Thorne Widgery warns small businesses may lose out as Budget targets the polls

Dan Crowther - CEO

Vote-winning measures took the top spot in the Spring Budget, says Thorne Widgery as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers his ‘Budget for long-term growth’.

The headline measure for businesses, a rise in the threshold at which businesses and sole traders must register to pay VAT from £85,000 to £90,000, while beneficial, still suffered from widespread fiscal drag.

Although it will push many SMEs back below the threshold and represent a significant saving, it is the first change in seven years to the VAT threshold, which substantially reduces the overall benefit to businesses.

Additionally, as widely predicted, Mr Hunt again reduced the rate of employee and self-employed National Insurance to eight and six per cent respectively from 6 April 2024 – but once again failed to pass this cut on to employers.

Questioning why the cuts were benefitting individuals but not businesses, Thorne Widgery called for a more widely distributed approach to tax cuts and reliefs.

“This was very much a Budget for individuals,” said Daniel Crowther, CEO at Thorne Widgery. “There’s a general election coming up, so it’s unsurprising that many of the measures announced by the Chancellor prioritise the financial wellbeing of the people.”

In particular, the firm highlighted the heavy emphasis on the High Income Child Benefit Charge, which saw its threshold increase from £50,000 to £60,000, in addition to plans to move the Charge to a household model and reduce the burden on families with high income disparity.

“It is excellent to see individuals benefitting from this Budget through enhanced public services spending and tax reductions,” said Daniel.

“However, considering recent high inflation, it would have been great to see further measures to support SMEs and businesses outside of high-growth sectors which have long been targeted by the Chancellor.

“Beyond the new VAT measure, businesses, particularly those which are small and independent, may well benefit from nominally ‘voter-oriented’ policies,” said Daniel, citing the fuel duty freeze as a prominent example.

Additionally, the ‘back to work’ thread running throughout the Chancellor’s statement will invariably have a positive impact on growing businesses looking to take on additional staff.

“We also saw tax reliefs and investment for performing arts and film and television production, as well as a freeze in alcohol duty, which will be highly welcomed by those within these sectors, but do little to help the wider business community.

“The eventual extension of Full Expensing to leased assets may do more for more, but this has no date attached to it and will come in ‘when fiscal conditions allow’.”

“While we welcome measures which support high-growth sectors in the UK, we would also like to see ongoing support for all SMEs, particularly in the realms of National Insurance costs and rates.

“This was not a negative Budget for SMEs, rather it highlighted pre-election priorities which naturally target individuals.

“What we now urge business owners to do is proceed with caution as it is evident that The Treasury’s attention is on the needs of individuals through tax cuts and reliefs.”

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