Investments  

10 key takeaways from the Autumn Statement

News sites are awash with Autumn Statement coverage as journalists delve into the small print of the documents looking for those devilish details.

1. Stamp duty is no longer a cliff edge.

It’s the big headline of the afternoon (though even this last flourish was leaked in advance): the anachronistic cliff edge stamp duty thresholds are being abolished, from midnight, and replaced with a more graduated income tax-style system.

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Under the new rules, there will now be no tax payable for houses worth less than £125,000, 2 per cent on the portion of any value above this and up to £250,000, 5 per cent on the next portion up to £925,000, 10 per cent up to £1.5m, and 12 per cent thereafter.

For a £185,000 property you’ll pay nothing on the first £125,000 and 2 per cent on the remaining £60,000. This works out as £1,200, a saving of £650 on the old rules.

It will be interesting to see the effect on the property market. Will, for example, property values that currently cluster just south of a ‘slab’ threshold begin to creep upwards?

2. Death tax cuts go on pensions...

Yep, as we knew from the party conference season there will be no tax when passing on a pension - and this has been extended beyond the value protected annuities we knew back then were included to both joint life and guaranteed annuities.

This ensures that drawdown and annuities have been equalised, but as several commentators have said, there is a major discrepancy opening up in relation to defined benefit pensions. Transfers a go-go, some say.

3. ... And on Isas too.

Elsewhere, and in probably the only announcement we weren’t broadly expecting, the chancellor announced Isas can now be passed on to a surviving spouse or civil partner tax free. If the inclusion of Aim shares didn’t herald the era of the IHT Isa, this might.

It also signals a convergence of policy on these two key tax-incentivised saving policy areas. As a colleague said to me today, and has been suggested by the Centre for Policy Studies, we might be moving longer term towards the merging of pensions and Isas into a single savings regime.

4. Two U-turns mark a slowdown in tinkering.

An attempt to clamp down on IHT avoidance through the use of multiple trusts was scrapped, as was another plan to introduce tax relief on contributions for those over the age of 75 ahead of a likely increase in older saver provision.

Both were subject to consultation and both deemed too complicated to push through in their current guise. The document suggests however, that the former of these proposals may yet return in another form as the government indicated it isn’t finished with this issue yet.

5. Public finances are open to interpretation.

Depending on who you listen to, the government has either saved us all or made a right horlicks of clearing the deficit.