Chancellor George Osborne has delivered a Budget aimed at wooing small firms, savers and those seeking the moral high-ground.
His despatch box delivery was undoubtedly the Conservative Party trying to reclaim ground from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which has gained political capital by positioning itself as the party of the public.
The Google sweetheart deal left him looking soft on big tax dodgers, so Mr Osborne announced he would be clawing back £12bn in a tax avoidance clampdown, which was branded as “huge” by former pensions minister Steve Webb.
At the same time, he courted smaller firms, pledging a level playing field where, previously, the odds had been “tilted against” small and medium enterprises, with £7bn in tax cuts for small businesses that will include thousands of financial advice firms.
However, keen to bolster his own and the PM’s #strongerin position before the EU referendum on the Brexit – where it will be one person, one vote – Mr Osborne’s focus was on showing the electorate that the Conservative Party cares about your clients as individuals.
Lifetime Isas, raising the tax free allowance, upping the higher income tax threshold, backing the Financial Advice Market Review proposals allowing savers up to £500 tax free from their pension to put towards financial advice, and £500 of income tax and national insurance relief for employer-arranged pension advice, was Mr Osborne showing his caring side after all those unwelcome pre-Budget noises about cutting pension tax relief.
The propertied classes, which include many advised clients, are going to find this Budget less cuddly, though.
A planned stamp duty hike on purchases of additional properties will now include those buying more than 15 properties, once again hitting the buy-to-letters.
And of course, Mr Osborne also revealed a big increase in the UK’s debt and a large drop in GDP growth.
But the chancellor is hoping that you don’t focus on that, and summed up the thinking behind this Budget in his closing remark: “This is a Budget that gets investors investing, savers saving and businesses doing business, so that we build for working people a low tax, enterprise Britain – secure at home and strong in the world.”
For more on the Budget see pages 2 to 6 of this week’s Financial Adviser.