Jeff Prestridge  

Just make it less taxing

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

As the Autumn Statement looms, here’s hoping Mr Hammond breaks with tradition and gets rid of unnecessary taxes.

It’s creeping up on us like a bad dream. The Autumn Statement, that is, ready to be unleashed on the public on Wednesday 23 November – less than a week’s time. Perish the thought.

A time for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tinker with the tax system and make our personal finance lives even more perplexing than they are now.

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Bad news for the public then, but probably good for financial planners who are adept at explaining the financially incomprehensible to their clients – and helping them to avoid any rough edges.

Although Mr Hammond has already gone on record as saying he is not a great lover of Autumn Statements – preferring the big financial stuff to be addressed in the Budget – I can’t imagine for one moment that November 23 will be without its mix of policy announcements and surprises.

Especially in light of the fact that this is the first opportunity for the Chancellor to introduce new policies post the Brexit vote on June 23. 

He’s already indicated he is keen to spend money on the country’s creaking infrastructure and introduce measures designed to boost housebuilding. He has also abandoned a pledge made by his predecessor to balance the Government’s books by the end of the current Parliament.

What I would love Mr Hammond to do is make a pledge to simplify the country’s tax system. In many areas, especially in the personal finance space, it’s become unnecessarily complicated.  Pensions is a classic case in point.

The introduction of the tapered annual allowance in April this year for high earners is a classic case of taxation policy ill thought out. It’s over-complicated, reducing the annual allowance of those earning in excess of £150,000 (I wish) in stages from £40,000 to £10,000.  It’s also fiendishly difficult to comprehend, as well as spiteful.

I’m in the Jon Greer camp on this one (pensions expert at wealth manager Old Mutual). He says the taper should be scrapped forthwith with Mr Hammond stating that its introduction was ‘an error of judgement on the part of former Chancellor George Osborne’. 

There is also the issue of the ever-shrinking lifetime allowance, which currently sits at £1m, causing mayhem with the retirement plans of an ever-increasing band of people (many middle class, many long-sserving public servants).

The allowance is another example of ill-thought-out pension policy hitting those who have saved tirelessly throughout their lives so as not to be a burden on the state in their twilight years.

Then there is the Isa regime. Fine in principle, but increasingly confusing as Isa is piled upon Isa – the help-to-buy Isa, the innovative finance Isa (none of which have yet to get off the ground because of a dilatory regulator) and maybe come April the lifetime Isa (a product Mr Greer describes as ‘muddled’ (dog’s dinner more like). Surely, we need a sweeping of the Isa broom cupboard.