Pay attention to what the parties don't say

MONEY TALK
Click to follow
The Independent Online
I have tried to keep these pages as free of electionese for as long as possible, not least because the politicians are committed to little that will have any great financial effect on most people in the near term.

But with the strong possibility of a new Labour government on Friday, here are some reminders of what the two main parties do stand for.

What we know for sure about Labour is that it has promised not to increase the higher or basic rates of income tax - 40 and 23 per cent; that it would impose a windfall tax on the privatised utilities; and that it would get rid of the tax relief that over-60s now enjoy on private medical insurance.

Of course, freezing income tax rates is not the same as saying we won't pay more tax; Labour could fiddle with allowances and the levels at which tax rates kick in. Nor does it mean tax rates on savings wouldn't go up.

The windfall tax is not a victimless tax; millions of small savers own shares in the privatised utilities. Share prices have already been held back by the prospect of this tax, but the big question is whether the tax is fully "in the price" or whether shares would plunge when it became reality. Certainly, if the Conservatives win, expect to see utility shares rise again.

Logically, tax relief on medical insurance would be abolished for all policies, including those already taken out. But don't be surprised if insurance salesmen try to convince you otherwise in a bid to sell policies between a Labour victory and an early-summer Budget.

If the Tories should get in again, we are promised more privatisation offers, including London Underground; a radical reform of the state pension, though don't expect to see any real difference for years; and a wheeze to let married couples transfer the tax-free personal allowance of a "caring" spouse to a working partner.

However, it is issues that neither party talks about much that are set to have a more immediate and widespread impact on saving and borrowing.

Whoever wins, interest rates are going up - 0.5 per cent within weeks is a fair bet, 0.75 per cent not impossible. That means more expensive mortgages; it will also be bad news for the stock market.

The City fears Labour would fiddle with dividend taxation - a move that could also trigger a market tumble and reduce the attractions of PEPs, though this revenue-raising wheeze was first tried by the Tories.

Furthermore, the City is at least as sensitive to what happens in the presently inflated US market as in Westminster.

Housing could also be hit by the abolition of mortgage tax relief; both parties' silence on the future of Miras is telling.

Looking for credit card or current account deals? Search here

Comments