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Thursday’s Autumn Statement: 10 freezes and tax rises you should brace for now

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

On 17 November, Jeremy Hunt will be looking to reverse the damage done by his predecessor’s disastrous mini Budget. Expect freezes, tax rises and few surprises.

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has already spoken of  “the tough road ahead” and “eye-watering decisions” as he lays the groundwork for his Autumn Statement (a Budget in all but name).

Here, experts give their thoughts on what we can expect this Thursday… (And it isn’t pretty).

1) Capital gains tax

There are rumours that capital gains tax (CGT) is likely to be raised which could hit ordinary taxpayers harder than “the very rich for which it was originally intended”, according to Alice Guy, personal finance expert at Interactive Investor.

She said: “Raising capital gains tax to 40% rather than a current headline rate of 28% would mean that a taxpayer who bought a second property for £200,000 and sold it for £300,000 would pay an extra £12,000 tax. That’s a particularly gloomy scenario, and one which we hope does not play out. But it does highlight the scope for unintended consequences.”

Jon Hickman, corporate tax partner at BDO, noted: “While there is scope to raise significant revenue from CGT, an increase in the headline tax rate seems unlikely but cuts to the annual exemption and possibly other CGT reliefs could be an option.

“If an increase in CGT rates is thought necessary, we would only expect this to take effect from 6 April 2023.”

2) Dividend tax

Dividend tax, which is payable on dividend earnings of above £2,000 per year, could also be in the firing line, according to experts.

Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor, said: “Having remained at £2,000 for the past five years, where previously it was £5,000, the latest whispers from Whitehall suggest the threshold for dividend tax could be lowered – meaning more people will be liable to pay the tax.

“This would hit those who have income investment held outside an ISA. Rumoured changes to dividend tax is a timely reminder of the benefits of investing through an ISA, which comes with a generous annual allowance of £20,000.”

3) Energy company windfall

It is possible there will be an extension of a windfall tax on North Sea energy producers. It has been reported that the tax could raise around £40bn.

Hickman said: “The current windfall tax on oil and gas companies may well be extended – in its rates, scope and/or duration. Rishi Sunak did not extend the tax to nuclear and renewable electricity generators but this may now change.”

4) First-time buyers

Given the end of the Help to Buy scheme, the complexities of shared ownership and the ructions that the mini Budget caused for the mortgage market, some experts have predicted that Hunt may throw “some sweeteners” the way of first-time buyers.

Jobson said: “The government could move to ease the plight of first-time buyers. Even with the recent cut to stamp duty, things don’t seem to be getting easier for most first-time buyers, as rising mortgage rates and sky-high house prices have forced many to give up on their dream of homeownership for now.

“The closure of the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme last month does not help matters. While not a roaring success, it offered over 361,000 a route onto the property ladder.

“As Help to Buy disappears from view, first-time buyers would hope for a replacement initiative to take its place in the coming months to ease the plight of first-time buyers – the key will be to help first-time buyers without fuelling more runaway house price inflation.”

5) Holiday lets

The government could overhaul the tax regime for holiday lets with the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) suggesting the favourable tax treatment of holiday lets should be scrapped to level the playing field between short and long-term lets.

Sean McCann, chartered financial planner at NFU Mutual, said: “On the back of the OTS recommendations it’s possible that the Chancellor could remove many of the tax benefits enjoyed by owners of furnished holiday lets and raise some much-needed revenue.”

6) Income tax

Income tax bands are likely to be frozen for a further two years.

McCann said: “Thresholds for income tax and child benefit tax have already been frozen until April 2026 by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor. Now it’s likely he will freeze them a further two years until 2028.

“As wages grow to keep pace with inflation, more people will find themselves being dragged into paying income tax at 40% or 45% for the first time.”

7) Inheritance tax

Most pundits believe that the Chancellor will freeze the inheritance tax bands for an additional two years. It is reported that the freeze could generate around £500m.

Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: “The freeze would push more people into paying death tax. Despite just one in 25 deaths leading to inheritance tax being paid last year, it’s still widely regarded as the UK’s most hated tax.

“Extending the freeze from the current 2026 to 2028 will mean that the £325,000 tax-free allowance will be unchanged for almost two decades, during a period where house prices and other asset prices have risen dramatically. This is reflected in the government’s tax take, with £6.1bn paid in IHT in the past tax year – a more than £700m increase on the previous year.

“The freeze will make inheritance tax more mainstream and start hitting those who wouldn’t class themselves as wealthy, particularly if they aren’t eligible for the fiendishly complex residence nil rate band allowance.”

8) Investment zones

Plans for low-tax investment zones which were laid out in the mini Budget are also likely to be scrapped.

Jobson said: “Plans for low-tax investment zones to boost UK economic growth could be taxed or pared back significantly as part of cost cutting measures, potentially retaining up to £12bn in tax revenues a year.”

9) Pension allowance

Currently you can save up to £40,000 a year into a pension and receive tax relief on those contributions, essentially topping up the amount saved.

It’s a big expense for the Treasury, costing more than £48bn a year, with more than half of that going to higher and additional rate taxpayers. Huge sums could be saved by trimming the annual allowance.

Though as McCann points out: “The population is not saving enough for retirement so Jeremy Hunt will need to tread carefully.”

10) Pension triple lock

It is unlikely that Hunt will remove the pension triple lock, although this may be more a political decision than a financial one.

Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter, said: “Sunak and Hunt will no doubt be weighing up whether they honour the manifesto promise of keeping the triple lock in place or opt to increase the state pension by a different measure in the face of a very difficult and uncertain economic outlook.

“While it will be expensive to keep in place for April 2023 given it is set by the September 2022 inflation figure of 10.1%, it may prove just too politically damaging to scrap it.”