Jeff Prestridge  

Christmas election looms

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

I always know we are hurtling towards Christmas when Bonfire Night has launched its last rocket and lit its final Catherine wheel.

Suddenly, High Streets – or what is left of them – sparkle with Christmas decorations.

Yuletide is very much in the air.

Yet this year, with the passing of November 5, it is not just the joys (or woes) of Christmas that are fast approaching on the horizon.

We also have the thrill of a general election to look forward to and compete for our attention. 

I am not particularly fond of Christmas, shuffled off as I usually am to a hotel I do not want to be in – while I have nothing but loathing for most politicians.

As I sit down to write this article, the political manifestos from the main parties have yet to be published.

Indeed, Labour (up until 11.59pm November 6) is still inviting the public to help write its 2019 manifesto so that it can “transform” the country.

For better? Or for worse? For you to answer.

Yet we already have a flavour of what we will get if either the Conservatives or Labour are in a position to form the next government.

Under the guidance of John McDonnell, Labour will usher in radical change that will put more power in the hands of the trade unions and workers.

Industries – starting with the railways and water companies – will be brought back into public ownership.

There will be welfare reform, higher income tax rates for those earning more than £80,000 a year and a curbing of the buy-to-let market.

Meanwhile, the main thrust of the Conservative manifesto will be focused on cutting taxes and raising personal allowances.

For financial advisers and aficionados, it will be any reform to inheritance tax and pension tax relief that will probably be of greatest interest.

On IHT, Labour has already declared its hand.

Earlier this year, in a document entitled Land for the Many, it recommended a sweeping away of the current IHT threshold, which currently stands at a maximum £475,000.

Instead, it said it would introduce a so-called lifetime gifts tax, meaning anyone inheriting more than its suggested £125,000 lifetime maximum would pay income tax on the surplus.

Labour’s number crunchers have calculated that it will reap a Labour government £9bn more in tax receipts in the tax year commencing April 6 2020 than if it continued with the current IHT regime.

The Conservatives, it seems, are more interested in preserving the existing regime, but simplifying it.

They could do this by axing taper relief and pruning the various gift allowances – recommendations already made by the Office for Tax Simplification.

With regards to any reform of pension tax relief, the parties have so far said very little, and it seems unlikely any major reform will make it into the manifestos of the Labour and Conservative parties.