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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 11:51 GMT
Q&A: What the Budget means for you
A coin
Pensioners and homebuyers are this year's winners
Chancellor Gordon Brown has stressed that his ninth Budget puts "hard-working families first", helps pensioners and young homebuyers. Here are the key Budget measures and what they mean for your personal finances.

I'm a first-time buyer. Is there any help for me?

Yes, there was good news for first-time buyers.

The cost of buying a house has soared and brought increasing numbers of homebuyers into the stamp duty net.

The chancellor has announced he will raise the starting rate for stamp duty from 60,000 to 120,000 for all buyers.

Duty will now be paid at 1% on properties worth between 120,000 and 250,000.

The move may help buyers in some parts of the UK. However, in some parts of the country there are few properties worth less than 120,000 and many buyers will still incur hefty stamp duty charges.

I'm a pensioner. Will I get any more money?

Pensioners over 65 will cheer a one-off 200 council tax rebate, which will be paid in the autumn.

However, many pensioners will be disappointed that the government has resisted calls to increase the basic state pension.

Instead, the chancellor has increased the Pension Credit - a top-up income for the UK's poorest pensioners.

"The problem with the Pension Credit is that it has to be claimed and the process is complex. In addition, many pensioners dislike the stigma of means testing," Anne Redston, tax partner at Ernst & Young, said.

Pensioners will also receive a 200 winter fuel payment while the over-80s will get 300 - the same as this winter.

All pensioners in England are to be given free bus passes for off-peak local services from next year.

I'm a saver. Is there anything for me?

There is good news for savers, as the chancellor has bowed to pressure and will extend the 7,000 tax-free Individual Savings Accounts (Isas) limit until 2010.

He had previously indicated that this savings limit would be cut to 5,000 in 2006, with 1,000 allowed to be held in cash and 4,000 in stocks and shares. This suggestion had been heavily criticised by the savings industry.

I'm a student. Is there anything for me?

As expected, the government has published its "long-term vision" of financial support for 16-to-19 year olds.

Those in full-time education or training will be offered up to 75 a week in education allowances and benefits.

I am a parent on a low income. Is there any help for my family?

The chancellor has announced further perks for families on low incomes.

Instead of providing universal tax cuts which would help all income groups, he has focused even more resources on his pet project - tax credits.

This ensures that working families on the lowest incomes receive more help.

Payments for children under the Child Tax Credit will rise in line with earnings and over the coming three years by a total of 13%, he said.

The actual tax credit rates will remain as announced in the pre-Budget report.

The most generous change was also announced last autumn.

Low-income parents struggling with childcare costs will benefit from a big rise in state help from next month.

Currently, the most a parent with one child can claim through Working Tax Credit for childcare costs is 70% of 135 a week. From 6 April 2005, this will increase to 70% of 175 a week. From 6 April 2006, this will further increase to 80% of 175.

For families with two or more children, the current maximum amount they can claim is 70% of 200 a week and this will increase from 6 April 2005 to 70% of 300 a week. From 6 April 2006, this will increase to 80% of 300.

There will be help available for lone parents returning to work. From April, the government will extend the number of areas where parents can receive 2,000 in the form of a return-to-work bonus.

I'm in a same-sex relationship. Has the chancellor helped us?

Yes. He may not have mentioned it in his speech, but in the small print there is a clear statement that from 5 December 2005, same-sex couples - who have registered in a civil partnership - will be treated in the same way as a married couple for tax purposes.

The major benefit of this change is that they can transfer assets, such as property and shares, between them without incurring Capital Gains Tax (CGT) or inheritance tax (IHT).

This is particularly important when one person dies as it allows the remaining partner to continue living in their home without incurring tax.

However, married couples can have only one Principle Private Residence (PPR) that is exempt from CGT. This means that same-sex couples must consider all the tax implications of a civil partnership.

What about inheritance tax?

Families, who fear that rising property values could boost their inheritance tax (IHT) bill, may benefit from a rise in the inheritance tax threshold.

However, many will be disappointed, particularly in parts of south east England where many people on modest incomes now face an IHT bill on their estates.

QUICK GUIDE

From 6 April, the first 275,000 of an estate will be exempt from inheritance tax, levied at 40%.

This will rise to 285,000 in 2006 and then 300,000 in 2007.

Has the chancellor hit motorists?

After bumper oil revenues, the chancellor has once again given motorists a reprieve.

He has promised to hold off an increase in petrol duty until September.

The chancellor has also frozen vehicle excise duty car tax for medium-sized and smaller, more environmentally-friendly vehicles.

He has slightly increased vehicle excise duty for larger vehicles.

I'm a frequent traveller. Is he doing anything for me?

The chancellor confirmed that he has written to the European Commission, requesting that the tax-free limit on goods brought into the UK from outside the European Union be increased from 145 to 1,000.

Frequent flyers will also be pleased to hear that he has frozen air passenger duty.

I run a small business. Will I spend less time on red tape?

The government had promised that they will remove the obligation on small businesses to pay tax credits to their workforce - a big gripe for small business owners. It will be removed on a rolling programme from November 2005 onwards.

"In recent years, the government has been piling obligations onto small businesses. It is refreshing that this major burden is finally being removed," said Ms Redston.

The government is also promising less red tape, promising one million fewer inspections a year.

It will also cut back on quangos. Inland Revenue and Customs are to consult on simplifying tax administration for small businesses. This is likely to include a single tax account, flexible payment and fewer inspections for good taxpayers.

However, small businesses still face uncertainty over how they are taxed, given the ongoing review of small business taxation.

What about booze and fags?

If you are a smoker, you will be hit by the traditional increase.

Cigarettes are going up by 7p a packet - slightly less than in Budget 2004.

'SIN' TAXES
Cigarettes: Up 7p a packet
Beer: Up 1p a pint
Wine: Up 4p a bottle

There is good news for spirits drinkers once again. For the eighth Budget in a row, the chancellor has frozen duty on spirits.

Duties on cider and sparkling wine have also been kept the same again. The chancellor is adding another penny on the price of a pint and 4p on a bottle of wine - a similar increase to last year.


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