Oliver Wright on the Budget: Now we have to look at what was NOT said


Oliver Wright@oliver_wright
Wednesday 21 March 2012 15:07

So the leaks and the private briefings were correct and comprehensive.

A cut in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p from next April. A rise in personal allowance to £9,200. An increase in stamp duty on £2 million properties and further measures to clamp down on tax avoidance. Oh, and no mention of a tycoon tax.

But as ever with budgets the real story is not in the Chancellor’s carefully crafted one hour speech but in the hefty pile of Treasury documents that come alongside it.

And here some things will be worth looking at in detail.

Osborne made the point in his speech that this would be a fiscally neutral budget. To the layman that means that the Government will take away what it gives away.

And there were several spending commitments that have to be paid for.

Cutting corporation tax (while possibly good for inward investment) will cost the exchequer as will raising the personal tax allowance. While the 50p tax rate may not have made the £1.3 billion the last Government hoped scrapping it will still cost money.

So how is he going to pay for these commitments?

Mr Osborne seemed to suggest the money would come painlessly by cutting tax loopholes exploited by the rich.

But that is politics not economics and in the cold light of day the budget documents are likely to show we’re all going to be paying a bit more - but in areas not highlighted by the chancellor.

In his speech he hinted at changes to pension rates which will probably turn out to be a big raid on the finances of the over 60s.

His talk of simplifying VAT and removing anomalies will result in some big price increases at the tills.

And his passing mention of a review on alcohol pricing later this year will almost certainly take the gloss off his temporary freeze on booze duties.

In the hours and days ahead there will be more tax hits in the small print.

As Danny Finkelstein pointed out in his column this morning budgets are often portrayed as magical conjuring tricks where tax cuts appear out of thin air and everyone is a winner.

But in the cold light of day that is rarely true. And it certainly won’t be true today.

Government accused of 'stealth tax' on pensioners
Corporation tax cut to 24% in April
Unions criticise regional pay rates plan
Thousands escape child benefit axe
TV tax credit 'could end exodus' of big-budget shows
Smokers slam tobacco duty rise
Job fears over increase in beer tax increase
Plane passengers hit by air passenger duty hike
Anger over George Osborne's North Sea bid
Videogame industry celebrates tax relief in Budget
University research gets £100m boost
Ed Miliband condemns top rate tax cut
Estate agents warn that stamp duty raid could hit all homeowners
Government accused of producing a Budget 'for the rich'
George Osborne slashes 50% top tax rate
Osborne dashes fuel price hopes
Oliver Wright on the Budget: Now we have to look at what was NOT said
James Moore: Budget snap judgements
The Budget at a glance
Full text of the Budget speech

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