Today (March 18 2015), the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne took to the dispatch box in the House of Commons to deliver the final Budget of this Parliament and, possibly, his final budget full stop.
The Chancellor was undoubtedly under pressure from his political colleagues to deliver an election campaign-boosting set of measures that would push the polls in the Conservative party’s favour. Fortunately for Mr Osborne, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revised the UK’s GDP growth forecast up 2.5 per cent this year, 2.3 per cent next year and for the following two years, before reaching 2.4 per cent in 2019. This higher than anticipated growth and lower than anticipated borrowing boosted the Chancellor’s coffers by several billion pounds, giving him the freedom to hand out a few treats to voters.
But who were the main beneficiaries of the budget and what does it mean for the funeral profession?
The Chancellor opened his statement by confirming that, a 2.6 per cent, Britain “grew faster than any other major advanced economy in the world last year”. He continued, saying: “A record number of people are in work, with the unemployment claimant rate at its lowest since the 1970s.”
“We set out a plan. That plan is working and Britain is walking tall again,” he said, going on to promise that the Budget would do more to “back business” and “make work pay”.
One of the most significant announcements for the funeral profession was that the planned fuel duty increase, scheduled for September, has been cancelled – marking the longest duty freeze in over twenty years.
He also confirmed that corporation tax will fall to 20 per cent in April 2015, a fall of 8 per cent since 2010 and there will be a review of Business Rates to report by Budget 2016..
For employees, the personal income tax allowance will rise to £10,800 in April 2016 and £11,000 in 2017 and the minimum wage will rise to £6.70 this autumn. However, from next year, the Lifetime Allowance for pensions will be reduced from £1.25m to £1m.
In a move likely to have been welcomed in both homes and small businesses across the UK, the dreaded annual tax return is to be abolished, with information uploaded digitally throughout the year for both businesses and individuals.
It is also worth noting that charities will soon be able to claim automatic Gift Aid on the first £8,000 of small donations, up from £5,000 – something that will undoubtedly benefit those charities chosen for funeral collections.
Alan Slater, Chief Executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors said: “Although this was clearly a politically motivated budget, it is to be welcomed nonetheless. There are some very positive moves in here for NAFD members, particularly the many smaller, family and independent firms and I am pleased to see the Chancellor focusing on practical measures that make the paperwork associated with businesses easier to manage.”