Autumn Statement 2014: what the experts think

Stamp duty reform and ISA changes but borrowing slips - and there's a new 'Google Tax'

Updated: 
Chancellor George Osborne Delivers His Autumn Statement

George Osborne admits government borrowing will climb next year, to around £90bn rather than £86.4bn the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted in March.

But there's better news for those moving house; new Stamp Duty changes mean home-buyers will pay 0% on the first £125,000 of the purchase price, then 2% on the chunk up to £250,000 and 5% up to £925,000. A more progressive approach than the previous 'slab' model.

Fuel duty, says Osborne, will be frozen while the ISAthreshold is upped. But bad news for some multinationals: a "Google tax" will to be pinned on companies shifting profits out of the UK. What, then, do the experts make of Osborne's plans? Read on.

Economy & Business

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors says the Chancellor was right to focus "on long-term investment in infrastructure, science and efforts to boost the UK's productivity. Deficit reduction remains of primary importance and this statement did not shy away from that reality."

Osborne's statement "confirms our view," says David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, "that the UK economy will grow at a good pace this year. The 3.0% growth forecast for this year is realistic, but the speed with which the economy slows in the OBR forecast is disappointing."

The Chancellor's review of business rates is welcome says Miles Gibson, Head of UK Research at the CBRE, "but given that it looks unlikely that it will result in an overall reduction in the business rate burden it is likely to come as a disappointment to many tenants and occupiers, whether on the high street or not."

Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business said Osborne's Autumn Statement"was a missed opportunity for government to support the sole traders and microbusinesses that form the bedrock of the UK economy."

Stamp Duty

Chas Roy Chowdhury from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants says he's been asking for this change for a long time. "Making this tax progressive is important. Abolishing the single slab rate is a welcome move to end the significant distortions of this burdensome tax. Leaving this to the end of the Chancellor's statement was clearly designed as a vote winner."

Alistair Bingle, MD of a large family-owned removal company, Bishop's Move, says Osborne's stamp duty shift "will have a significantly positive impact on getting the market moving by encouraging people to upsize and increasing the supply of houses for first-time buyers, who are key to stimulating the UK property market."

Gary Richards, partner at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, says the public will welcome the switch from a slab system. But Richards warned "there is a danger that this will slow down residential activity at the higher end of the housing market. London's status as a real estate capital could be jeopardised.This is effectively another name for a one-off mansion tax."

Dayle Bayliss of Dayle Bayliss Associates, an architectural practice, says Osborne's stamp duty change "will lead to an evening out of the current system, not only across purchase prices but across the country, where bubbles exist. This will help those buying the average house and reduce the overall cost for house purchases." He adds: "This will have immediate effect and will add a boost to the housing economy."

Tax avoidance (or the 'Google Tax')

(Note: FT analysis of US tech giants ­including Apple, eBay, Amazon and Facebook claims just £54 million was paid in UK ­corporate tax despite joint sales worth billions).


Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network told Newsweek he wasn't much impressed with Osborne's plans. "The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has yet to set out plans to combat the problem of corporate tax avoidance and the UK can't do anything without international measures - we can't act alone."

Ernst & Young took a rather different tack. It claims the UK attracts more investment than any other country in Europe - and hopes "this change does not undermine the UK's message of being Open for Business. With little detail on the new DPT yet available, but a £1billion price tag, this will need to be looked at carefully."

Ernst & Young adds: "Of interest is the fact that the rate of the new tax at 25% is higher than the UK's 20% corporate tax rate from next year. This is clearly intended to encourage companies to invest directly in the UK."

Fuel duty

The confirmation of a £15 billion investment in UK roads, says AA President Edmund King, "and the continuing fuel duty freeze puts drivers on a 'highway to hope' after some hellish years of high fuel prices, potholed roads and only patchy investment."

"The investment in roads," he goes on, "may well turn out to be a timely injection of funds into a network that will be challenged by economic recovery. It also recognises that the vast majority of long distance travellers go by car, not train or plane."

ISA changes - partners can now inherit a dead spouse's ISA

The confirmation that death benefits paid from annuities will enjoy the same tax treatment as income drawdown is a welcome equalisation of the rules says Tom McPhail, Head of Pensions Research at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"It means investors will not be penalised for selecting the security and efficiency which an annuity offers. This rule change will only apply where annuity payments are made for the first time after April 2015. This will no doubt be a disappointment to any widow or widower who is already receiving a survivor's pension."

Read more

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Osborne Unveils Autumn Statement 2014