Insights from the UK and beyond
So how was it for you?
Chancellor Alistair Darling threw the dice in his pre-budget report in an attempt to bolster Labour’s chances of winning the general election in 2010.
From hitting bankers with a one-off bonus tax to lowering bingo duty, Darling played to the Labour heartlands, while hoping to win back voters who have been telling pollsters that they are done with Gordon Brown.
Other measures included the return of full value added tax in January, a 2.5 percent rise in the basic state pension, a 1.5 percent increase in child benefit, as well as help for small businesses and various initiatives to boost the governmentâ€™s green credentials.
All this while admitting that the recession was worse than he had predicted, with the economy shrinking by 4.75 percent in 2009.
“Woefully inadequate”, “a muddle-through ethos”, “a lack of awareness” – just some of the phrases used in scathing reports to describe data protection practices at the HM Revenue and CustomsÂ (HMRC).
The inquiries followed Britain’s biggest data loss scandal, when two discs containing child benefit records, including names, addresses and bank details, of some 25 million people, went missing after being put in the post by a junior employee.
Most Budgets have all the attraction of being slapped in the face with a wet kipper and sadly this one is unlikely to reverse the trend. As expected, from today up goes the cost of booze (4p on a pint) and fags (11p on a packet). Also for those who like driving larger less-green new cars there is a “showroom” tax coming in from 2009 that could cost them around 950 pounds.
However, for the entrepreneur there was a little cheer. After strong representations from business, Chancellor Alistair Darling has deferred the “income shifting” rules that were due to start from this April. These were a direct attack on family-owned businesses that include lower tax paying family members who take out dividends or profits but make a less significant contribution to the business. A case last year (Jones v Garnett) went against the government and it was looking to legislate to get the result it wanted. The proposals were wide-ranging and ill-targeted. A deferral will hopefully allow time to revisit this whole approach.