The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has delivered his Spring Statement to the House of Commons against a backdrop of a growing cost of living crisis. The Chancellor also stressed that, apart from the untold human suffering, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating further uncertainty in the domestic and global economy, particularly in relation to energy markets and the food supply-chain.
On the morning of the Spring Statement, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that the rate of Consumer Price Index inflation increased to 6.2% in February putting further pressure on the Chancellor to act. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) also expects average inflation to rise to 7.4% this year.
We have highlighted below the main tax measures that were announced:
National Insurance contributions (NICs)
The Chancellor did not remove the 1.25% increase in NICs due to come into effect from this April to help fund the NHS and Social Care. However, he did try to soften the blow by announcing a significant increase in the National Insurance Threshold from £9,880 to £12,570. This increase will see the alignment of the Primary Threshold (PT) for Class 1 NICs and Lower Profits Limit (LPL) for Class 4 NICs with the personal allowance of £12,570 from 6 July 2022. It has also been confirmed that the thresholds will remain aligned going forward. According to government figures this means that around 70% of employees will pay less NICs, even accounting for the introduction of the Health and Social Care Levy.
The PT and LPL will be £9,880 (as previously announced) from 6 April 2022 – 5 July 2022. It is unusual for tax rates to change during a tax year, but the Chancellor was facing pressure to make changes and the short period before the new tax year starts left him with no choice but to delay the increase for 3 months. July is the earliest date that will allow all payroll software developers and employers to update their systems and implement the necessary changes. This means the LPL will be £11,908 for the 2022-23 tax year which is equivalent to 13 weeks of the threshold at £9,880 and 39 weeks at £12,570.
Reducing Class 2 NICs payments for low earners
From April 2022, the self-employed will see Class 2 NICs liabilities reduced to nil on profits between the Small Profits Threshold (SPT) and LPL. This will ensure that no one earning between the SPT and LPL will pay any Class 2 NICs, while allowing individuals to be able to continue to build up National Insurance credits. This change represents a tax cut for around 500,000 self-employed people worth up to £165 per year.
In his speech, the Chancellor confirmed that the government would increase the Employment Allowance by £1,000 to £5,000 from April 2022. This represents a tax boost for around 495,000 small businesses who can claim an increased reduction in their NIC liabilities or even reduce their bills to zero.
In total, this means that from April 2022, 670,000 businesses will not pay NICs and the Health and Social Care Levy due to the Employment Allowance. The Employment Allowance is only available to employers with employer NIC liabilities of under £100,000 in the previous tax year. Connected employers or those with multiple PAYE schemes will have their contributions aggregated to assess eligibility for the allowance.
Fuel duty cut
The Chancellor announced a temporary UK-wide 5p per litre cut in fuel duty on petrol and diesel from 6pm on 23 March 2022 for 12 months. This is a saving worth around £100 for the average car driver, £200 for the average van driver, and £1500 for the average haulier in the coming year. This represents total savings for households and businesses worth around £2.4 billion in 2022-23 and is only the second cut in fuel duty over the last 20 years.
The government will expand the scope of VAT relief available for energy saving materials (ESMs) by reducing VAT from 5% to 0% from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2027. This will ensure that households having energy saving materials installed like solar panels, heat pumps, or insulation will pay no VAT.
The government will also include additional technologies and remove the complex eligibility conditions, reversing a Court of Justice of the European Union ruling that unnecessarily restricted the application of the relief. A typical family having roof top solar panels installed will save more than £1,000 in total on installation, and then £300 annually on their energy bills.
The VAT rate cannot immediately be reduced to 0% in Northern Ireland due to the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, the Northern Ireland Executive will receive a Barnett share of the value of the relief until it can be introduced UK-wide.
Household Support Fund
The government launched a £500 million package of support for vulnerable households in October 2021. The Household Support Fund is used to help support millions of vulnerable households in England and monies is distributed by councils. This means that local councils can use the funding to provide discretionary support to vulnerable households. This could include using small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities.
The Chancellor announced as part of his Spring Statement measures that the government will provide an additional £500 million for the Household Support Fund from April 2022. The Barnett formula will apply in the usual way to additional funding for the devolved administrations.
R&D tax relief reform
It has been confirmed that from April 2023, all cloud computing costs associated with R&D, including storage, will qualify for relief. This change will boost sectors where the UK is a world-leader, including AI, robotics, manufacturing, and design. Further changes to the relief may also be announced as part of the Budget later this year.
Income Tax basic rate
Whilst no immediate changes were announced, the Chancellor confirmed that the government will reduce the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2024.
This will apply to the basic rate of non-savings, non-dividend income for taxpayers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to the savings basic rate which applies to savings income for taxpayers across the UK.
The reduction in the basic rate for non-savings-non-dividend income will not apply for Scottish taxpayers because the power to set these rates is devolved to the Scottish Government. However, the Scottish government will receive additional funding which they can use as they see fit, including on reducing income tax or other taxes, or increased spending.