On March 6, 2024, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered a spring budget aimed at boosting public morale and securing voter support, especially important as an election looms and the UK faces economic challenges. This budget focuses on easing financial strains by lowering National Insurance for everyone, tweaking VAT rules for small businesses, and adjusting child benefit charges to support families. Plus, there’s a small break on property sales taxes for some, but no changes to income or inheritance taxes. Let’s explore what these changes could mean for you.

The first budget announcement was that National Insurance Contributions are again being cut. The government is cutting the main rate of employee National Insurance by 2% from 10% to 8% from 6 April 2024. Combined with the 2% cut announced at Autumn Statement 2023, this will save the average worker on £35,400 over £900 a year.

The government is also cutting a further 2% from the main rate of self-employed National Insurance on top of the 1% cut announced at Autumn Statement 2023. This means that from 6 April 2024 the main rate of Class 4 NICs for the self-employed will now be reduced from 9% to 6%. Combined with the abolition of the requirement to pay Class 2, this will save an average self-employed person on £28,000, around £650 a year.

Following these changes, assessing both salary and dividend options for their tax advantages is advisable. This strategy could optimise your tax position.

The Chancellor raised the VAT registration threshold to £90,000 to alleviate the administrative burden on small businesses and encourage their growth. This change means that smaller businesses can generate more revenue before needing to charge VAT, potentially increasing their competitive edge and allowing them to reinvest savings into their operations. However, businesses approaching this new threshold must plan strategically to manage their growth and VAT responsibilities effectively.

They announced in the budget that Inflation has significantly decreased from 11.1% to 4%, and is expected to reach the 2% target by the second quarter of 2024, according to the OBR. This reduction, occurring faster than previously predicted, indicates a stabilising economy. Last year, the UK experienced minimal growth, indicative of a recession. However, projections show an improvement from early 2024, with the UK predicted to be among the top three fastest-growing G7 economies between 2024-2028. For business owners, this could mean more stable costs, improved consumer spending, and better conditions for growth and investment.

The British government has recently updated the Recovery Loan Scheme with an additional funding provision of £200 million, aiming to support the growth and investment plans of small-scale enterprises. To be eligible for this loan, a business must generate no more than £45 million annually, maintain a sustainable model, and be free from immediate financial distress. The Recovery Loan Scheme is also being renamed The Growth Guarantee Fund as announced in the budget.

Capital allowances offer businesses an effective strategy to decrease their taxable income. This is achieved by allowing companies to deduct the cost of qualifying purchases such as equipment, machinery, and certain types of business vehicles from their profits, leading to tax savings. This approach not only reduces tax liabilities but also encourages reinvestment in the business. The concept of full expensing enables businesses to apply these capital allowances in the same fiscal year the investment is made. The Chancellor recently hinted that full expensing for leased assets would be implemented when it is financially feasible.

At the moment, there is a situation where a household with 2 parents, each earning £49,000 a year, still gets the full Child Benefit, but those with one parent earning over £50,000 will see some or all of the benefit withdrawn. From 6th April 2024 the point at which child benefit will start to be withdrawn will now be at a higher level of earnings i.e. £60,000 not £50,000. Instead of starting to lose child benefit once at least one parent earns over £50,000 a year, it will be £60,000. It will be taken away entirely from £80,000 a year, rather than £60,000. But more importantly, the government is consulting on moving the system from being based on an individual’s salary to a system based on household income. This new system will come in by April 2026. So watch this space!

To address the housing shortage, the government plans to decrease the higher rate of capital gains tax on non-primary residences from 28% to 24% in April. This change aims to encourage more property sales by reducing the tax burden on sellers of investment properties or second homes.

The ‘temporary’ 5p cut in fuel duty is being extended for another 12 months.

The alcohol duty freeze is being extended from 1st August to 1st February.

There is a new ISA in town! This ISA gives savers another £5k tax-free allowance, on top of the current £20k that can be subscribed into an ISA. The only restriction is this new UK ISA needs to be invested in British businesses.

The government is also announcing over £1 billion of new tax reliefs for the UK’s creative industries. This includes introducing a 40% relief from business rates for eligible film studios in England for the next 10 years; introducing a new UK Independent Film Tax Credit; and increasing the rate of tax credit by 5% and removing the 80% cap for visual effects costs in the Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit. A permanent extension will be made to tax relief for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries.

The government plans to phase out the Furnished Holiday Lettings tax benefits starting April 6, 2025, and the relief on stamp duty for multiple dwellings beginning June 1, 2024. Properties under contracts exchanged before March 6, 2024—the day before the budget announcement—will still qualify for the multiple dwelling stamp duty relief, regardless of their actual completion date. Additionally, any transactions completing before June 1, 2024, will be eligible for this relief.

The tax breaks for non-domiciled residents, people who live in the UK, but not domiciled here for tax purposes have been abolished. Currently, foreign nationals who live here, but are taxed in another country, do not have to pay tax on their foreign income for up to 15 years. From April 2025 this is changing. 

For new arrivals, who have a period of 10 years consecutive non-residence, there will be full tax relief for a 4-year period of subsequent UK tax residence on foreign income and gains arising during this 4-year period, during which time this money can be brought to the UK without an additional tax charge. 

Existing tax residents, who have been tax residents for fewer than 4 tax years and are eligible for the scheme, will also benefit from the relief until the end of their 4th year of tax residence. 

There are transitional arrangements being put in place for existing non-doms. 

In Oct 2026 vapers will be taxed more and the tax on cigarettes and tobacco products will go up.

At first glance, it appears the government isn’t directly investing in increasing HMRC’s frontline workforce. However, it’s channeling an additional £140 million to enhance HMRC’s capacity to handle tax debts. Essentially, this can be seen as an allocation aimed at boosting the identification and collection of outstanding taxes. Now might be a prudent time to consider tax investigation insurance, especially if you haven’t already done so. For those who are clients of 1 Accounts, you’ll be pleased to know this service is already included in our offering!

The recent budget may not have met the expectations of many small businesses, as it offered limited new measures for support. However, as a business owner, there are essential steps to take. Ensure your payroll systems are updated to accommodate the new National Insurance contributions starting April 6, 2024. It’s advisable to start planning now—reach out to us to strategise effectively, particularly regarding the upcoming minimum wage adjustments. Now is also a crucial time for personal tax planning, especially considering the changes to child benefit. Review your pension contributions and, for those operating limited companies, reassess your cash flow in light of these changes and keep your forecasts current. Anticipate additional updates from a potential budget announcement later this year, which could bring more changes.

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