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Budget2000 Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 16:08 GMT
Online boost for business
Chancellor Gordon Brown emphasised the government's commitment to e-commerce with a number of Budget measures designed to help companies get online.

He said he wanted to encourage one million small businesses to go online.

We are determined to lead in e-commerce and the internet

Gordon Brown
To help achieve that, they would be able to write off the full cost of buying computers and new technology and going online in the year of purchase.

That was welcomed by Rod Laight of the Redditch Manufacturers' Association.

"It's absolutely wonderful news. That will really give us a chance to get all our manufacturers online, on the net, get their websites sorted out," he said.

"It's just a pity he didn't do the same for plant and equipment."

The government's small business service would be offering help to get online, including internet training.

Work permits

And new rules for work permits would be introduced in areas of highly skilled information technology where there was a global shortage.

To promote use of the internet, Mr Brown said there would be a tax cut of 100 for electronic filing of tax and VAT returns, and a further 50 cut for electronic filing for people paying the working families tax credit.

That discount was welcomed by John Whiting, tax partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"But I remain to be convinced that this is real compensation for the administrative burdens employers face with the likes of WFTCs and student loan repayments," he told BBC News Online.
WAP phone
The moves aim to help UK firms develop new technology such as WAP
High-tech firms recruiting essential personnel would also be able to offer share option incentives of 100,000 for up to 15 employees. The previous limit was 30,000.

The question of share options has been of increasing concern among high-tech companies.

Start-up businesses with low capital cannot afford big salaries, and like to offer employees a stake in the company's future success - a practice common in America.

But schemes in the UK have been restricted by various limits and regulations.

Employers who felt the 30,000 ceiling was not enough could set up unapproved schemes.

However, they could then find themselves facing a 12.2% National Insurance charge, plus PAYE costs, when an employee exercises the option.

That issue has not been addressed directly, but the financial secretary to the Treasury will be consulting to find a solution.

Mr Brown has spoken in the past of his intention that the UK should be the world's best environment for electronic commerce.

He told the Commons: "We are determined to lead in e-commerce and the internet."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Gordon Brown on the internet
Tax benefits for companies buying computers
The BBC's Sarah Pennells
"Gordon Brown was certainly keen to stress the importance of e-commerce"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
See also:

20 Mar 00 | Business
30 Jan 00 | Business
01 Nov 99 | Business
28 Oct 99 | Business
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