Will the Autumn Statement deliver the next shock or a sense of calm?

15 November 2016

George Bull

With so much focus on Brexit and the American presidential election, the UK Autumn Statement has crept up on us. Now it's just around the corner (Wednesday 23 November) what can we expect? Another shock or will it seek to calm and reassure businesses and taxpayers?

Budget 2016 may have only been eight months ago, but the world now looks a very different place. When Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond gets to his feet next week, everybody will be hoping for messages of calm control, a clear plan in uncertain times and a sense of purpose and direction. Amid speculation that this will be the last Autumn Statement in this format, we have come to expect and we can be sure that there will be new policies to be pored over, new measures to be scrutinised and masses of detail to be analysed.

The big question, of course, relates to the financial projections for the economy. What will be the new Chancellor's approach to the fiscal deficit and to borrowing? To what extent, and this will be a question dear to the hearts of readers of RSM’s Weekly Tax Brief, will tax feature? The number of HMRC consultations which have been published during the last eight months; the amount of debate which these have generated; and the volume of contributions not only by individuals, businesses and the professions but also by the Office of Tax Simplification, suggests that this may well be a tax-heavy Autumn Statement. That would be the case even if the Chancellor did no more than to develop the ideas which are already in the pipeline. But what about his own ideas?

Mr Hammond’s spokespeople have already indicated that he does not feel bound by all the policies of his predecessor George Osborne. So we could see a shake-up if he decides to pull a few rabbits out of the hat. For example, tax breaks for middle-earners? Or will the Chancellor reserve his largesse for a Budget closer to the 2020 election? Will he abandon Mr Osborne's plans for continuing reductions in the rate of corporation tax? Will we see new measures aimed at harmonising income tax and national insurance contributions? And will new tax administration arrangements threaten hundreds of thousands of British homeowners with unexpected tax penalties, while also imposing new digital tax filing requirements at breakneck speed?

In this edition of Weekly Tax Brief, my colleagues pick out some of the key points to watch out for in the Autumn Statement. In the attached colour supplement, we go into far more detail about what might be expected; looking first at what we are confident will be announced, then at what we expect to see and finally at what is possible but less likely. We hope you find this interesting.

As ever, if you'd like more information please get in touch with George Bull or your usual RSM contact.