What has Darling got up his sleeve?

24 March 2010

Chancellor Alistair Darling will deliver his Budget to the House of Commons later today - his last before the general election.

But what measures has he got up his sleeve? Will he be looking to prove the government has got what it takes to guide the UK out of economic crisis or will this be an excuse for some popularist measures ahead of the election?

Budget leaks

Darling is expected to announce measures to tackle financial exclusion, including forcing banks to provide basic bank accounts for all.

He is also rumoured to be planning to raise the stamp duty threshold to £250,000 for first-time buyers.

Public finances

Darling is expected to stand by his growth forecasts of 1-1.5% this for year. In 2011, he expects the economy to grow between 3.25% and 3.75%.

Public sector net borrowing will come in around £10 billion lower than the chancellor's £178 billion forecast, although it is still expected to be at a post-war high of around 12% of GDP.

The chancellor is likely to forecast a 1.75% rise in Consumer Prices Index inflation in 2010, falling to 1.6% in 2011.

Public spending

As set out in December's pre-Budget report, total public spending will rise by £31 billion this year, a 2.2% rise in real terms.

From 2011, total public spending will fall, but there is unlikely to be any detail on cuts in today's Budget. Instead, Darling will try to reassure the markets by announcing which departments will bear the brunt of initial cuts.

There are unlikely to be any pre-election "giveaways", although the chancellor will announce a handful of measures to stem unemployment and boost green investment.

Darling will confirm plans to freeze public sector pay for the highest earners.


In the pre-Budget report, the chancellor lowered his estimate of the total taxpayer loss from the bank bailout from £50 billion to £10 billion. He will confirm this, as well as backing for a global bank levy to help repair public finances.

Income tax

All income tax bands expected to be frozen meaning a higher-rate taxpayer earning more than £43,875 will pay an additional £489 in tax.

A new additional rate of income tax at 50% will be confirmed for those on incomes over £150,000.

There are no plans to extend the 50% levy on individual bank bonuses above £25,000. The measure is likely to end on 5 April 2010.

Dividends potentially liable to the higher rate of tax will be taxed at 42.5%. The dividend trust rate will be increased to 42.5%, and the general trust rate of tax will be increased from 40% to 50%.

Personal allowances will be withdrawn for those with adjusted net income above £100,000, reducing by £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000.

From April 2012, the starting point for the 40% income tax rate is likely to be frozen for one year at £43,000.

National insurance

All employer, employee and self-employed rates of national insurance (NI) to rise by a further 0.5% from April 2011. Starting point from which NI is payable to be raised.


VAT returned to 17.5% on 1 January from 15%, and the chancellor has said he is unlikely to announce further rises in the Budget.

The chancellor is unlikely to announce any changes in the headline rate of corporation tax.

He is expected to reaffirm plans to reform the controlled foreign company rules.

A "patent box" for UK companies is likely to be announced, applying a reduced rate of corporation tax of 10% for income derived from patents.

Pensions and inheritance tax

In the pre-Budget report, Darling said the basic state pension would rise by 2.5%, but earnings-based top-ups and a reward for delaying drawing the state pension will be frozen. Some expect Darling to announce a pension tax credit to compensate those who have lost out.

For those earning over £130,000, employer pension contributions are likely to be included in definition of tax income relating to pensions tax relief.

Darling is likely to restrict tax relief on pensions savings from April 2011 for people with gross incomes of over £150,000.

Government contributions to public service pensions will be capped.

Individual inheritance tax allowance is likely to be frozen at £325,000 for the next year.

Alcohol and tobacco duty

Alcohol duty is expected to rise by 5%, under the existing duty escalator system that imposes rises of 2% above inflation.

Darling is likely to hike duty on cigarettes, cigars and tobacco, citing the cost to the health service.

Anit-avoidance tax measures

Darling is expected to announce a crackdown on offshore tax evasion that would see the maximum penalty double to 200% of total tax owed.

He will also outline new measures to reduce tax avoidance schemes.

Green measures

The government will unveil a new £2 billion investment fund to finance green projects such as wind farms and high-speed railways.

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