In the 2016 Budget the Government announced the introduction of the Loan Charge - a major initiative to tackle the mass marketing of tax avoidance ‘loan schemes’. Since the legislation establishing the Loan Charge was introduced, there have been many concerns as to its design and the financial difficulties facing taxpayers who used these schemes to either settle with HMRC or pay the Charge. In the 2020 Budget the Government confirmed it would implement a series of reforms to the Loan Charge, following the recommendations of an independent review, chaired by Sir Amyas Morse.
Documents to download
Spring Statement 2018: A summary (358 KB, PDF)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered Spring Statement 2018 to Parliament on 13 March. At the same time the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published updated forecasts in its economic and fiscal outlook.
Government consultations and other announcements
As expected, the Chancellor made no new spending or tax announcements.
- VAT, Air Passenger Duty and Tourism in Northern Ireland – looking at the impact of VAT and Air Passenger Duty on tourism in Northern Ireland.
- Tackling the plastic problem – using the tax system or charges to address single-use plastic waste
- Cash and digital payments in the new economy – looking at the role of cash and digital payments in the new economy. This is intended to explore how the Government can further support digital payments, ensure the ability to pay by cash is available for those who need it, and tackle those who use cash to evade tax and launder money.
- VAT registration threshold – seeks views on whether the design of the VAT threshold could better incentivise small business growth.
- Online platforms’ role in ensuring tax compliance by their users – this will look at how online platforms could work with HMRC and taxpayers to help people who make money through the platforms understand and meet their tax obligations.
Following consultation, the government:
- brought forward the next business rates revaluation by one year to 2021
- has set out its view on the challenges posed by the digital economy for the corporate tax system.
At Autumn Budget 2017, the Government announced additional spending for departments to prepare for exiting the European Union. Alongside Spring Statement 2018, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury allocated the additional funding for 2018/19 to departments. The Home Office (£395 million), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (£310 million) and HMRC (£260 million) received the largest allocations.
The additional funding results in Barnett consequentials for Scotland (£37.3 million), Wales (£21.4 million) and Northern Ireland (£15.2 million).
The Chancellor confirmed that he will set out public spending for 2020 and beyond, at this year’s autumn Budget. A Spending Review will take place in 2019, which will allocate this spending to government departments.
OBR forecasts for the economy
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published a new set of forecasts alongside the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.Their previous set of forecasts were from November 2017.
GDP growth forecasts were little changed…
The OBR made only very small alterations to its GDP growth forecasts compared with its November 2017 projections. Slightly faster growth is expected in 2018, 1.5% compared with 1.4%, as a result of a stronger world economy. Forecasts for 2019 and 2020 are left unchanged at 1.3%, while for 2021 and 2022 they are very slightly lowered by 0.1%-points to 1.4% and 1.5%, respectively.
…from November’s downgrade
The main feature of these new forecasts is that they are broadly in line with the OBR’s November forecasts, which downgraded the UK’s economic prospects: the trend growth rate was lowered to 1.5% from around 2% previously.
This was mainly a consequence of the OBR reducing its assumptions about long-term productivity growth, reflecting poor performance since the 2008/09 financial crisis.
Inflation expected to fall to under 2% in a year
The OBR forecasts consumer price inflation (as measured by CPI) to ease from its current rate of 3.0% to 1.9% on average in the first quarter of 2019 – below the Bank of England’s 2% target. In its latest February forecasts, the Bank forecast CPI inflation would be higher at 2.3% during the same time period. The OBR’s new CPI forecasts are largely unchanged from November’s.
Wage growth forecasts for 2018 raised
Average wages are forecast to grow by more in 2018 than was forecast in November. The OBR projects an increase of 2.7% compared with 2.3% previously, a result it says of “early indications of stronger growth in pay settlements” this year. However, growth rates have been lowered a little in the later years of the forecast – for example, from 3.0% to 2.8% in 2021 and from 3.1% to 3.0% in 2022.
Average earnings growth adjusted for inflation – real earnings – are forecast to “remain subdued, averaging just 0.7% a year” over the next five years.
OBR forecasts for the public finances
The OBR also published new public finance forecasts.
A little less borrowing forecast in all years
Better than expected tax revenues have led to the OBR lowering its forecasts for public sector borrowing in 2017/18. The majority of the improvement comes from strong self-assessment income tax, PAYE, and National Insurance contributions.
The OBR puts the recent unexpected strength in tax receipts down to temporary factors, which are unlikely to persist in future years of the forecast.
The OBR forecast that borrowing will be £3.2 billion lower a year on average from 2018/19 onwards. Again, this largely comes as a result of an improved receipts forecast.
Debt forecasts are lower
The OBR forecasts the debt-to-GDP ratio to be around 1% of GDP lower in all years of the forecast, compared with its November 2017 forecast. Some of this revision is a result of the OBR expecting GDP to be higher in all years, while some is due to the forecast cash level of debt being lower.
The path of the debt-to-GDP ratio is forecast to be the same as in November 2017 – that is, falling in each year of the forecast period after 2017/18.
Fiscal targets forecast to be met…
The OBR believes the Government is on course to meet its targets covering public sector borrowing, debt and welfare spending. The Government’s headroom – the difference between the OBR’s forecast and the Government’s target – is little changed for the borrowing target.
…but the overal objective looks challenging
The OBR believes that the Government’s overall objective for the public finances of a balanced budget – interpreted as applying to 2025/26 – looks challenging.
Documents to download
Spring Statement 2018: A summary (358 KB, PDF)
Financial Indicators: Data from FTSE100, as well as oil prices and gold prices.
This paper discusses the way that Parliament scrutinises the Government's proposals for taxation, set out in the annual Budget statement. It looks at how this procedure may be affected by the timing of a General Election, and the decision in 2017 to move the Budget from the Spring to the Autumn. It also provides some suggestions for further reading.