proposals for many years accountants say.

It could mean significantly bigger income tax and national insurance bills for small business owners.

The Treasury says it wants to ensure the "right amount of tax" is paid on the "profits extracted" from small owner-managed companies.

It believes that some companies are taking advantage of generous provisions, which allow firms to avoid paying NI on dividend payments.

The Treasury says it will be having an "open consultation" on the proposals.

The Federation of Small Businesses told BBC News Online any changes could potentially affect 300,000 businesses.

I spend nearly all my income on my childcare. Will I benefit?

All employer-supported childcare, not just childcare in work-based nurseries will now qualify for National Insurance (NI) and income tax relief.

But the government is sticking to its original proposal to cap the tax and NI limit at 50 a week.

This is well below the typical cost of 128 a week for a nursery place - and will disappoint many people.

Parents who are already benefiting from employer help could end up paying more national insurance and tax because any excess above the 50 exemption would be subject to NI.

Some also fear that more complexity and extra costs could stop employers providing childcare.

More employers will pay NI on childcare above the 50 limit.

It is understood the 50 limit won't apply to workplace nurseries.

What about booze and fags?

No announcements about cigarettes, wine or beer yet, but possibly an extra tipple for spirits drinkers.

Pending an agreement with the industry to crackdown on illegal imports, the government plans to freeze duty for another few years - well, at least until the end of the parliament.

What about income tax. Will my pay-packet be smaller?

Not immediately.

There were widespread worries personal tax-free allowances would be frozen for another year, thereby pushing more people into higher tax bands.

However, they will go up next year in line with inflation.

Pensioners will have their tax allowances linked to earnings, rather than prices, a boost for them.

Are there any other ways I may be taxed?

Wealthy families who use trusts to shelter assets from tax will have to give more to the taxman.

The rate of tax charged on income and gains within a trust has been set at 34% for many years.

The chancellor has now announced an unexpected increase to 40%.

What about cars and vans?

It is good news for company van drivers.

The government was expected to announce changes to the taxation of company vans.

The Inland Revenue currently classes company cars and vans differently. Cars are heavily taxed, while vans get off more lightly.

However, it is putting off its decision until Budget 2004.

Another move may anger motorists, though.

Some people have spent thousands of pounds converting their cars to Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), but it now plans to "gradually increase the duty rate for LPG over the next three years".




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