Tax and benefits changes 2013/14

Chancellor briefcaseBudget 2013 has been delivered. We've already looked at the speech and the small print. Yet many of the changes announced won't happen for a year or more.

But several significant measures originally announced in past Budgets and Autumn Statements are about to kick in. In fact, this is arguably the biggest year of changes since this Government's first in power.
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Here's a round-up of all the imminent changes and some of the important longer-term ones.

Income Tax
The tax-free personal allowance will be increased from £8,105 to £9,440 from 6th April.

However, the higher rate (40%) tax threshold will be reduced from £34,371 to £32,011 from the same date. This means that income from £9,441 to £41,450 will be taxed at 20%, with income above that being taxed at 40%.

And the additional rate, for people earning over £150,000 a year, will be cut from 50% to 45%.

Age-related personal allowances will be frozen at £10,500 for those born between 6th April 1938 and 5th April 1948, and £10,660 for those born before 6th April 1938 from 6th April.

There will be no age-related allowances for any retirees born after 6th April 1948; instead they will be taxed at the same limits as working-age people. This controversial measure from Budget 2012 was dubbed the 'granny tax'.

Benefits
Most working-age benefits will only be increased by 1% a year from April. The exceptions are the basic and 30-hour elements of the Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, and Child Benefit, which are all frozen until April 2014.

However, a benefit cap of £500 a week for couples and single parents with children at home, and £350 for single adults who don't have children or children living at home, is being introduced. This begins in four London boroughs from 15th April, before being introduced in the rest of the country between 15th July and 30th September.

Council Tax Benefit is also being scrapped from 1st April, with a Council Tax Reduction scheme taking its place, which will mean more people will have to pay some Council Tax.

There is also the so-called 'bedroom tax', actually a cap on housing benefit. This will see some council and housing association tenants receive less benefit if they are deemed to have too many bedrooms. This begins in April.

Tax reliefs currently available for claimants of Disability Living Allowance will be available to people receiving the new Personal Independence Payments, which begins in April. This will also apply to people receiving Armed Forces Independence Payments.

The Universal Credit, which replaces many working-age benefits, will gradually be introduced from April.

National Insurance
The Class 2 rate of contributions will increase from £2.65 a week to £2.70 from 6th April. The Class 3 rate will increase from £13.25 a week to £13.55 a week. The Class 4 lower profits limit will increase from £7,605 a year to £7,755 while the upper profits limit will decrease from £42,475 a year to £41,450.

State Pensions
The Basic State Pension will go up by £2.70 a week from 6th April – that's a 2.5% increase. The Second, or Additional, State Pension will rise by 2.2% a week to £3.35.

Pension Credit is to increase by 1.9% from £142.70 a week to £145.40 for single people and £217.90 a week to £222.05 for couples.

Council Tax
The second home Council Tax discount is to be scrapped by most councils from 1st April. Some councils, such as Cornwall, have already scrapped it.

Vehicle Excise Duty
This now rises in line with the higher Retail Prices Index measure of inflation (and has done since Budget 2012, although this doesn't apply to HGVs).

Alcohol and tobacco duties
As widely (and wildly in some cases) reported, beer duty will be reduced by 1p a pint. All other alcohol duties will continue to rise in line with inflation + 2%, so the cost of a pint of cider will rise by 2p, a bottle of wine by 10p and a bottle of spirits by up to 40p. These all take effect from Sunday night.

A packet of 20 cigarettes has already increased in price by 26p. From January, herbal tobacco products will also be liable to tobacco duty.

ISA allowances
The tax-free ISA allowance will increase to £11,520 a year from 6th April, although only half of that amount can be saved in cash.

Pension drawdown
The capped drawdown limit (the amount you can take in income from your pension instead of buying an annuity) will be increased from 100% to 120% of the value of an equivalent annuity from 26th March.

Inheritance Tax
The threshold has been frozen at £325,000 until 2017/18, in part to fund the changes to social care coming into force in 2016.

Air Passenger Duty
This will rise in line with the Retail Prices Index from April 2013.

Corporation Tax
This will be reduced by one percentage point to 23% from April.

Employee shareholders
Employee shareholders using the new Government scheme will not pay Income Tax or National Insurance contributions on the first £2,000 of shares they receive. This comes into force from 1st September.

Gains on up to £50,000 of shares will be exempt from Capital Gains Tax.

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Tax and benefits changes 2013/14

The Chancellor has cut the price of beer. He said a planned 3p rise in beer duty tax was being scrapped and replaced by a 1p cut on a pint of beer.

While lower interest rates are intended to boost borrowing for business and keep costs down for mortgage customers, the Chancellor brings another Budget devoid of encouragement for savers. Faced with near 0% interest rates and 3% inflation, there is no help for those who need to save for the future, or those that already live on their savings in retirement.

"Low interest rates are making life ever harder for people reliant on their savings. Their spending power is being reduced and their standard of living eroded on a daily basis," said Simon Rose of Save Our Savers. "The attack on savers is short-sighted and undermines the country's prospects for investment, growth and retirement."

A major headline-grabbing measure to help struggling first-time buyers is the new Help-to-Buy scheme. Made up of two parts, the first commits £1.3bn to shared equity loans that enable first-time buyers to borrow up to 20% of the value of a new build home towards a deposit, providing they can contribute 5% themselves. The loans will be interest free for five years and be repayable on house sale. The scheme will cover all new properties up to £600,000 in value – around 90% of all new homes in the UK.

The second is a Mortgage Guarantee for lenders, intended to help all families who are struggling with deposits. The scheme will make £130bn worth of mortgages available from 2014 and enable lenders to offer loans at higher-to-loan value, which will Mr Osborne said will "dramatically increase" the availability of mortgages. The guarantee will run for three years and apply to bold old and new property. Stephen Noakes, Mortgage Director at Lloyds Banking Group, commented: "We are very supportive of innovation in the housing market and believe that the mortgage guarantee scheme, will give a much needed boost to the housing market and most importantly address the issue of accessibility. "Crucially, this scheme will not only help first time buyers but also second steppers, a key segment of the housing market that is also in need of more support and attention. Whilst the property market is likely to continue to be challenging, the fresh support announced today will have a real knock on effect across the whole of the housing market and we expect it could help around 50,000 people a year."

Payment of taxes is the "glue that holds the economy together" the Chancellor said as he reaffirmed his commitment to crackdown on evasion and the professional services that advise on it. "With more measures to rein in Corporate Tax avoiders, the Chancellor has sent a clear message that aggressive avoidance is no longer acceptable," said Martin Hook, Managing Director of research and development tax specialists, Alma Consulting Group. "This will have a significant impact on the Big 4 and other firms who market tax avoidance schemes and will need to consider the morality of the schemes that they sell and the spirit of the tax legislation."

As was widely predicted, Osborne froze the fuel duty hike due in September 2013. He announced that his repeated scrapping of this duty has saved the average Ford Focus owner £7 on every tank of petrol.

Stating his commitment to helping entrepreneurs get ahead and recognising that the cost of employing people is a huge burden to small firms, the Chancellor announced a surprise move with National Insurance relief of £2,000. Called the Employment Allowance, he said the new measure means than 450,000 small businesses – which account for one third of all companies in the UK - can employ one person earning £22,000 or four people earning the minimum wage, without paying National Insurance.

"The Employment Allowance will certainly be a massive boon for small businesses. Not least because most weren't really expecting it," said Jonathan Elliott, managing director of MakeItCheaper.com. "Put it another way, a £2,000 saving for a typical small business is the equivalent of cutting their annual energy bill in half or putting 1,250 litres of free fuel in its fleet of vehicles." Yet the Government fell short on support for new enterprises, explains John Williams from Kuber: "Noticeably absent from the Chancellor's speech was any news of extending or enhancing the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). Many were hoping to see the Government offer more help to start-up companies looking for second round finances, but nothing materialised."

There was bad news for public sector workers, who will see pay increases limited to 1% in 2015/2016. The government will also revisit 'progressive pay' which sees pay increase automatically each year which he said was 'difficult to justify' given that private sector pay has been frozen or cut. The armed forces, however, will be exempt from this.

Feeling the pressure on help working families, the Chancellor made a welcome announcement that working parents will receive a contribution from the Government towards the cost of childcare. Working parents will receive 20% - equivalent to the basic rate of tax - of their yearly childcare costs, up to a total of £6,000 per child. He said the move will save a typical working family with two children under 12 up to £2,400 a year.

Also, leaked this morning was the news that the Chancellor will raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 from April 2014 – a move he said will give 2.4million people at tax cut of over £200 each a year, as well as lifting two million people out of income tax altogether.
Yet while both moves are widely welcomed, they do little to counter the austere measures of previous Budgets, explains Clare Francis, editor-in-chief at MoneySupermarket.com:"Giving with one hand may be a positive, but taking away with the other through other tax increases and benefit cuts means that people are no better off. "In fact, the cumulative effect of this and previous budget changes, combined with wage stagnation and rising living costs means millions are worse off and an increasing number of families are on the breadline, struggling to make ends meet every month."
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