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BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND CHILDREN SLASHED

New widows and their children will get thousands of pounds less benefit from April as the Government reorganises the way they are paid. ...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

MOTHERS MUST PROVE THEY WERE RAPED TO GET BENEFITS

From 6 April 2017 the Government will make mothers prove they were raped or sexually abused to get benefits for a third child. 

Rape will be the main exception from the UK's two child policy which now applies to low income families who claim tax credits, universal credit, or housing benefit. It will also apply in some areas for council tax support or reduction. In general there will be no extra money for a third or subsequent child born from 6 April 2017. That will apply to new claims and existing claimants. 

The standard maximum amount for each child in tax credits or universal credit in 2017/18 is £2780 a year. So parents with a child who is subject to the new rule will get nothing rather than £2780. There will be some exceptions. 

Rape
The most controversial exception to the two child rule is for a child born as a result of rape. The mother will be able to claim benefit for the third or subsequent child born from 6 April 2017 if she applies for the exception on grounds of rape and proves that the child was the result of rape or sexual abuse. 

To do that she will have to talk to a social worker, doctor, or nurse and describe what happened and when.

A policy document issued – slipped out some say – on the day of President Trump’s inauguration explained the procedure. A mother claiming this exception would have to “engage with a professional third party” who would provide “Evidence…demonstrating that the claimant’s circumstances are consistent with those of a person who has had intercourse without consenting to it (at a time when the conception of her third or subsequent child might have resulted).” 

The Department for Work and Pensions would then decide whether to grant the exception or not. 

The exception would also apply if there had been a conviction or a criminal injuries compensation payment for the rape.

The Government ignored what it admitted were many responses to the consultation which said "it was unacceptable for Government to ask women to re-live the ordeal of a rape just in order to make a claim for benefit.” It also dismissed “concerns around the mental health impact on victims and pre-conceived perceptions of what a victim should look like.”


The Government also decided that it would include in the rape exception children born as a result of "coercion and control" in a domestic setting. But only if the victim stopped living with the alleged father. “Rather than financial support through benefits for those who do remain with the perpetrator, we think other forms of victim support are more appropriate.”


Twins and multiple births
If someone has one child and then has twins they will get money for both the twins, even though one of them is a third child. But if they have two children already then twins born from 6 April 2017 will have to survive on the money given for their two older siblings. In other words, each child will have half the money it would get if the new additions had been born before 6 April. 

Care
Children adopted from local authority care are exempt from the two child policy as are children living long term with family or friends who would otherwise be in local authority care.

Universal Credit
Universal credit is only available to parents with children in a very few areas - called full service areas. Until November 2018 anyone with a third or subsequent child born from 6 April 2017 who claims universal credit will be directed to claim tax credits instead. Those already on universal credit who have a third or subsequent child from April 2017 will get no extra for it.

Child benefit
These intrusive questions and complex rules will not apply to better off parents who claim child benefit where the means test starts much higher – at £50,000. Those parents will continue to get money for every child including those born from 6 April 2017.

Family premium
Another separate cut in the money given to families also begins on 6 April 2017. Parents making a new claim from this date will not get the extra payment of £545 a year previously paid for the first child. Nor will it be paid for a first child born after 6 April 2017. Family premiums were abolished for housing benefit from 1 May 2016 and for council tax support and reduction schemes from April 2016 in some areas.

Austerity bites. Particularly on families with children.

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6 April 2017

Saturday, 1 April 2017

UNIVERSAL CREDIT - 80% TAX RATE IN 2017

Some householders who get the new means-tested benefit Universal Credit will keep just 20p of every pound extra they earn – an effective tax rate of 80%. In some parts of England it could be more - losing up to 82.4p in every pound that is earned, leaving them with barely 17p for every extra pound they earn. Those losses could undermine the work incentives which the new system is designed to create. 

For graduates on incomes above £17,775 but low enough to get Universal Credit, the deductions would be more, adding about 2.5 percentage points to those figures. Worst case would be earn £1 keep 15.3p.

Universal credit
Universal Credit began to be rolled out from October 2013 to replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits. By 2020 it should apply to most new claims for help with income or rent. It is paid to people on low incomes who cannot work, are looking for work, or work on very low pay.

It is supposed to let people keep more of what they earn and thus boost incentives both to return to work and to earn more once in work. For every £1 extra earned the credit is reduced by 63p from April 2017 allowing the claimant to keep 37p. Before that it was 65p. This so called ‘withdrawal rate’ of 63p in the pound is said to be much lower than rates under the previous and allowing people to keep 37p of what they earn is seen as an incentive to work. However, that figure of 63p withdrawal rate is only accurate for people who earn less than £157 a week and are not householders.

Taxpayers
Universal Credit is worked out after tax and National Insurance have been deducted. In 2017/18 anyone earning more than £157 a week will pay National Insurance and once they earn more than £221 a week income tax begins. Someone paying National Insurance will lose 12p in the pound before their Universal Credit is worked out. The total loss from NI and reduction in Universal Credit is just over 67p from each £1 they earn. So they keep less than 33p. If they pay income tax as well they lose just over 75p of each pound and keep just over 25p. The calculation were originally confirmed by Pensions Minister Steve Webb in Parliament in 2012 when the details were different. (Hansard, House of Commons, 11 September 2012, col.196).

But that is only part of the picture.

Householders
Universal Credit, despite its name, does not replace all means-tested benefits. It does not include the means-tested reduction in council tax which used to be called Council Tax Benefit but since 1 April 2013 has been replaced by a very similar scheme called Council Tax Support which is operated by local councils. Like all means-tested benefits Council Tax Support is withdrawn as income rises. The standard taper is 20p for each £1 rise in net income (after tax, NI, and Universal Credit withdrawal). In other words for each extra pound of net income help with council tax is reduced by 20p. The result is that for each £1 earned a total of 80p disappears in tax, NI, reduced Universal Credit, and reduced Council Tax Support. The calculation is at the foot of this blogpost.

Localism
In some areas of England and Wales the reduction for every £1 of income earned may be even higher. As part of the transfer to local councils the Government has cut the money it currently pays towards help with council tax. From 1 April 2013 councils get 90% of the money they got to pay Council Tax Benefit. The Government has already said that out of that reduced budget they will have to pay exactly the same benefit to anyone over pension age. Nearly half of all Council Tax Benefit recipients are pensioners so the other half – working age people who can claim Universal Credit – will bear the whole of the funding cut. That will mean a reduction for them of between 19% and 33% according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (www.ifs.org.uk/comms/comm123.pdf chapter 5). 

Councils have now published the details of their schemes for the fifth year of local council tax support. In 2017/18 the great majority are keeping the taper at 20%. But 18 have a higher taper. Seven have raised it to 30%; another 12 to 25%, and one to 23% . Only three have cut it to 15%. The analysis is done by the New Policy Institute.

In areas which raise the Council Tax Support taper to 25% householders on Universal Credit who pay tax will find that 81p of each pound earned disappears in deductions. In areas with a 30% taper they will lose 82p and keep less than 18p for each extra pound earned in income tax, National Insurance, reduced Universal Credit and reduced Council Tax Support. In the three areas where the taper is 15% people will lose 79p of each extra pound. 

Students
Students on plan 1 or plan 2 who pay in effect an extra 9% tax whose income is low enough to be entitled to Universal Credit lose typically 82.5p in the extra pound keeping just 17.5p. In areas where the council tax withdrawal rate is 30% they keep just 15p in every extra £1 they earn.

It is a tax
Some people object to the total deductions made from a means-tested benefit being called a 'tax'. They say that the reduction in a subsidy from taxpayers is not a tax. Tax, they say, mean a levy on your own money not a reduction in the money the state gives you. 

But it is a tax. And officially so. In his Spring Budget, 8 March 2017, Phillip Hammond confirmed that the tapered loss of this benefit was a tax. He confirmed the reduction in the taper rate by saying "the Universal Credit taper rate will be reduced in April from 65% to 63%, cutting tax for 3 million families on low incomes."

Conclusion
Losing 80% or more of each extra pound you earn is hardly an incentive to work or to work harder. It is almost twice the 42% tax and NI deductions for higher rate taxpayers with incomes over £45,000, three times the minimum wage.
CALCULATION OF TOTAL DEDUCTIONS FOR A TAXPAYER HOUSEHOLDER
FOR EACH £1 OF EXTRA INCOME WITH 20% COUNCIL TAX TAPER SHOWING EFFECT OF 63% UC TAPER FROM APRIL 2017

EARNS EXTRA
£1.00
Tax
20%
-£0.20
NI
12%
-£0.12
Net after tax
£0.68
UC reduction
63%
-£0.43
Net after UC
£0.25
CTS reduction
20%
-£0.05
NET GAIN
£0.20
Effective tax
80%

This blogpost replaces the one originally published 19 September 2012.

1 April 2017
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Friday, 31 March 2017

OXFORD UNIVERSITY TO ABOLISH STUDENT FEES

THIS BLOGPOST WAS PUBLISHED ON 1 APRIL 2017. DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS FROM THAT.

One of Britain's top universities is to abolish student fees after the Supreme Court allowed it to charge a royalty on every use of English words online.

From 6 April 2017 Oxford University will use a monopoly granted by Henry VIII to demand money from the one billion people who write online in English. They will automatically be billed a ‘nanocharge’ of 0.0001p by Oxford University Press for every word they publish online if it is in the Oxford English Dictionary. Fees from the estimated fifty trillion English words written online each year will allow the university to make education free at all levels.

The Oxford English Dictionary itself only began in 1859 and rapidly became the definitive record of the language. 

But under Letters Patent of 1523 Henry VIII granted the University “our speciall lycence” to collect money “from thoos persons who prynt in the language of Englonde” and use such money “for the supporting and maynteynyng of the vnyuersite of Oxenford” and the order “shulde passe and be sealed vnder our greate Seale as by our said comaundement as ye haue more parfite knaulage of the language of Englonde than any other”.

Henry VIII Letters Patent of 1523 granting Oxford University rights to all English words ‘in perpetuity’. 

The royalty could have been charged at any time since 1523. But early attempts to levy printer’s type led to riots against the so-called “taxes on knowledge”. The situation changed this week when the Supreme Court held unanimously that the words of the Letters Patent could not be clearer” and gave Oxford the right “in perpetuyte” to the copyright on the words in its Dictionary. The court rejected a counter-claim by rival publisher Collins that the Letters Patent were repealed by the Monopolies Act 1624. “No such provision exists in the Statute” said the President of the Court and Oxford graduate Lord Justice Neuberger. Significantly, Justice Lady Hale, the Deputy President who went to Cambridge, did not dissent.

Professor Fiona Nomura, a Proctor of Oxford University Council, told me in an exclusive interview

“For nearly half a millennium Oxford has allowed England, Britain and the world to use the English language free of charge. However, the University is increasingly uncomfortable at Government demands to raise the fees charged to our undergraduates, this year to £9,250. So Congregation decided to use this ancient right to levy a charge on every online use of the words which are the University's copyright and make education at this world beating institution free again.”

She pointed out that Henry VIII himself was a great patron of education and founded several grammar schools and colleges.

Oxford claims the amount “will be too little for an individual to notice but will mean much to our students”.

All words published online will be compared with the online Dictionary and an automatic PayPal debit applied for each word in it. The nanocharge of 0.0001p levied on the estimated 500 trillion online uses of English words each year will raise £500m – more than enough to replace the £110m in fees paid by Oxford’s 12,000 undergraduates. The balance will be used for bursaries and to support its 11,000 postgraduates – who Congregation called “the entrepreneurs of tomorrow” in the so far secret meeting that made this historic decision.

However, Professor Angie Buff of Trinity College Cambridge said the move was a backward step. “It will lead to people misspelling and making up words to try to avoid the nanocharge. They may even start tweeting in foreign languages. It may help a few Oxford students but it will damage literacy and, ultimately, English itself.”

The levy will cover all websites and social media including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even the subtitles on YouTube. Twitter alone publishes 3 trillion English words every year. Oxford is working with GCHQ to extend the nanocharge to encrypted services such as SnapChat.

Professor Nomura confirmed that the copyright only extends to the 600,000 words defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. “Neologisms such as ‘selfiecide’, ‘mansplaining’, and ‘nmh’ will still be free to use, should any ignoramus wish to do so.”

She warned however that the fee would be levied on one new word. At an emergency meeting of the Words Admission National Council English Register this week ‘Brexit’ was added to the Dictionary with immediate effect. Such speed is unusual for an organisation which took twenty-four years to admit the word ‘snozzle’. Professor Nomura denies the haste was to cash in on the word’s popularity. "It is simply because the definition is so clear" she said "Brexit means Brexit," Fi Nomura smiled, “end of."

UPDATE: I have learned that the nanocharge will be brought forward five days and will be applied from 0001 on Saturday 1 April.

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1 April 2017




Friday, 24 March 2017

BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND CHILDREN SLASHED

New widows and their children will get thousands of pounds less benefit from April as the Government reorganises the way they are paid.

Benefits for people whose spouse or civil partner dies on or after 6 April will be cut substantially. 

This major change in bereavement benefits will save the Government £100 million a year. 

A spouse (or civil partner) of someone who dies from 6 April 2017 will get a new benefit called Bereavement Support Payment. People without dependent children will get £2500 and then up to 18 monthly payments of £100. Those who are entitled to child benefit for dependent children will get £3500 plus up to 18 monthly payments of £350.

This payment will replace three existing benefits – a one off Bereavement Payment of £2000, a weekly Bereavement Allowance of up to £113.70 depending on their age for 52 weeks for those without children, and for those with children a weekly Widowed Parent’s Allowance of £113.70 a week until the youngest reaches 18. All rates are for 2017/18.

The arithmetic means that from April 6 new widows without children will get £4300 over 18 months instead of a maximum £7912 over 12 months. And widows with children will get £9800 over 18 months instead of a possible maximum if the old system had continued of more than £108,000 over 18 years.

The changes will not affect anyone already on bereavement benefits or who is widowed before 6 April 2017.

The Government estimates that three out of four bereaved parents with children will be worse off under the new system and that grows to nearly nine out of ten - 88% - among those who work. The Child Bereavement Network says a typical working widowed parent will be worse off by more than £12,000 compared with the old system. 

Other concerns were raised about the new payment during the consultation but the Government rejected them.

First, unlike the current weekly allowances the new Payment is not linked to inflation. Campaigners fear it will be treated like the old £2000 Bereavement Payment which has not been increased since its introduction in 2001. If it had risen with inflation it would have been around £3000 today. They fear the new Payment will also be frozen.

Second, the Government has not extended the Payment to long-term partners who are not married or civil partners. Campaigners say that penalises the children of unmarried partners.

Third, by limiting support to eighteen months it is estimated that 91% of parents will get help for a shorter time than in the present system. That could leave the children of widows in poverty and their parent relying on means-tested benefits. 

On the other hand it comes with a much simpler single National Insurance condition – the deceased must just have paid one year’s contributions in their lifetime. And it is paid to childless widows under 45 who at the moment only get the £2000 payment. Childless widows under the age of 47 will be better off under the new scheme.

None of the new or old benefits are paid to widowed people over state pension age. 

The Government insists the purpose is not to save money but to focus help where it is most needed. In other words those who are left in hardship can claim means-tested benefits. Unlike the old allowances the whole Bereavement Support Payment will be ignored when entitlement to those is worked out. 

Although the long-term savings will be £100m a year there will be extra costs in the first year will be £40m as the new Payment is paid over a shorter period than the weekly allowances. The Department for Work and Pensions tells me those figures, produced in 2014, are out of date and that it expects to spend £70m a year more on Universal Credit for widowed people. A revised impact assessment will be published in April after the change begins.

The last time benefits for the bereaved were changed the excuse of the Labour Government in 2001 was that it had to be done to equalise benefits for men and women. However, it also saved £500m a year. Over the following 12 months many newly widowed women complained to me that there had been no publicity about the cuts that were now affecting them. 

The DWP has told me there will be no paid advertising campaign for the new Bereavement Support Payment. It was relying on statements to Parliament and expected 'stakeholders' to inform people. Plus ├ža change!

Based on my weekly Money Box newsletter 24 March 2017. Subscribe here.

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25 March 2017

Saturday, 18 March 2017

INFLATION TO HIT 4.1% BY CHRISTMAS

The Chancellor expects to deliver an unwelcome Christmas present to us all. Inflation will hit 4.1% in the last three months of the year, the latest forecasts say.

I know Philip Hammond’s last Budget was a U-turn ago (and perhaps it's not called his last Budget for nothing! Boom, boom). But after the announcement a week after his Big Day that he would scrap plans to bring in £2bn over four years from raising National Insurance for self-employed people my wide eyes lighted on some small print I had missed.

Inflation. We’ll get the actual numbers for February on Tuesday 21st March. But when the Chancellor announced in his Budget on 8th March that he would “make no changes to previously planned upratings of duties on alcohol and tobacco” the plans he referred will raise the duty on alcohol by inflation and on tobacco by 2% above inflation.

So far so sneaky. But when I checked the actual alcohol duties they were rising by 3.9%. Duty on the alcohol in spirits and wine rose on 13 March by £27.66 per litre to £28.74. When he made that statement the latest CPI inflation was less than half that at 1.8%. Time to call the Treasury who, after a bit of toing and froing, explained. The inflation rate used for duties is not the CPI but the RPI. Hmmm. Four years ago the Office for National Statistics decided the RPI was such a poor measure of inflation they demoted its status and it is no longer a national statistic, though it is still published. The good thing for the Chancellor about the RPI is that the maths used to work it out makes it higher than CPI under almost all circumstances. So it's ideal for raising taxes.

Back to the figures. The January inflation figures - the ones the Chancellor had access to on Budget Day - show RPI at 2.6% not 3.9%. So back to the Treasury. More toing and froing. Aha. I'm told that the Chancellor doesn’t use past figures for raising duties he uses a forecast figure for RPI. The one he uses is the forecast for the third quarter (Q3) ie the months July to September 2017. And the forecast for RPI inflation for Q3 2017 is 3.9%. What! 3.9% inflation by the late summer?! Sure enough a bit more burrowing found the forecast tables from the Office for Budget Responsibility showing the Q3 forecast for RPI inflation is indeed 3.9%. Hence the hefty rise in your beer, wine, and spirits bill. And hence the 5.9% rise in tobacco duty, underpinned by a minimum pack price of £7.35 to put a lower limit on cheap brands.

Just to confuse things the actual January RPI figure is used for other things like Air Passenger Duty which will rise from 1 April for journeys over 2000 miles by £2 to £75 per flight or by £4 to £150 if you want to feel special by flying in anything other than economy. The cost of owning a car will also rise from April as Vehicle Excise Duty rises by £5 for anything but the least polluting vehicles and by £10 and £20 for the more and most polluting. At least petrol duty is frozen – as it has been for seven years the Treasury was keen to tell me. Without adding that the Chancellor has a bit of a windfall anyway from the rising price of petrol and diesel which has put up the VAT take by around 20% as the pump price rises from £1 to £1.20.

But back to inflation. By Christmas the OBR forecasts RPI inflation will be 4.1% before it starts falling. And the official measure of inflation, the CPI, will be 2.7% by Christmas. After that of course it is on a downward path to the 2% target which the Bank of England must – but almost never does – meet. Even the independent OBR never forecasts that the Bank will miss its target two years hence.

The February figures, published two weeks after the Budget, show inflation is indeed rising. CPI was up 0.5 to 2.3%. That is rather ahead of the 1.9% forecast by the OBR and close to the 2.4% it predicts for Q2 (April to June). RPI was up 0.6 to 3.2%, also slightly above the 3.0% predicted for Q1. So the latest figures do nothing to ease fears about inflation being back.

So the key takeaway from these figures is that Christmas 2017 is going to be much more expensive than last year.

Updated from my Money Box newsletter 17 March 2017. Sign up and get it every week with a full agenda for Saturday's programme. 

Vs. 1,10
22 March 2017

Saturday, 11 March 2017

NO TAX LOCK FOR POOREST SELF-EMPLOYED

Self-employed people who make profits of less than £6000 will still face a massive rise in their National Insurance contributions in 2018/19 despite the Chancellor's U-turn over National Insurance rises. They will pay more than £600 extra to ensure they get a full state pension.


People who earn less than the Small Profits Threshold - £6025 in 2017/18 - do not have to pay National Insurance Contributions at all. But if they choose to do so they can buy them for £148.20 a year. They might do that to fill a gap in their contribution record to make sure they have the 35 years needed to get a full New State Pension of £159.55 a week.

But from April 2018 the cost of these voluntary contributions will quintuple to around £750. That is because the contributions they can pay now - called Class 2 - are being abolished. So they will be left with no choice but to buy the much more expensive Class 3 contributions. They are £741 a year in 2017/18 and will rise by inflation to reach more than £750 from April 2018. So their bill for a year's National Insurance contributions will rise from £148.20 to £750 - a difference of more than £600.

The Government will not say how many choose to pay voluntary Class 2 contributions. But figures published in December 2016 indicate it is around 100,000.

They are not helped by the Chancellor's extraordinary U-turn a week after his Spring Budget to scrap his plans to raise the Class 4 contributions paid by more than three million self-employed to raise another £2 billion over the next four years. Those on very small profits do not pay National Insurance at all so would not have been affected by that rise.

The Chancellor announced his U-turn in a letter to Conservative MPs on the morning of Wednesday 15 March, almost exactly seven days after he made the proposals. He made it clear that he changed his mind so that "the tax lock...commitments we have made...should be honoured in full."

That tax lock was of course in the 2015 Conservative Manifesto which Philip Hammond and more than 300 of his colleagues were elected on. It said four times in almost identical terms that a Conservative government “will not raise VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax”.

Although the law that implemented this tax lock only applied to the contributions paid by employee's and employers - called Class 1- the Chancellor's letter admitted that "it is clear that compliance with the 'legislative' test of the Manifesto commitment is not adequate."

But it seems the tax lock will not protect the million poorest self-employed who need to fill a gap in the NIC record. They face a £600 rise - at least 10% of their low profits.

Unless of course there is another U-turn.

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15 March 2017

NOTE:
The Government response to the Consultation on abolishing Class 2 says

  • "Analysis suggests that those expected to pay Class 3 NICs in any one year following the abolition of Class 2 would represent only 5% of those with profits below the SPL [now called the Small Profits Threshold] in 2018-19, and around 2% of all self-employed individuals who may have self-employment profits. This is based on HMRC forecasts showing that there will be over 5 million self-employed individuals who may be liable to NICs in 2018-19."


That implies 50,000 to 100,000 will be affected. However, researchers say that any estimates of self-employed by income band are "flaky". I am trying to get real figures from HMRC but so far a veil of secrecy has been drawn across them.



BOXED IN CHANCELLOR

You’ve got to feel sorry for Philip Hammond. No, really. The day after his Budget he admitted on the Today programme that he was “working within an extremely constrained environment…where most taxes cannot be raised and much of our spending is also ring-fenced and committed. We are navigating within those confines”.

And now he has had to U-turn on one of his flagship policies where he thought he had wriggle room - raising National Insurance Contributions for self-employed people. It would have brought in £2bn over four years to pay towards the growing bill for social care.

The truth is he was boxed in by the tax lock introduced by his predecessor. That was more than a Manifesto commitment – a Manifesto on which Philip Hammond and more than 300 other Conservative MPs were elected. It said “we will not raise VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax”. After winning the election Chancellor George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron were so keen on this tax lock they passed a law to prevent themselves and future governments raising the taxes that bring in three quarters of all the Government’s income – VAT, income tax, and national insurance.

So a Chancellor who needs to raise extra money has to look to the other smaller taxes. Philip Hammond has already announced a rise in one of those – insurance premium tax. That will rise by a quarter in June from 8% to 10%. But after that his options for his first Budget on 8 March were severely limited.
  • Corporation tax brings in £44bn a year but the Government has already announced it will be cut to 19% from April and 17% from April 2020. 
  • Duty on petrol and diesel raised nearly £27bn in 2015/16 and the Chancellor had already ruled out a rise in that duty, perhaps comforting himself that the rise in pump prices will bring in more VAT. 
  • The Bank Levy collected £3.4bn but that really could not be raised at a time when banks are threatening – and some considering – leaving the UK when the UK leaves the EU. 
  • Air Passenger Duty raises just over £3bn and that may fall slightly after recent changes to exclude children. But with the Scottish Government planning to slash that by 50% when it introduces its own Air Departure Tax in April 2018 it was impossible to increase APD in the rest of the UK. Already Northern Ireland has its own lower rates. 
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax raises nearly £11 billion but another restructuring was impossible after the two recent ones. 
  • Inheritance Tax will probably raise less than last year’s £4.6bn as the partial exemption for the family home is phased in from April. Any increase there would not be possible for a Conservative government. 
  • Higher Landfill Tax might be popular except that rising costs have already caused a growth in illegal fly-tipping blighting many country areas.

So Hammond fell back on raising car tax and alcohol duty by inflation – using the higher Retail Prices Index even though it is no longer a national statistic – and tobacco by 2% above the RPI. In fact he got a slight windfall because the rate of RPI used by the Treasury for duty is the forecast rate for July to September 2017. And that is 3.89%, way above the latest RPI figure he had to hand for January 2017 which was 2.6%. And, of course, he announced the now infamous rise in self-employed Class 4 National Insurance contributions from its present level of 9% to 10% in April 2018 and 11% a year later. That would still be less than the 12% paid by employees. But he has now been forced to withdraw that as it became clear he could not get enough of his own MPs to support it

Despite the Manifesto promise, this increase was allowed by the Tax Lock law which was passed to implement it. The law only covered “the main primary percentage” which “shall not exceed 12%”, omitting the 9% rate paid by the self-employed. None of the MPs who have now scuppered the proposed rise in self-employed NICs seemed to notice that when they passed the National Insurance Contributions (Rate Ceilings) Act 2015 with little debate, on 3 November 2015. Perhaps he hoped they wouldn't notice again. But they did.

Amended from my Money Box newsletter 10 March 2017, Sign up for future editions here

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15 March 2017