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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 09:56 GMT
Budget 2004: What we already know
By Sarah Toyne
BBC News Online business reporter

Gordon Brown

Do you ever get that feeling during a Budget speech that you've been there before? BBC News Online provides a guide to measures we expect, and what we already know from past pre-Budget and Budget reports.


  • Savings & Investments

    Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs): From April, the government will scrap the 10% tax credit on dividends from shares held within an Individual Savings Account (ISA). From 2006 the existing 7,000 tax-free allowance will be cut to 5,000, with the Cash Isa limit dropping from 3,000 to 1,000.

    SAVINGS: QUICK GUIDE
    Isas: 10% tax credit to go
    Child Trust Funds: To be introduced in April 2005
    Announcement expected on taxation of trusts, and property investment trusts

    Tax shelters: The Budget will report back on the responses to the proposals to overhaul the income tax and capital gains tax treatment of UK trusts. 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 discretionary trust has been set at 34% for many years. The chancellor has announced an unexpected increase to 40% in the pre-Budget report. However, there may be some help for small trusts to balance the package.

    Venture Capital Trusts: The schemes are a way of new and unquoted companies attracting investment money. Changes are expected from 6 April 2004. It's proposed the investment limit will double from 100,000 to 200,000 and further tax relief of 20% would be given to the trust, but this would be at the expense of the currently available capital gain deferral relief.

    Children & families

    Child Trust Funds: The government plans to give 250, rising to 500 in the case of low income families, to all babies born since September 2002. The money will not be available to the child until they are 18, by which time it is hoped the Child Trust Fund (CTF) will have grown into a tidy sum and the scheme will start in April 2005.

    MATERNITY PAY
    Statutory Maternity pay: Increase from 100 a week to 102.80 a week

    Child tax credits: Changes to Labour's flagship welfare policy, which will benefit families on very low incomes, were announced in the pre-Budget report. The Treasury says as many as 3.7m families and 7.2m children will benefit from the increase, which will boost the amount people can get by as much as 3.50 a week or 180 a year per child. Other extensions also mean mothers on paid maternity leave will be able to receive help with the costs of childcare for their new babies.

    Employer-supported childcare: Controversial changes to tax incentives for employer-supported childcare were announced in the pre-Budget report and are expected to be introduced in April 2005. All employer-supported childcare, not just childcare in work-based nurseries will now qualify for National Insurance (NI) and income tax relief, but this will be capped at 50 a week - well below the typical cost of 128 for a nursery place.

    New Deal for Lone parents: In Budget 2002 the government announced it was extending "work-focused" interviews to more lone parents who are claiming income support. Changes from April 2004 will extend the interviews to lone parents on income support with children under five. And from October 2005, lone parents will be required to attend an interview once every three months when their youngest child is aged 14 or over to help them prepare for the transition to Job Seekers' Allowance. As announced in Budget 2003, it also plans to pilot "Childcare tasters" from April 2004. These will give parents access formal childcare for up to one week.

    Property

    Property Investment: A new type of property investment vehicle - Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) - to improve the supply of rental housing was recommended by Kate Barker's review into housing supply, published shortly before the pre-Budget report in December. The Chancellor will report back on the proposals in Budget 2004.

    STAMP DUTY RATES
    Up to 60k: 0%
    60,001 to 250,000: 1%
    250,001 to 500,000: 3%
    Over 500,000: 4%
    Stamp Duty: There has been speculation that the existing rates of stamp duty may be changed, either to help first-time buyers or to raise more revenue for the Chancellor. One change might be to raise the starting rate of stamp duty from 60,000 to 100,000. Stamp duties for this year were frozen in the April 2003 Budget.

    Housing Benefit: Major changes were announced in Budget 2003. Measures are being introduced from April to help people over 50 and lone parents work without losing their housing benefit. The "disregard" - how much extra someone can earn before losing their benefit - will also rise to 12.32 from 12 April. Budget 2003 also announced pilots to trial a scheme which pays tenants directly, rather than landlords. The government has said the scheme, which pays tenants a flat rate regardless of the actual charge, is working well. If participants move to cheaper accommodation they can pocket the saving.

    Pensions

    Taxation of pensions: The government will announce in the Budget if it intends to go ahead with the plans to simplify the taxation of pensions, which would take effect from April 2005. Under the proposals, the existing complex tax system of earnings caps will be replaced with a single lifetime limit of 1.4m. Any savings above 1.4m cap would then be taxed at around 55%.

    PENSIONS: QUICK GUIDE
    Full basic state pension will rise to 79.60 for single pensioners and to 127.25
    Guaranteed element of the Pension Credit will rise to 105.45 for a single person and 160.95 for a couple

    Pension Credit: The guaranteed element of the Pension Credit - a top-up benefit for pensioners on low incomes - has already been announced. Eligible pensioners on low incomes will be guaranteed 105.45, if they are single, and 160.95 for couples. An extension of back to work help for those aged 60 and over and on the Pension Credit by October 2004.

    State pension: The full state pension will rise to 79.60 for single pensioners and to 127.25 for a couple.

    Income Tax & National Insurance

    Income tax: All income tax personal and age-related allowances for tax year 2004/5 were announced in the pre-Budget report. The basic personal allowance for people aged under 65 will be increased in line with inflation to 4,745 for 2004-05. The Chancellor has not yet announced tax bands and rates.

    National Insurance: National Insurance (NI) changes were announced in the pre-Budget report. The level at which employees start paying national insurance will rise from 89 a week to 91 a week.

    Inheritance Tax (IHT): Anti-avoidance tax legislation is expected soon on "pre-owned assets" designed to counter inheritance tax avoidance. It could affect people who have transferred their houses to other family members but continue to live in the properties.

    Residence and domicile: The government has been considering changes to favourable domicile rules for people who are resident in the UK but are not domiciled here. However, it is still up in the air about whether any changes go ahead.

    Business measures

    Small business taxation: Many small businesses have rushed to incorporate over the last two years because the Chancellor introduced a zero rate of corporation tax on profits up to 10,000 for limited companies. But the Chancellor is now threatening a new tax regime for small "owner-managed" companies. The move was announced in the pre-Budget report, and details are expected in the Budget. One possibility is the Chancellor could tax dividend payments through a National Insurance levy. Small limited companies are bracing themselves for the details.

    RUSH TO INCORPORATE*
    2000 to 2001: 238,000
    2001 to 2002: 225,000
    2002 to 2003: 325,900
    2003 to 2004 (11 month year): 357,900
    *Companies House

    Small Firms Loan Guarantee: Teresa Graham, a member of the Small Business Council, is undertaking a review of the Small Firms Loan Guarantee (SFLG), which helps start-ups with finance.

    Electronic filing: In April 2002, the Chancellor announced that employers with 250 or more employees will be required to send their 2004/05, and subsequent, end of year returns electronically.

    Rental business property: From 6 April 2004 business assets taper relief is being extended to let property used by unincorporated traders, as announced in Budget 2003.

    Businesslink.gov.uk: In April 2004 the government will launch its new businesslink.gov.uk website.

    Skilled graduates: From summer 2004 under the Science and Engineering Graduates' Scheme, students in shortage science, maths and engineering subjects will be able to work for a year after graduating from UK institutions without the need for a work permit.

    Transfer pricing: From 1 April groups of companies will have to pay closer attention to the prices they charge to their subsidiaries in the UK, in the same way they do overseas. Accountants say the rule changes, which are aimed at clamping down on tax avoidance, will lead to a big administrative burden, as they will now have to justify to the authorities the prices they charge members.

    Environmental measures

    Landfill tax: The standard rate of landfill tax will rise to 15 per tonne in tax year 2004/05. As announced in Budget 2003, the rate will increase by 3 per tonne in 2005/2006 and by at least 3 per tonne for each subsequent year.

    Vans: The Inland Revenue currently classes company cars and vans differently. Cars are heavily taxed, while vans get off more lightly. Changes to the taxation of vans was a hot tip for pre-Budget 2003. Instead, the government put off its decision until this Budget.

    Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG): Some people have spent thousands of pounds converting their cars to Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), but they could be in for a surprise. The government now plans to gradually increase the duty rate for LPG over the next three years. By how much will be announced in the Budget.

    Ultra-low sulphur fuels: From 1 September 2004, that it would introduce a new rate of duty for sulphur-free petrol and diesel. The measure announced in Budget 2003, also committed the government to introduce a special bio ethanol duty rate from January 2005.

    The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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