George Osborne introduced his third budget by saying it would reward hard work, that it would support working families and unashamedly back business. "This is a budget on the side of aspiration," he said. "We have to hire, innovate and be the best. We have to stop being afraid of backing what we are good at. Financial services in this country are strong but they are not the only string to our bow."
The leaks had already given us a preview of his plans to cut the top rate tax from 50p to 45p and also plans to increase the personal allowance threshold. And both points were confirmed.
The chancellor cut the top rate of tax to 45p, with effect from April 2013. He said the rate, paid on earnings over £150,000, damaged the country's competitiveness and had raised only a third of the £3bn expected. "No chancellor can justify a tax rate that damages the economy and raises next to nothing."
Already, the personal allowance will increase to £8,105 in April, but Osborne said he would cut further and faster. From April next year the threshold will increase to £9,205 and he also announced a change in the rules on child benefit.
Beyond these headline measures there were plenty of announcements for small businesses. Already the National Loans Guarantee Scheme has been announced, providing £20bn of guarantees available in total with five banks having signed up to the scheme.
Osborne also announced a National Insurance holiday for the first 20 employees as well as a consultation into the way small businesses pay tax, which would mean firms with a turnover up to £77,000 will pay tax based on the cash going through their business rather than on the complex method used for larger companies. He also promised to remove any anomalies in the VAT system while keeping most of the existing exemptions.
Osborne announced an immediate 1% cut in corporation tax, which will bring it down to 24% from April. Two further cuts in 2013 and 2014 will reduce corporation tax to 22%. This should be greatly welcomed by the business community.
He also confirmed the government would press ahead with an ambition to integrate the operation of income tax and national insurance as he'd announced in last year's budget .
New enterprise areas in Dundee, Irvine and Nigg in Scotland and Deeside in Wales will be added to the already existing 24 enterprise zones across the country as well as a zone in Northern Ireland. He also announced an overhaul of regulation to make it more attractive and easier to launch a business. For young people, Osborne said he'd be looking into launching an enterprise loan as an alternative to student loans.
In order to make the UK a technology centre and he pledged investment into ultrafast broadband and Wi-Fi in 10 of the largest cities in the UK and made £50m available for smaller cities too.
Osborne stated an ambition to double UK exports to £1tn this decade as he promised to set out plans to help small firms in markets abroad.
As a means to make up for the top rate tax cut the chancellor promised to clamp down on tax evasion, which he called "morally repugnant." He said resources had been increased to catch and punish more people avoiding tax payment - this should increase income for the government by £1bn.
The stamp duty rate on properties worth more than £2m bought via companies will be raised to 15% and stamp duty on individual owned properties above the £2m value will be set at 7%. "People have been warned," said Osborne.
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