The Great Debate UK
By Nick Hostler, tax expert at BDO. The opinions expressed are his own.
Following the recent loss of the UK’s AAA rating, Chancellor George Osborne will be keen to show real progress and dedication towards eliminating the UK’s structural fiscal deficit, but must balance this with ensuring that the UK is a highly competitive and attractive location for multi-national businesses. The Budget should mark a watershed moment for the coalition government as Osborne, with an eye on the next general election, treads a fine line while demonstrating an understanding of the pressures faced by individuals and businesses across the country.
Whether he strikes this balance remains to be seen, but here is what I believe the Budget will have in store.
With the announcement in the Autumn Statement of a further reduction in the main rate of corporation tax to 22 percent from April 2014 and the promised cut to 21 percent from April 2015, I predict that there will be no firm commitments on additional rate cuts in the 2013 Budget. Nevertheless, I would not be surprised if there were to be a firm commitment to introduce a flat 20 percent corporation tax rate by the end of this parliament. This would enable the coalition government to demonstrate its commitment to creating one of the most competitive corporate tax systems within the G20.
This reduction in corporation tax rate has been accompanied by the introduction of a number of very favourable tax reliefs including the headline grabbing Patent Box Regime, aimed at attracting high tech industries such as manufacturing, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and defence which are considered to be of great importance to the economy. This regime will allow companies to secure a 10 percent rate of corporation tax from April 1 2013 on all profits attributable to qualifying patents.
By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.
Budget Day again, and the pressure on Chancellor George Osborne is rising ominously. There is little agreement about what needs to be done, but complete agreement that something has to change because the state of Britain’s economy is simply awful.
Yet just look at the facts in the table below (all the data are taken from Eurostat, the EU’s own statistical agency). For the latest quarter, the UK economy contracted by 0.3 percent – but France’s performance was just as dismal, Germany’s economy shrank by twice as much, as did the euro zone as a whole. Only the USA achieved a significantly better outcome, a dazzling growth rate of zero – but at least it didn’t shrink. Year-on-year (Y-O-Y, as the pros call it), the picture is even clearer. Britain’s economic growth, a miserable 0.3 percent, was not significantly lower than Germany’s, but better than France’s minus-0.3 percent, or indeed the euro zone as a whole, which was down by 0.9 percent. Only the USA grew to any significant extent – and there are signs that it may now be starting to slow down, even before the impact of the fiscal cliff and the sequester are felt.
The Autumn budget is one of two scheduled statements the Chancellor gives each year to inform the public about tax and spend plans and provide the latest growth forecasts. These budget statements are useful not only for the public, but also for investors in our debt, rating agencies and global businesses. Hence they are a big deal, and it is important that they are accurate.
However, the latest statement delivered by George Osborne didn’t quite ring true. Let’s look at growth forecasts first. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), who creates this forecast, revised down 2012 GDP for the second time to -0.1% from the original forecast of 0.8%. So rather than grow at a modest, but positive, rate the economy is now expected to contract this year. If you invested in the UK partly based on this data, you could be forgiven for being rather cheesed off that your investment had yet to bear fruit.
from The Great Debate:
It was the Welsh sage Alan Watkins who remarked that a budget that looked good the day it was delivered to the British Parliament was sure to look terrible a week later, and vice versa. The avalanche of new information dumped by the Treasury is simply too much to grasp at a single sitting, and governments tend to bury bad news in a welter of statistics. And so it proved with finance minister George Osborne’s budget served up last week.
The immediate headlines stressed that rich Brits would pay less income tax – down from 50 percent to 45 percent – but it only took a day before even traditional Conservative cheerleaders like the Daily Mail were condemning Osborne for funding tax breaks for bankers and billionaires by stealing from those living in retirement. The paper’s cover screamed: “Osborne picks the pockets of pensioners.”
Chancellor George Osborne has weathered criticism of his economic policies from both sides of the political isle in recent months, so it was no surprise that the buzz word from his Conservative Party Conference speech was “difficult”. Life at Westminster is difficult for Osborne at the moment and it’s unlikely to get any easier.
The problem for the Chancellor is that he has staked his credibility on bringing down the UK’s deficit, yet he is also trying to be a pioneer of growth and jobs. In the current environment neither goal looks achievable.
By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.
As I write this blog, it looks as though the U.S. Congress is going to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling and making modest cuts in Federal Government spending over the coming years. Although it is, quite rightly, being presented as a somewhat hollow victory for the forces of reason, there is one extremely puzzling aspect of the crisis.
It is being reported on all sides that the credit rating agencies may well downgrade U.S. sovereign debt in spite of this “happy ending” – indeed, Egan-Jones, one of the smaller agencies, cut its rating of U.S. debt some weeks ago, and there is much talk of Moody’s and S&P following suit in the very near future.
By Agnes T. Crane and Christopher Swann
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.
The latest U.S. jobs report should give fiscal hawks pause. With economists expecting employment to rise by a modest 100,000 in June, the piddling increase of 18,000 proved a bitter blow for a country amid the throes of an austerity debate.
By Joe White
Delivering his second budget speech yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne revealed that he is leaving in place all of the austerity measures which will have a direct impact on the public sector. Meanwhile, there was a lot of policy aimed at supporting business and the private sector. The implicit assumption is that the private sector will take up the slack and continue to drive growth. This is the gamble, and we will have to wait and see if it works.
The government’s predictions for growth are down, and the reliance on the OBR forecasts could come back to haunt George if it starts to get worse and they continue to further revise down their independent estimates. Growth is the ultimate balancing factor for the public finances, so it is all important.
By Dr Gerard Lyons
This was a good budget in difficult times. Trouble is, just how difficult the times are is still not fully appreciated. The economic environment the Chancellor inherited was not good. The recent economic performance has not been good. And there is no reason to think it will get better anytime soon. Indeed the scale of fiscal tightening previously announced will probably weaken growth further in the near-term. The UK economy faces a long, hard slog.
Today’s budget provided some clarity about what type of economy the Chancellor hopes to see in the future. And there the message was well directed. One of Britain’s biggest problems has been its lack of strategic thinking. It still has some way to go on this to compete with China, Germany and many other economies. The budget outlined four areas the government wants to focus on, all of which made sense:
The second budget presented to Parliament by Chancellor George Osborne is likely to be less talking and more doing when it comes to bringing the UK’s public finances under control.
This won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Some argue that the UK is in less financial danger than Europe’s financially troubled states, yet Osborne is embracing deficit reduction plans with as much gusto as Ireland or Greece.