Budget build-up marked by ‘excitement and trepidation’

THE build-up to the UK Government’s forthcoming Budget in March promises has been “unlike any other in recent memory”.
That’s the assessment of Derek Hanlan of accountancy firm Martin Aitken, part of a panel of Scottish business experts who will analyse the contents of Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt’s statement in a Budget Briefing Breakfast being hosted by The Herald. The event will take place at the offices of The Herald the morning after Mr Hunt announces the key measures to the House of Commons on Wednesday March 6.

Hosted by veteran political journalist, and Herald columnist, Brian Taylor, it will see Mr Hanlan joined on the panel by Grant Johnston of law firm Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie, and Emma Congreve, deputy director of the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute.

Mr Hanlan said: “The build-up to Budget 2024 is unlike any other in recent memory – it is approached with both excitement and trepidation in equal measure. With a pending general election, there are rumours of income tax, inheritance tax and stamp duty giveaways to sweeten the electorate – and expect the corporation tax full expensing relief announced at the Autumn Statement to get further airtime. And, with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and inflation still sitting at 4%, tax cuts are good news, right?
“And yet, stability and certainty are buzzwords for tax professionals and taxpayers alike. The income tax system in Scotland – with the increasing Scottish rate of income tax, high income child benefit charge and reducing personal allowance – is already difficult to comprehend. The upcoming introduction of the advanced rate in April brings more confusion, and any further diversion from the rest of the UK will heighten the policy conflict between Holyrood and Westminster.”

Mr Johnston said: “Amid the political turbulence both in Holyrood and Westminster in the run up to this year’s election, this Budget has the potential to bring some rather big changes. With this Budget it feels as though there is a higher degree of uncertainty in comparison to those from the last 10 years.

“We will be keeping a close eye on any movements from the Government and Treasury to ensure we are ready for the multitude of possibilities that could come into play. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that Government borrowing halved in December 2023 – this hints at the prospect of tax cuts which could significantly alter our recommended strategies for our clients’ planning and investment.”

Ms Congreve said: “This Budget will be the last chance for the UK Government to make big changes to taxation before the election. Given that living standards have been hit so badly over the last couple of years due to the cost-of-living crisis, the Government appears to be planning for a grand gesture that will put more money in people’s pockets. This is likely to be at the expense of funding for public services, leaving big questions for how sustainable this will be in the long term.”

For tickets to the event, visit https://bit.ly/3Uq0EKa