UK tax updates
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The UK Chancellor faces another backlash over tax hikes for the corporate sector as he claims he is risking corporate investments and choosing the “easy option” of turning to corporations to fund higher public spending.
Tony Danker, chief executive of the CBI, will say in a speech that he is “deeply concerned” that the government believes that corporate taxation will have no effect on growth.
Meanwhile, Lord Nick Macpherson, the most senior Treasury official from 2005 to 2016, agreed that the Chancellor would, in a sense, choose the “easy option” to raise taxes on corporations rather than individuals.
Rishi Sunak proposed a corporation tax increase from 19 cents to 25 cents and last week raised social security rates for employers and employees by 1.25 percentage points to fund higher health and social expenses.
Labor has called the move a “tax on jobs” while ministers have insisted that companies benefit from a healthy workforce and government support to deal with the Covid crisis.
Danker will say that “there is now a real risk that the government will continue to bear the business taxes to carry the burden,” warns, “You cannot raise business taxes further without consequences.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted last week that the Conservatives were still “the low tax party,” but business leaders argue the claim sounds hollow for companies facing higher tax burdens following the pandemic.
Danker told the FT in an interview that the UK is lagging behind other countries in investing and that recent tax hikes threaten other harmful intentions of leading global corporations to provide money to the UK.
Further trade tax increases must end, said Danker. “The government’s lack of detail and pace in some of the big economic decisions we have to make as a country are the top concerns for businesses.”
He said other governments would come out “quicker with big bets and clear plans” for their future, but businesses in the UK would be impatient with the number of “more high-level reviews leading to more consultations” initiated by ministers .
Is this a growth-oriented government or an old-fashioned tax and spending government? This is a real fork in the road
Instead, Danker called for tax policy reform to encourage businesses to invest, among other measures to create new growth markets for the UK and promote access to a skilled workforce. This should include changes in business tariffs to stop penalizing improvements to UK buildings, he said. He added, “Is this a growth-oriented government or an old-fashioned tax and spending government? That is a real fork in the road. “
Macpherson said the tax hikes are hindering efforts to make the UK more competitive. “This is a government that is committed to making this country a business-friendly environment that people might want to invest in,” he told BBC’s Week in Westminster.
“This is all the more important as Brexit has made operations in the UK more difficult and possibly more expensive.”
Companies have also warned that the tax hikes could hit their finances at a time when many are trying to recover from the pandemic and limit their ability to invest and employ. The Federation of Small Businesses warned last week that it would put 50,000 jobs at risk.
An in-house assessment by HM Revenue & Customs warned that health and social security contributions could have an impact on “starting a family, stability or collapse as individuals currently struggling to cope” and “seeing their disposable income decrease”.
In autumn, Danker will call on the government to “turn corporate taxation on its head”. He warns that the recovery will be short-lived unless investment catches up with consumer spending and does not lag behind.
The CBI chief has urged the government to accelerate the development of large infrastructure projects and replicate the successes of offshore wind in developing markets for hydrogen and other emerging industries.
He pointed to projections that UK investment-to-GDP ratio will lag the US, Canada, Japan and China, and in particular lower spending on net-zero sectors over the next decade.
“The window is fast closing for the UK to provide the detailed roadmaps, significant financial support and speed of movement it takes to lead these growing markets. That’s what companies want. Investors too. In fact, they are screaming for it. “
The Treasury Department said the government “consistently supported” the business during the pandemic and backed investments by extending the annual investment allowance and introducing the super withholding tax cut. “The effects of the pandemic mean we had to make the difficult but responsible decision to raise taxes – we have asked both individuals and companies to pay a little more if we get our public finances back on track.”
Additional coverage by Sebastian Payne