Business Innovate – The Budget 2015; surprises and innovation

The final Budget before the election was always going to struggle to provide sizable giveaways with such tight public finances, but even so there were some interesting surprises.

The most innovative of these was the announcement of a Help to Buy: ISA, where for every £200 a first time buyer saves, the government will provide a £50 bonus up to a maximum bonus of £3,000 on £12,000 of savings. Many first time buyers are sure to welcome such a scheme.

Alongside this, was the designating of the first 20 Housing Zones outside London, and continuing to work with the other 8 shortlisted areas. The problem, however, remains that supply and demand simply are too unbalanced.

There were also a few measures that should help to boost employment opportunities for the young with the abolition of Employer NICs for under 21 year olds from April 2015 and continued support for apprentices. This alongside a rise in the personal allowance to £10,800 in 2016-17 should help to continue to reduce the tax burden on those entering employment for the first time.

There were also few interesting measures that are sure to receive less headlines but will help to transform and reduce the cost of administering government services. The Budget announced:

  • That following a successful trial, the government will implement ‘GOV.UK Verify’ which is a new way for people to prove their identity online when using government services.
  • The government will transform the tax system over the next Parliament by introducing digital tax accounts, removing the need for annual tax returns.

Such measures, have the potential if they are further linked in the future providing a truly seamless point of access for government services.

Finally, a number of specific investments were announced that the government hope will continue to improve the UK’s international standing as a leader in research, development and innovation. Such as:

  • £1 million to the Centre for Process Innovation to support innovation and knowledge transfer in the North East’s chemicals sector.
  • £14 million to invest in an Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC).
  • A package of measures to improve the accessibility of R&D tax credits for smaller businesses.
  • A further £100 million in cutting-edge research projects through the current UK Research Partnership Investment Fund round.
  • £400 million for the next round of funding for cutting-edge scientific infrastructure.

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Business Innovate – Budget 2014 – Innovation, before big announcements

Whilst the 2014 Budget was unlikely to be one of significant spending given the fiscal constraints that continue to challenge government, it did provide a backdrop of significant innovation in several policy areas which has not been seen for a number of years.

The most significant of these innovations was in the area of pensions and savings. The UK has for a long time struggled to encourage individuals to think of their long term needs, with policies built up over a number of years being bolted on to an ever more complex system.

The 2014 Budget looks to be taking some significant shifts in these areas. On pensions the Chancellor announced that from April 2015, the government will change the tax rules to allow people to access their defined contribution pension savings as they wish from the point of retirement. If a significant number of individuals choose such action this would be a significant step away from the current system of having to purchase an annuity and could lead to some interesting market innovations in terms of providing incomes for retirement.

Another area of innovation surrounded encouraging saving, with the launch of the New ISA (NISA). This NISA will not only see its limit raised to £15,000 but will also allow individuals to transfer the amount they invest in cash and shares, removing the set restriction for each area. Another possibly more important innovation is that ISA eligibility will be extended to peer-to-peer loans, and all restrictions around the maturity dates of securities held within ISAs will be removed. Again this could provide a number of new investment opportunities that provide better rates and direct savings into small businesses through platforms in the peer to peer lending market.

As well as encouraging individuals to save the Budget 2014 announced the doubling of the annual investment allowance (AIA) to £500,000 from April 2014 until the end of 2015. This will be a significant benefit to businesses wishing to invest and will mean that the scheme will cover 4.9 million firms (99.8% of businesses), providing 100% up-front relief on their qualifying investment in plant and machinery.

Further to this the government also announced it will raise the rate of the R&D tax credit payable to loss making small and medium sized companies from 11% to 14.5% from April 2014, providing valuable support as the economy continues to improve.

Looking forward, there is another interesting announcement for small business in the budget that the British Business Bank will issue a request for proposals to implement an innovative wholesale guarantees programme alongside the Budget. Such a scheme could provide significant support for businesses and provide targeted assistance in the future, and so Business Innovate looks forward to engaging with government on this further in the future.

Whilst supporting small business is welcome, opening up opportunities is important as it allows companies to support themselves. The Budget announced an overhaul of UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) direct lending programme, doubling it to £3 billion and cutting interest rates to the lowest permitted levels. This scheme will mean that UK business will have access to one of the most competitive support schemes available for wining contracts in new markets, helping them to improve and expand overseas.

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