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Chancellor backs business and rewards workers to get Britain growing

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Tax cuts for working people and British business headlined Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Autumn Statement for Growth’ today, Wednesday 22 November.

Tax cuts for working people and British business headlined Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Autumn Statement for Growth’ today, Wednesday 22 November.

Aimed at building a stronger and more resilient economy, the Chancellor set out a plan to unlock growth and productivity by boosting business investment by £20 billion a year, getting more people into work, and cutting tax for 29 million workers – the biggest tax cut on work since the 1980s.

With higher revenues resulting from stronger growth than previously projected and the pledge to halve inflation having been met, the government has stabilised the economy through taking sound decisions. As set out by the Prime Minister this week, the stronger outlook means taxes can now be cut in a serious, responsible way.

To that end, Mr Hunt announced that a 2 percentage point cut to Employee National Insurance from 12% to 10% will come into effect from January 2024.

For the average worker earning £35,400 a year, that amounts to an over £450 annual tax cut – almost immediately improving living standards for millions of people and rewarding hard-work as the government builds an economy for the future.

Taxes for the self-employed will also be cut and reformed. From April 2024, Class 4 NICs for the self-employed will be reduced from 9% to 8% and no self-employed person will have to pay Class 2 NICs, saving the average self-employed person on £28,200 a year £350 in 2024/25.

Taken together, this is a tax cut of over £9 billion per year and represents the largest ever cut to employee and self-employed National Insurance. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says these reductions will lead to an additional 28,000 people entering work.

Cutting National Insurance will not lead to any change in NHS funding or pension payments. Services will remain unchanged and continue to be funded as they are now.

Businesses will also benefit from the biggest business tax cut in modern British history. As signalled at Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced permanent Full Expensing: Invest for Less for those investing in IT equipment, plant, and machinery.

Full Expensing: Invest for Less is an effective permanent tax cut of £11 billion a year, boosting business investment by £14 billion across the forecast period and helping to grow the economy. With the tax cut now permanent, the UK will continue to have both the lowest headline corporation tax rate in the G7 and the most generous capital allowances in the OECD group of major advanced economies, such as the United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany.  Since the introduction of the super deduction – the predecessor to full expensing – in 2021, investment in the UK has grown the fastest in the G7.

To further ensure that work pays, Mr Hunt confirmed that the National Living Wage will increase by nearly 10% to £11.44 an hour from April 2024, the largest ever cash increase. The Chancellor also reinforced the new £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan for those with long-term health conditions, disabilities and difficulties finding employment, which includes tough new sanctions for those who can work but choose not to.

The Chancellor also announced that the government will honour its commitment to the triple lock in full, with the state pension to increase by 8.5% in April in what is the second biggest ever cash increase. Universal Credit and other working age benefits will also be boosted by 6.7% in April, in line with September’s inflation figure as is convention.

Further action to help families includes increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate to cover the lowest 30% of rents from April – benefiting 1.6 million households with an average gain of £800 in 2024/25 – and an alcohol duty freeze to 1st August 2024, following common-sense changes of the duty system made possible by Brexit. Measures today take the government’s total support for the cost-of-living between 2022-25 beyond the £100 billion mark, to an average of £3,700 per household.

Accompanying forecasts by the OBR confirm that today’s measures will make the economy permanently bigger, with growth every year of the forecast period. Borrowing and debt as a share of the economy are lower than in Spring this year and next year, with borrowing also lower on average across the forecast by comparison. They also confirm that inflation is expected to return to target in line with the Prime Minister’s economic priorities.

Tax

With inflation halved and debt forecast to fall, Mr Hunt delivered on the government’s commitment to cut taxes – rewarding and incentivising work as part of its long-term plan to grow the economy.

  • The main rate of Employee National Insurance will be cut by 2 percentage points from 12% to 10%, coming into effect from January 2024 – delivering the benefit of a tax cut quickly for 27 million workers.
  • The combined rate of income tax and National Insurance for employees paying the basic rate of tax will therefore fall from 32% to 30% – the lowest combined basic rate since the 1980s.
  • The rate of Class 4 NICs on all earnings between £12,570 and £50,270 will be cut by 1p, from 9% to 8% from April 2024.
  • The weekly Class 2 NICs – the flat rate compulsory charge which is currently £3.45 paid by self-employed people earning more than £12,570 – will effectively be abolished, with no-one required to pay from April 2024. Access to contributory benefits will be maintained and those currently paying voluntarily will still be able to do so at the same rate.
  • The cuts to Class 4 and Class 2 together amount to a tax cut of £350 a year for the average self-employed person on £28,200, with around 2 million individuals to benefit.

Business

Measures to back British businesses big and small will remove barriers to investment and help to bridge the productivity gap between the UK and its G7 peers – unlocking £20 billion extra business investment per year over the next decade.

  • Permanent Full Expensing will create the certainty that businesses need to confidently invest for less. A company can now permanently claim 100% capital allowances on qualifying main rate plant and machinery investments, meaning that for every pound invested its taxes are cut by up to 25p.
  • A business rates support package worth £4.3 billion over the next 5 years will help high streets and protect those small businesses that are the backbones of communities. This includes a rollover of 75% Retail, Hospitality and Leisure relief for 230,000 properties and a freeze to the small business multiplier, which will protect around 90% of ratepayers for a fourth consecutive year.
  • Pension reforms, including through establishing a new Growth Fund within the British Business Bank, will help unlock an extra £75 billion of financing for high-growth companies by 2030 while providing an extra £1,000 a year in retirement for the average earner saving from 18.
  • SMEs will be supported with tougher regulation on late payers to improve prompt payments, the expansion of Made Smarter in Great Britain and continued funding for Help to Grow.
  • The existing R&D Expenditure Credit and Small and Medium Enterprise Scheme will be merged from April 2024, simplifying the system and boosting innovation in the UK.
  • The rate at which loss-making companies are taxed within the merged scheme will be reduced from 25% to 19%, and the threshold for additional support for R&D intensive loss-making SMEs will be lowered to 30%, benefiting a further 5,000 SMEs.
  • The Climate Change Agreement Scheme will be extended, giving energy intensive businesses like steel, ceramics and breweries around £300 million of tax relief every year until 2033 to encourage investment in energy efficiency and support the Net Zero transition.

Work and welfare reform

Mr Hunt set out steps to reward work, help make work pay, and reform welfare in recognition of the need to expand the workforce and get those out of work back into work to deliver growth. The OBR expect that the measures announced at Autumn Statement will support a further 78,000 people into work by 2028-29, on top of the 110,000 resulting from action taken at Spring Budget.

  • From 1 April 2024, the National Living Wage will increase by 9.8% to £11.44 an hour for eligible workers. For the first time this will include 21- and 22-year-olds. This represents an increase of over £1,800 to the annual earnings of a full-time worker on the NLW and is expected to benefit over 2.7 million low paid workers.
  • The government will also substantially increase the National Minimum Wage rates for young people and apprentices: for people aged 18-20 by 14.8% to £8.60 an hour, for 16-17 year olds and apprentices by 21.2% to £6.40 an hour.
  • The government is reforming the Work Capability Assessment to ensure that people who can work are supported to do so via the welfare system. Changes to the activities and descriptors will better reflect the greater flexibility and reasonable adjustments now available in the world of work, preventing some individuals from being deemed not fit for work and ensuring they will be better supported into employment.
  • The boosting of four key programmes – NHS Talking Therapies, Individual Placement and Support, Restart and Universal Support – will benefit up to 1.1 million people over the next five years.
  • The government is exploring reforms of the fit note process to provide individuals whose health affects their ability to work with easy and rapid access to specialised work and health support.
  • Mandatory work placements will boost skills and employability for those who have not found a job after 18 months of intensive support. Those who choose not to engage with the work search process for six months will have their claims closed and benefits stopped.

Infrastructure and levelling up

The Chancellor unveiled a raft of supply-side measures and funding packages to benefit businesses and local communities.

  • £4.5 billion of funding for British manufacturers in the high-growth industries of the future, including £960 million earmarked for the Green Industries Growth Accelerator to support clean energy.
  • The government has published its full response to the Winser review and Connections Action Plan, which will cut grid access times for larger projects by half, halve the time to build major grid upgrades and offer up to £10,000 off electricity bills over 10 years for those living closest to new transmission infrastructure.
  • Three advanced manufacturing Investment Zones will be established in Greater Manchester, East Midlands, and West Midlands – together generating £3.4 billion of private investment and creating 65,000 high-quality jobs within the next decade.
  • The Investment Zones programme and freeport tax reliefs will be extended from 5 years to 10 years, and a new £150 million Investment Opportunity Fund will support Investment Zones and Freeports to secure specific business investment opportunities.
  • Four new devolution deals across England have been agreed. Mayoral deals with Greater Lincolnshire and Hull and East Yorkshire, and non-mayoral deals with Lancashire and Cornwall, will boost investment right across the country and deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to levelling-up.
  • £500 million of funding over the next two years will help establish two more Compute innovation centres, supporting the development of artificial intelligence as a growth opportunity for Britain.
  • The life sciences will also be supported as one of the Chancellor’s key-growth sectors, with £20 million to speed up the development of new dementia treatments coming as part of the government’s full response to the O’Shaughnessy Review of commercial clinical trials in the UK.
  • To prioritise those who want to invest in the UK’s future, the government has accepted in principle the headline recommendations of Lord Harrington’s review into increasing foreign direct investment. This includes additional resource for the Office for Investment, allowing it to deepen its world-class concierge offer to strategically important investors.

Further information

The OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook verifies that the two fiscal rules outlined by the Chancellor at last year’s Autumn Statement are met. Underlying debt falling as a percentage of GDP is met in the target year with £13 billion of headroom. The rule that public sector borrowing must be below 3% of GDP is met three years early.

Source

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