Budget 2018: What can we expect from chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget?

This year's Autumn Budget falls earlier than usual due to Brexit negotiations

Philip Hammond threatens to impose new tax on technology giants

Philip Hammond will deliver his 2018 Budget at 3:30pm on Monday, and with Brexit negotiations looming, there is more uncertainty than ever surrounding the state of the UK economy.

The key questions are whether his 2018 Budget will usher in the "end of austerity" that the Prime Minister recently trumpeted at the Conservative Party conference, and how will Mr Hammond come up with an extra £20bn for the NHS by 2023?

As the chancellor prepares to step up to the dispatch box to deliver his tax and spending plans a number of announcement have been trailed already and Theresa May has narrowed down the options in other key areas.

Here's what Mr Hammond is likely to announce:

Mental Health

Mental health services are to be given a £2bn per year boost in real terms by 2023-24 as part of the government’s package for the NHS. The money will go towards making mental health support available in every A&E department, and include an increase in specialist ambulances across the country.

The injection of funds into mental health provisions will form part of £20bn in funding promised by Theresa May earlier this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the health service.

The earmarked cash for mental health services follows an admission from Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, that mental health treatment is still failing six years after the government promised dramatic change.

Roads

The UK's road network will receive £30bn of investment in what the Treasury hailed as “the biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads”. The move sounds like a rehash of George Osborne's 2015 announcement that for cars registered after April 2017, all vehicle excise duty would go to a new roads fund from 2020, which is set to generate £30bn over five years.

Mr Hammond will say in his budget speech that a £28.8bn fund will be dedicated to strategically important roads such as motorways and major local routes, for improvements, upgrades and easing congestion under the plan, which covers 2020-25. Major new roads could be built too.

He will also set aside extra cash to fix potholes, repair damaged roads, and trial new methods of transport such as electric bikes. Environmental groups have expressed anger that such a large amount can be found for roads while only £60m is set to be announced for tree planting.

Fuel duty

Another announcement that will be welcomed by motorists is a freeze in fuel duty for the ninth consecutive year, despite Mr Hammond suggesting last month that the tax could rise. Theresa May has said that the freeze introduced by Mr Osborne would remain in place despite the fact that it will cost the Treasury an estimated £38bn over the budget forecast period.

With a clear environmental case for increasing the tax, the decision appears to be a purely political one. This will please Tory colleagues who view the policy as a cornerstone of “blue-collar Conservatism”.

High streets

The beleaguered UK high street is to benefit from a £1.5bn package of business rates relief and town centre infrastructure spending.

The chancellor is expected to announce £900m of business rates relief for around half a million small retailers, saving them around a third off their bills.

High retail business rates in popular locations have long been a major source of discontent for the retail sector, with many firms blaming them for squeezing their profitability and complaining that their online rivals like Amazon do not face similar levies.

Sean O'Grady, Rob Merrick and Cait Morrison discuss the upcoming budget

'Amazon tax'

Mr Hammond wants to crack down on technology giants such as Amazon and Google who pay relatively low rates of tax by shifting profits across jurisdictions.

"Spreadsheet Phil" had strong words earlier this month about big tech firms, comparing their dominance today with “the near-monopoly of Standard Oil and the railroad cartels” in 19th century America. He added: ‘The best way to tax international companies is through international agreements, but the time for talking is coming to an end and the stalling has to stop.

While action is well overdue, it will be difficult to have a big impact without international cooperation and the revenues from any new measures will be uncertain.

Unsurprisingly, business groups said a new tax would be a bad idea. The Confederation of British Industry’s director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “Wherever possible, the UK must move in step internationally if we are to address the tax balance in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t damage the UK's global competitive advantage.”

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors warned it could harm the UK's reputation as a place to do business.

Income tax u-turn

The Conservatives pledged in their manifesto to raise the minimum threshold for income tax from £11,850 to £12,500 by 2020, while the lower boundary to pay the higher-rate was set to rise from £46,351 to £50,000 but there have been suggestions that this may be scrapped.

Contractors tax

Contractors working through their own limited company and claiming they are self-employed face stricter rules that would see many of them pay the same level of tax and national insurance as employees.

Last year the government toughened so-called IR35 rules for public sector workers so that it is up to a public authority to decide their contractors' status, rather than the contractor themselves. Critics say this has led to some genuine freelancers being classed as employees.

Pensions tax relief slashed

"Eye-wateringly expensive" was how the chancellor recently described pension tax relief which costs the government around £40bn per year.

Currently, when someone makes a payment into they get tax relief at the rate they pay on their income. So a basic rate taxpayer who puts £8,000 into their pension pot effectively gets £2,000 from the government.

Taxpayers in the 40 per cent bracket can claim back up to a further £2,000 through their tax return, reducing the effective cost to as little as £6,000.

This subsidy for relatively wealthy people is likely to face some form of cut, though the details are far from certain.

Two options available are cutting the overall cap and the rate at which relief is tapered for the highest earners.

Private school fees VAT

Many private schools currently avoid having to charge VAT because they are registered as charities, but Mr Hammond is reportedly considering ending this loophole which could net the Treasury around £1.5bn.

The private school lobby has cried foul, suggesting that the move would actually cost taxpayers £600m, apparently on the fairly crude estimate that a 20 per cent tax would force 20 per cent of the 500,000 pupils who attend Britain's private schools into the state sector.

There is a clear logic to taxing private schools, which have come a long way from their philanthropic beginnings, but it would also be extremely unpopular with a section of Tory voters.

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Brexit 50p coin

As if to soften the blow of crashing out of the EU, or perhaps in an attempt to unite implacably opposed sides of a frequently noxious debate, the chancellor will unveil a 50 pence piece to commemorate Brexit.

The new coin will be available from 11pm on 29 March next year – Brexit day. The coin is expected to have the words “Friendship With All Nations” inscribed on it.

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