“Thank goodness for stamp duty abolition. Now, if we can only make use of our new millennial railcards and cut down on avocados, we’ll be able to buy properties,” chorus first-time buyers around the country. Or something like that.
Has the Chancellor Philip Hammond taken from the old to give to the young? Yes, and no.
The stamp duty rabbit out of the hat is a £5,000 saving on a £300,000 home, which will certainly buy a new kitchen, though it’s probably better to put it towards a bigger deposit. As with stamp duty, it had been feared that Mr Hammond might target improvements for young people at the expense of older generations via policy changes on long-term savings and investments. It’s incredibly disappointing that he didn’t have any measures to help people squirrel away funds for retirement or improve retirement income.
But the long-anticipated tinkering with pension tax relief to raise revenues and equalise relief for basic and higher rate taxpayers failed to feature in the Budget speech. Perhaps Mr Hammond feared announcing a radical measure that he would be forced to U-turn on.
Remember that all three of the last Budgets have ended up with the Chancellor having to abandon one of the principal revenue-raising measures he announced (George Osbourne U-turned on tax credits and personal independence payments, and then Mr Hammond U-turned on national insurance contribution rises for the self-employed).
So, maybe pensions tax relief is one for next time? The prospect will continue to remain a great marketing tool for pensions companies to persuade higher-rate taxpayers to top up their pension contributions in advance of a Budget speech. Certainly, take advantage while you can.
Meanwhile, have school children taken a stamp duty bullet so millennials can get on the housing ladder? Time will tell – future governments could hike stamp duty back up again. At least he’s giving schools some extra maths funding so future homebuyers have the skills to spot a good mortgage deal - £261 million will be invested in maths and computer science education.
This will include tripling the number of fully-qualified computer science teachers to 12,000 and providing £600 to schools and colleges for each additional 16-year-old pupil who decides to study Maths A Level or Core Maths. Let’s hope that personal finance tuition forms part of the package.