Budget 2014: Here are some Budget changes George Osborne could make, but I don't hold out much hope in times of austerity
Can't say I'm looking forward much to next Wednesday's Budget. The days when we can anticipate good news have long since disappeared under the austerity measures still being pushed by the Coalition.
So when George Osborne rises at 12.30pm on 19 March, I advise you to switch off and go and do something more interesting. We'll be happy to monitor his speech, and the reaction, and report back in our Budget supplement on Thursday.
But just in case any of Mr Osborne's advisers are reading and still looking for good ideas, here are a few changes I'd like to see.
We won't see any tax cuts, apart for a few high-earners, I suspect, but it is time to look again at the 40 per cent tax rate threshold. Many thousands more people have been pushed into paying higher-rate tax in recent years and more will be hit from the beginning of the next tax year under current plans.
The rate kicks in at £32,011 of taxed income, but that is falling to £31,866. The personal allowance, the amount of money you can earn without paying tax, is climbing, from £9,440 to £10,000. But putting the two together means the amount you earn before being hit by 40 per cent tax will climb from just £41,451 to £41,866.
I think it fairer for the greater tax take to come from higher earners than middle-income folk, many of whom are struggling. So while I would welcome the raising of the personal allowance to £10,500, the figure that's been circulating in recent weeks, I think it's time that the 40 per cent threshold kicked in at, say, £45,000.
The lost tax could be raised by lowering the additional 50 per cent tax rate from its current level of £150,000.
But, frankly, I don't expect there to be much fresh tinkering with tax bands this Budget. If he's any sort of politician, and he is, Mr Osborne will save the giveaways for the pre-election Budget in 2015.
So what potential good news could there be? I'm still holding out hope for a change to the way stamp duty is collected. Transferring the tax to the seller, rather than the buyer, would at a stroke ease things for the many first-time buyers who struggle to raise stamp duty of more than £1,000 on top of a hefty deposit.
For savers I'd like the Isa rules to be changed to allow people to transfer between and cash and equity Isas. Currently you can switch your savings out of a cash Isa into stocks and shares, but not the other way. That's a nonsense for those who want to have a more flexible approach to their savings.
However, I would resist attempts to increase the Isa allowance to nearer £20,000 a year as some are proposing. The annual level of £11,520, which climbs to £11,880 from 6 April, seems adequate to me. I would also be wary of the temptation to introduce a limit as to how much people can stash in an Isa. Some have talked of £100,000, which does seem a tidy sum to avoid paying tax on, but if people have played by the rules, so be it.
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