Andrew Cardwell Director, Equiom Tax Services Limited, summarises the recently released autumn statement and highlights key areas of focus.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement and updated economic forecast to Parliament on 22 November 2023. It was badged as an “autumn statement for growth”, following closely on from the Prime Minister’s comment earlier in the year regarding the three principal economic priorities: halving the rate of price inflation; growing the economy; and reducing the national debt.
The statement comprised an estimated £20bn tax giveaway, and although framed in the context of stimulating economic activity, reducing national debt and swelling workforce numbers, it is difficult not to view it through the lens of an impending general election.
In terms of macroeconomic metrics, the suggestion is that the economy will grow by 0.6% in 2023 and 0.7% in 2024, with medium-term growth in the period 2025-2028 expected to reach higher levels, between 1.4% and 2%, a marginal improvement on the Office for Budgetary Responsibility’s forecasts earlier this year.
The rate of price inflation is expected to fall to 2.8% by the end of the 2024 calendar year, down from a high of 11.1% in 2022, albeit this is not expected to give rise to immediate interest rate reductions for those mortgage holders who are looking for some respite.
We have summarised the key tax announcements from the statement below:
- A continued freeze on personal tax allowances which, with annualised price inflation currently standing at a rate of 4.6%, represents an effective hike in income taxes;
- A reduction in the rate of national insurance contributions (‘NIC’) for employees, from 12% to 10%, taking effect on 6 January 2024;
- A reduction of 1% in self-employed Class 4 NICs and the abolition of Class 2 NICs with effect from 6 April 2024;
- A freeze on the NIC lower earnings and small profits thresholds which, as above for personal tax allowances, represents an effective hike, bringing more people within scope;
- Welfare reforms which the Chancellor expects will bring 200,000 more people into the workforce;
- Benefits increases across the board amounting to 6.7%, but with tougher conditions for those who are claiming to look for work;
- An increase of 8.5% in the state pension; and
- An increase of 9.8% in the living wage.
The rumours that there might be a reduction or even an abolition of inheritance tax or stamp duty proved to be unfounded, although some predict that inheritance tax may be back on the agenda for the Spring 2024 Budget, assuming the Prime Minister does not call an early general election.
The interesting aspect of the measures that will impact individuals, together with the Chancellor’s stated intention of bringing early retirees back into the workforce, is that it may make the UK marginally more competitive than the Isle of Man to the average worker who suffers income tax at no more than 20% in the UK.
It seems unlikely, given the immediate fiscal impact, but we will wait to see if the Isle of Man follows suit with reductions in NIC rates.
- Reform to research & development tax reliefs in order to simplify and improve the system; and
- The temporary ‘full expensing’ regime for qualifying capital expenditure on plant and machinery has been made permanent (a measure which is long-established within the Isle of Man tax system).
The announcements within the Chancellor’s statement related almost entirely to UK domestic affairs. There was little of any consequence for non-UK residents with connections to the UK, other than the usual increase in the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings charges in line with the consumer price index, which impacts those who hold UK residential property within certain non-UK resident structures.
A new OECD Pillar 2 Undertaxed Profits Rule due for introduction for accounting periods commencing after 31 December 2024, although it will only have an impact on large, multinational businesses. The Isle of Man, along with Jersey and Guernsey, has already issued its own commitment to introduce similar measures.
New legislation will introduce harsher sanctions on those who promote UK tax avoidance schemes, including director disqualifications and new criminal offences for those who continue to promote them despite receiving instruction to desist.
The principal focus of the autumn statement was fuller employment and economic stimulus, and specifically measures designed to bring people back into the workforce, making it more attractive for those early retirees who may now be feeling the pinch of a protracted bout of inflation.
It will be interesting to see if the Isle of Man follows suit with NIC reductions in early 2024, given that purely from a tax perspective it could be argued that the average UK worker might now be marginally better off than the average Isle of Man worker.
Equiom Tax Services Limited offers both global insight and local knowledge to advise individuals, trustees and businesses to solve a diverse range of international business and tax challenges. Please contact Andrew Cardwell for further information or to discuss your circumstances.
This article has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The article cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained within this article without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact Equiom Group to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstance. Equiom Group, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information in this article or for any decision based on it.