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The No Win Budget

“Spreadsheet Phil” Hammond, the Chancellor, has in my view an unenviable task in his 22 November budget. The sort of budget measures needed by the economy are likely to be politically unacceptable, especially to the Brexiteer members of the Cabinet.

The Financial Times has reported that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has taken to putting his fingers into his ears when anyone brings him unwelcome news. News such as the UK having the highest inflation rate in Europe. Or having the third-lowest economic growth rate in the EU despite being consistently in the top three in the 2 or 3 years prior to the Brexit vote.

What all of this means is lower investments are being made by worried business people, meaning lower tax revenues. So there is less room for expansive Budget measures, for example putting a credible house building plan forward of the kind our country has not seen in the past fifty years.

As someone helping a lot of people with their tax affairs, I fear these sorts of Budgets more than most. All too often Chancellors backed into a tight corner come out with some flashy, but more or less unworkable, new laws. Red meat tossed to the Brexit dogs in order to keep Phil in his job can end up producing nasty unforeseen consequences.

George Osborne was the master of these kinds of silly tax measures. So much so that HMRC themselves could not cope. Over 60 generic errors have been identified by HMRC in their own calculations of 2016-17 tax bills, and in most cases – surprise, surprise! – they lead to the taxpayer having a higher tax bill than is legally due. Please, spreadsheet Phil, no more of this nonsense!

Friday 24 November 2017