Budget 2012: What's in it for you?

The Chancellor George Osborne has delivered his third Budget.

Big changes to the tax system for both people and business have taken centre stage.

He told MPs that he would reform the tax system to make it simpler and relieve millions of the lowest paid from paying income tax altogether.

At the same time, he said, tax revenues from the wealthiest would increase.

Along the way Mr Osborne described aggressive tax avoidance as "morally repugnant".

Here is a quick guide to how some of these changes will affect you.

What is in all this for ordinary tax payers?

The income tax personal allowance will rise again, not just as scheduled in April this year, but next year too.

It will go up by a further £1,100 in April 2013 to £9,205, a further step towards the coalition's aim of eventually ensuring that the first £10,000 of someone's income escapes tax.

Meanwhile the 50% "additional rate" of tax, which has been in place for nearly two years now for those whose taxable incomes are over £150,000 a year, will be cut to 45% from April 2013.

Are the rich being left untouched?

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Certainly not, argues the chancellor. He says they will be paying much more than now.

Firstly, a cap will be introduced on a variety of perfectly legal income tax reliefs often used by the wealthy, such as loss reliefs, enterprise investment schemes, venture capital trusts and charitable donations.

The maximum relief that can be claimed will now be 25% of your income, once you claim for more than £50,000 of relief in any one year.

A series of measures are also coming in to stop people dodging stamp duty land tax (SDLT), the tax we pay when we buy a property.

Mr Osborne announced that:

  • SDLT will be levied at a rate of 15% when homes are sold in a "corporate envelope", in other words if the sale is of a company that owns the home, rather than the direct sale of the home itself, which used to be a popular way of avoiding stamp duty on high-value homes.
  • the government will consult on bringing in a new annual charge on those homes which are already owned inside such "corporate envelopes".
  • capital gains tax will now be chargeable on profits made by overseas companies that own and then sell homes in the UK.
  • The tax rules on something known as sub-sales relief, which the authorities suspect have been widely abused as a way of dodging stamp duty, will be closed.
  • And from midnight tonight a new top rate of SDLT at 7% will be imposed on sales of homes worth more than £2m.

Just to make sure clever accountants and lawyers find it harder to invent new but legal tax dodges, the government is going ahead with its plan to introduce a novel feature of the UK tax system - a general anti-avoidance rule (or GAAR, in the jargon), to be brought into effect after the 2013 Budget, following consultation.

What about pensioners?

The state pension age is already scheduled to rise to 67, for both men and women, by 2026.

Mr Osborne said he would set up an "automatic review" of the state pension age to make sure it keeps on rising if people keep on living even longer, which means to 68 and beyond.

Details of this will come in the summer.

Meanwhile age-related allowances for pensioners will be simplified "over time" - in effect they will be phased out - starting in April 2013.

The aim is to create a single personal allowance for all, regardless of age, but in a process the chancellor claimed would mean no current pensioner loses in cash terms.

The chancellor said this was a major simplification. But figures in the Treasury Red Book make it clear it will also be a big long-term cost saving for the government.

Meanwhile the government will press ahead with its previously announced plan to merge the basic state pension and the state second pension into just one. At current values the full state pension will be worth £140 a week. Details will come in the spring.

What about businesses?

The changes here are very big.

Firstly, the owners of three million smaller unincorporated businesses will be relieved from some of the burden of accounting for tax purposes, with a new system of "cash accounting" coming in - after formal consulation - for those whose turnover is less than £77,000 a year.

There will also be a public consultation on an idea proposed last year by the Office of Tax Simplification: merging the income tax and national insurance system- a huge change if it comes to fruition.

And corporation tax will keep on coming down. It was already scheduled to drop this April from 26% to 25%. There will now be a bigger cut to 24%, with further cuts in the next two years to 22%, by 2014.

Banks will not benefit though. Their bank levy, to punish them for dragging the economy into recession, will go up next year, so they will still end up paying £2.5bn a year.

Is child benefit being cut, as suggested last year?

Yes, but not in its original form. The suggestion had been that no family should be able to claim child benefit if anyone was a higher-rate tax payer. This led to widespread claims that this would be very unfair.

The new plan is aimed at meeting some of those objections.

It will now start to be withdrawn from households where one person is earning more than £50,000 a year.

But it will not be withdrawn all in one go. Instead, it will be taken away gradually as your income rises.

Only if someone earns more than £60,000 a year will a family lose all its entitlement to this long-standing universal benefit.

The chancellor said this alteration meant that an extra 750,000 families would now keep some or all of their child benefit.

What about the taxes on so-called vices?

Alcohol & cigarettes

Estimate how much beer, wine, spirits and cigarettes you would consume in a normal week.

You will be about £0 better off in 2012/13

There is no change to the planned increase in duties on alcohol, but tax on tobacco goes up much more than planned - by inflation plus 5% at 18:00 tonight.

As for gambling, the tax regime is being changed significantly there too.

A new Machine Games Duty for the gambling industry will come in, at a standard rate of 20%, with a lower rate for "low-prize" machines of 5% of net takings.

The new gambling tax regime will also be altered to discourage online gambling firms from moving offshore.

Whether or not you think driving is a vice, no further changes to the plans for fuel duty were announced and vehicle excise duty (the cost of the tax disc) goes up by inflation only.

However road hauliers will be exempt from the increase.

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