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 Monday, 22 April, 2002, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Your Budget questions
The News Online Economics team answered a selection of your questions on Wednesday's Budget. If you are confused about changes to National Insurance or want to know what is in the Budget for pensioners or single mothers, read on.

Your questions so far:

  • Inheritance tax
  • Changes to National Insurance
  • What's in it for single mothers?
  • What's in it for pensioners?
  • What is National Insurance for?
  • What happens to company vehicles?
  • How will my benefits change?
  • Child benefits
  • Which companies have to be audited?

    Inheritance tax

    John Gribble, UK.
    Has there been an increase in the allowance for inheritance tax?

    The chancellor announced that the inheritance tax threshold would increase to 250,000 with immediate effect. This means that all estates below 250,000 will be exempt from inheritance tax. Inherited estates above this amount will incur tax at 40%.

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    Changes to National Insurance

    Stephen, Scotland.
    Does the 1% on NI include taxable benefits such as company cars, company pensions and private health insurance?

    The NI increases will affect so-called P11D 'benefits in kind', which include health insurance and company cars. Company pensions will not be affected. But it's not the workers who will have to pay up but the employers.

    Simon, England.
    So the 1% on NI is on ALL income above 4615. Thus higher rate taxpayers will go from 40% marginal rates of Tax & NI to 51%. Is that correct?

    The one percentage point added to National Insurance contributions is on all income above 4,615. While the bulk of NI contributions will be capped at 30,940, this additional 1% will be paid on all earnings. This effectively means that through increasing NI in this way, higher-rate tax is now 41%.

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    What's in it for single mothers?

    Jane Duggan, UK.
    I am a single woman in full time employment, what are the benefits to people like me in this year's budget?

    The Budget was aimed at providing funds to improve the NHS and to help families and low-paid workers. Unless you fall into any of these categories, you are unlikely to be a Budget winner.

    You will be paying an additional 1% in NI contributions. This means that someone who earns 30,940 will be pay an extra 263.25 a year in NI payments.

    Duty on wine, beers and spirits has been frozen. If you smoke, you will now pay extra duty - the equivalent of 6p on a packet of 20 cigarettes. Alco pops will become dearer as well. But if you love beer brewed by small breweries, you should get a cheaper pint.

    Vehicle Excise duty has been frozen, which is good news for drivers, but if you have a fuel-efficient car you will be rewarded by reductions of 30 for the "greenest" cars.

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    What's in it for pensioners?

    Mrs Norma Tiddia, England.
    My husband receives a state pension and receives 200 at Christmas for heating expenses. I do not yet receive a pension. Please could you explain what difference yesterday's budget will do, whether the amount of 200 will stay the same or will it increase, if so will it be the only increase the pensioner gets?

    The winter fuel allowance will remain at 200 a year for each year of this parliament or until 2005.

    Pensioners already get free TV licences if they are aged 75 or over and free eye tests for all those 60 and over.

    There will be a new Pension Credit introduced from October 2004, which will guarantee a single person on low incomes a minimum income of 100 a week and a pensioner couple no less than 154 a week.

    From April 2003, pensioners will pay less income tax. The chancellor is increasing age-related personal allowances for those aged 65 to 74 to 6,610 a year - an increase above the rate of inflation.

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    What is National Insurance for?

    Martin, England.
    Mr Brown emphasised the "insurance" that the NI contributions covered. What exactly are NI contributions supposed to cover? And how much would the equivalent cover cost if it were to be purchased privately?

    NI contributions pay for and build up an entitlement to contributory benefits, such as Jobseeker's Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and longer-term contributory benefits such as a retirement pension, SERPS and bereavement benefits.

    NI contributions are paid into the NI Fund, which operates on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that current NI receipts fund current benefits.

    About 80% of benefit expenditure from the NI Fund goes on retirement pensions.

    How much the equivalent cover would cost if it were purchased privately is irrelevant.

    NI contributions are compulsory for all workers over 16 and under state pension Age if they earn above the primary threshold level or above the small earnings exemption level.

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    What happens to company vehicles?

    Mrs Walker, UK.
    Any change on company van tax?

    If you have an environmentally-friendly van that meets the euro-IV emissions standard, then you will benefit from a reduced rate of Vehicle Excise Duty of 105 from March 2002 onwards. VED for other vans has been frozen.

    If you drive a lorry, you should prepare yourself for a massive change in years to come. The government plans to introduce a distance-based lorry road-user charge three to four years time. It will hit both UK and foreign hauliers, and should help to erode the tax advantage enjoyed by foreign freight firms.

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    How will my benefits change?

    Pete Beswick, England.
    I am on benefits, income support, invalidity and disabled living allowance, how will this budget affect me and my family?

    The benefits you receive should have been uprated or indexed in line with inflation in April this year

    The chancellor announced more details about new tax credits - The Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit - which will be introduced in April 2003.

    The government says that these will help families on low incomes or people in receipt of income support.

    The government has said that under the new child Tax Credit, people on income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance will automatically receive the full amount of 27.75 a week per child.

    There is a Q&A on the new tax credits, which can be found here

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    Child Benefits

    Denise Foan, UK.
    Has child benefit payment increased?

    The chancellor did not announce any increases in child benefit this Budget.

    However, child benefit was uprated - in line with inflation - earlier this month. It is now 15.75 for the eldest child and 10.55 for any subsequent children.

    Lone parents get 17.55 for the eldest child, and then 10.55 for any subsequent children.

    Adrian Frodsham, UK.
    Families with an income of 35,000 or less with two or more children can claim up to 50 a week towards childcare costs. Do you know who I need to contact about claiming this?

    The Inland Revenue is administering the new tax credits, which will help people with childcare costs.

    The Inland Revenue will write to people who are currently receiving one of the existing tax credits, inviting them to apply for the new ones later in the year.

    People who think they may be eligible for the new tax credits will need to contact the Inland Revenue either online, through its telephone help line, or through an Inland Revenue enquiry centre later in the year The Revenue is not starting its publicity campaign for the new credits until June or July.

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    Which companies have to be audited?

    Steve Britt, U.K.
    What is the new turnover threshold for companies having to be annually audited? It used to be 1,000,000 - has it been raised?

    A small company can seek exemption from audit if it satisfies the provisions of s246 (small company).

    To do so, the balance sheet must show assets of less than 1.4 million before deduction of liabilities. The company must also have fewer than 50 employees and the turnover of that company or the group of companies (if applicable) must be less than 1 million or
    a) 90,000 for a charity or
    b) 350,000 for periods ending on or before 26 July 2000.

    Exemption is not available if the company is one of the following:

    • a Public company
    • a Bank or Insurance company
    • an insurance broker
    • Regulated order FSA 1986
    • A special company under Trades Union Labour Relations 1992
    • A parent company or subsidiary undertaking

    However, this last restriction does not apply if the company is dormant for the whole accounting period, or if the group qualifies as a small group for the whole accounting period.

    If the company does qualify as a small group, it must not fall into any of the following categories:

    • Public company or able to offer shares to the public
    • Authorised by Banking Act 1987
    • Authorised by Part II Insurance Companies Act 1982
    • Authorised by FSA 1986
    Additionally, the group turnover must be less than 1 million net (1,200,000 gross), and the group balance sheet must be less than 1.4 million net (1.68 million gross.)

    The important point to remember is that the limits apply to the whole group and not just the company in isolation.

    This question was answered by Penny Mighall, Senior Tax Consultant at Ernst & Young.

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    This Talking Point is now closed. Thank you for your questions.

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