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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 14:47 GMT
Analysis: Brown gives with one hand...
Analysis
Anne Redston
Tax partner, Ernst & Young

Anne Redston

Giving with one hand and taking with another, this pre-Budget report sounded like good news - especially for children and small business - but the devil is always in the detail.

The good news is that families with children on low incomes will get a significant boost to their child tax credit payments from next year.

There is also new tax relief for employer-provided childcare - which will be a boost for some parents.

However, his announcement has a nasty sting in its tail.

In my opinion, the chancellor has swapped a generous and uncapped national insurance relief for a very paltry benefit.
The tax relief and national insurance relief is capped at 50 per employee per week.

This is very much less than the cost of childcare for one child, let alone a larger family.

In the past, employer provided childcare was entirely free of National Insurance (NI) contributions.

In my opinion, the chancellor has swapped a generous and uncapped national insurance relief for a very paltry benefit.

It is hard to see that this will actually produce more generous childcare provision by employers.

Low-income households can instead rely on the childcare tax credits they receive to pay for the cost of childcare.

Middle-income earners, however, may face increased NI bills and end up paying more for their childcare.

Light relief

The chancellor has once again indexed pensioners' tax allowances to earnings, rather than prices.

This was a Budget-like statement: full of complicated tax changes, which will have fundamental effects on businesses, individuals and pensioners.
This is more beneficial and helps to prevent them falling behind the rest of the population.

It is perhaps a small compensation for his determined refusal to index pensions to earnings, whereby the amount someone receives rises according to salaries.

For everybody else there is a small sigh of relief that other personal allowances will go up next year in line with inflation.

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

However, there is bad news for wealthy families who use trusts to shelter assets from tax.

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%.

Amateur landlords

As expected the Chancellor has announced that he will be consulting on the introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS).

These will allow individuals to invest in property without needing to buy and manage the properties themselves.

This could prove a more liquid and flexible way of investing in the property market than taking on the day-to-day chores of becoming an amateur landlord.

Budding entrepreneurs

The chancellor has doubled the investment limit for Venture Capital Trusts and Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) from 100,000 to 200,000.

Income tax relief for these investments has been raised to 40%.

These perks will make it more attractive for investors to take risks.

It is hoped this will stimulate the economy and enhance the entrepreneurial culture the chancellor is keen to foster.

There were also further tax breaks for amateur sports clubs, which allowed Gordon to slip in a mention of Britain's most recent hero Johnny Wilkinson.

This was not a pre-Budget, despite it's name.

This was a Budget-like statement: full of complicated tax changes, which will have fundamental effects on businesses, individuals and pensioners.

But it will take another few days to get to grips with its scale - and spot the unexpected tax effects.




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