Budget 2018: Top 10 takeaways

    Tom Eckett reports...

    Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/PA Wire/PA Images

    From preparations for the UK’s departure from the EU to “the end of austerity”, Retirement Planner’s sister publication Investment Week has put together its top ten takeaways from the 2018 Budget

    1. UK growth upgrades

    Independent body the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has increased its projections for UK GDP growth for 2019 and beyond, with forecasts raised to 1.6% for next year. This is up from March expectations of 1.3%. Predictions for 2020 and 2021 remained the same at 1.4%.

    2. Brexit planning

    Hammond said he was “confident” a deal between the UK and European Union would be secured, however he added he was not being “complacent”.

    The chancellor said he is increasing the amount of spending for no-deal planning to £2bn, while he will take “whatever action is appropriate” if the outlook changes.

    “We are at a pivotal moment in the Brexit talks. We are confident we will secure a deal but not complacent…and are continuing to plan for all eventualities,” he said.

    The chancellor had already warned there will be an Emergency Budget in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

    3. End of austerity

    After eight years of Conservative government austerity measures, Hammond announced “the end of austerity” in his speech.

    “The tough decisions of the past eight years were not driven by ideology, they were driven by necessity. The era of austerity is coming to an end,” he said.

    4. Tax on the FAANGs

    As expected, the chancellor has introduced a UK Digital Services Tax on “tech giants” with global revenues of over £500m a year, such as Facebook and Amazon.

    The tax, which is set to be introduced in April 2020, is expected to raise £1.5bn over four years.

    “The rules of the game must evolve now to keep up with the digital economy,” Hammond said. “We will introduce a narrowly targeted UK Digital Services Tax. Tech giants must pay their fair share.”

    5. Infrastructure spend increase

    Hammond also announced plans to increase infrastructure spend with £420m made available “to tackle potholes, bridge repairs, and other minor works in this financial year”.

    “Every Member of Parliament will testify that potholes are high on the public’s list of concerns,” he said.

    However, he said he would end the use of private finance initiatives (PFI), which allow private companies to finance public investments.

    6. NHS boost

    Meanwhile, the chancellor said he would fulfil Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise in June to increase NHS spending.

    The government is set to provide an addition £20.5bn to the NHS over the next five years, which will see the launch of a new mental health service.

    As part of the increase, the NHS has agreed to produce a ten-year plan on reform, with particular regards to how it will tackle “wasteful spending”.

    “The NHS is our number one priority. However, it is important the money goes to the frontline,” he said.

    7. Stamp duty relief extended

    Chancellor Philip Hammond also extended stamp duty relief for the second year running, now including first-time buyers of shared ownership properties valued up to £500,000.

    The chancellor added he would make the relief “retrospective”, and would apply it to any first time buyer who has purchased a property since the last Budget.

    8. Increase in personal allowance a year early

    The Chancellor said he would bring forward an increase to the income tax personal allowance and higher rate threshold by a year to April 2019.

    Plans to increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 by 2020 – announced in May 2017 – will now kick in next year.

    Currently, the personal allowance is £11,850 and the higher rate £46,350.

    9. Patient Capital consultation for pension funds

    The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will launch a consultation on allowing unit-linked pension funds to invest in an appropriate range of so-called ‘patient capital’ assets.

    The consultation is expected by the end of 2018, according to the Autumn Budget 2018 document.

    It said the consultation will accompany the ongoing work of HM Treasury’s Asset Management Taskforce to explore the feasibility of a new long-term asset fund.

    10. Tackling tax avoidance

    Chancellor Hammond said although the Labour party has talked tough on tax avoidance, the government takes action.

    The Budget report said: “Since 2010 the government has secured and protected over £185bn of tax that would otherwise have gone unpaid, and introduced over 100 measures to crack down further on avoidance, evasion, aggressive tax planning and unfair outcomes.”