As the end of Parliament approaches, George Osborne delivered his pre-election Autumn Statement.
The key change was a rise in stamp duty for high value homes; could this be the Conservative answer to a ‘Mansion Tax’?
Will it be enough to sway voters who feel this Government have not done enough to address the perceived growing polarisation of wealth?
The move to allow spouses to inherit ISA status will be seen as another pro-marriage element to Tory Policy and may appease calls from their support base for more tax breaks for married couples.
There was not much in the statement to please higher rate tax payers who may feel that every political party has them in their sights to pay down the deficit. An increase in the threshold, although small, is the first rise for 5 years.
Further pension changes were announced enable beneficiaries of annuities to be paid tax free. This does not apply to defined benefit schemes, the Chancellor seems determined to bring the attractiveness of personal pension arrangements in line with company and public sector pensions which makes me wonder what his long term plans are for the public sector.
The policy of enforcing tax on global companies generating profits in the UK may be a vote winner, but it remains to be seen if those taxes can be collected. Perhaps the public has high expectations of what national governments can enforce in a global business community. Combined with a tougher tax regime for banks will these policies be enough to persuade floating voters that the Tories are penalising the “bad guys”? George Osborne will be aware of the absolute need for the UK to remain competitive whilst balancing social discontent at home.
The growth figures the OBR are predicting certainly make it look like recent policies are moving us in the right direction compared to France, however as David Coombs (Head of Multi-Asset Investment at Rathbones) pointed out at our FMB seminar yesterday- no matter what economic road we take we will not escape the drag of the impending Eurozone recession.
David warned that whatever the outcome of the election markets would be volatile for the next couple of years. A Labour victory would see jittery markets as spending increases with no plan to reduce the deficit, a Tory victory would lead to two years of hyperbole over “Brexit” (our departure from Europe) and with the distinct possibility of a 1974 style hung parliament there was no sign of calm waters ahead. On a positive note he did emphasise that with volatility comes opportunity for investors!