Investments  

Budget 2014: As it happened

So here we are again, dear reader, waiting in tremulous anticipation for the Budget announcements that will form this year’s package of tax and fiscal policy measures.

Well, not quite. It’s hard to get excited about something when you know most of what is happening.

It has already been announced, for example, that working parents are being offered support through a tax-free childcare scheme worth up to £2,000 per child, per year - though the devil could be in the detail with this initiative.

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The government has also already announced that the Help to Buy equity loan scheme to support low-deposit buyers of new build houses is to be extended to 2020, with £6bn of government funding being thrown into the pot taking the total for this phase of the programme to £9.5bn.

As well, we as good as know that the lower rate income tax threshold is going to be raised again - the only questions here are around what will happen to the 40 per cent ‘upper rate’ band to rebalance the books, and how strongly George Osborne will go to claim the policy as Conservative rather than a coalition compromise.

We also have a good idea that trivial commutation will be addressed, meaning the threshold below which a person can take their pension as a lump sum will be increased from the current rate of £18,000. Again, the uncertainty is simply over how low it will go.

We’ve seen widespread calls - as we do every year - for the pensions lifetime allowance to be upped or even scrapped. I suspect we’ll be lucky if it isn’t dropped again; an inflation-linked rise would be a very good result indeed.

There have also been more calls than in previous years to address the stamp duty regime to prevent market distortions created by the current ‘cliff-edge’ system, by either upping the threshold at which the 3 per cent rate applies from £250,000 to £300,000 (more likely), or more radically changing the way it works more fundamentally to make it a marginal tax (less likely).

Overall it’ll be the usual mix of tweaks to incentivise business and show support for ‘working families’, and necessary cuts in a continuing effort to tackle the deficit and plug the latest £20bn hole in the public finances.

While you are waiting for the speech, why not read our Budget predictions blog here. For all of our Budget coverage in the lead up to today, visit our In Focus: Budget 2014 page by clicking here.

Otherwise, I’ll see you here from around 12.30pm.

12.02: We might as well get started a little bit early and cover Prime Minister’s Questions. David Cameron gets started with a dual tribute to the Tories old adversary Tony Benn, and the Team GB paralympic team...

12.04: Question from the Tory benches designed to highlight 63,000 drop in unemployment - and especially youth employment. Shows the need to keep cutting deficit we are told - expect the chancellor to reference these figures again later.