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19 February 2002

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Concerns grow over budget date

Concern is growing over the date of this year's Budget. Chancellor Gordon Brown has set the date of the next announcement - April 17.

But experts are suggesting that this could prove both an administrative nightmare - coming 11 days after the introduction of the new tax year - and cut three vital weeks off the parliamentary debate into a subsequent finance bill.

Major tax changes would have to be reflected in any booklets issued by the Revenue, and employers could find themselves handing out refunds for any repaid tax.

But it is understood that the Revenue will be given extra time - until the first pay day after June 17 - to make any alterations necessary.

The Revenue website issued the following statement: "Employers and pension providers will be asked to put into effect any consequent changes to codes and tax tables on the first pay day after 17 June 2002, backdated to the start of the tax year.

As an Employer this means
Any revised notices of coding will be issued early June. You should make any P6 PAYE code changes on the first pay day on or after 18 June 2002
If you have been sent new tax tables for 2002-03 (either as paper or in electronic form as a CD ROM), you should use them on or after 18 June 2002
From 18 June onwards you should apply any tax codes changed by the Budget
The period when an employer may use a P45 dated in 2001-02 will be extended to 24 June 2002 from 24 May. (See page 20 of the Employer's Help Book (E13) which will be sent to you as part of the annual pack

As the Finance Bill needs Royal Assent by August 5, Parliament will have even less time to debate any important issues.

But PwC tax partner John Whiting was less concerned. He explained: "Changes to personal allowances and tax rates are effective from 6 April and with a March Budget can be ready to go then. By having the Budget in April, employers will have to do a certain amount of adjusting and amending - more work for them, although we do already have the personal allowance figures from the pre-Budget report in November which will help.

"Employers will have to watch out for potential changes to National Insurance contributions and where the 10%, 22% and 40% income tax rates start and end.

"Business could be irritated by having to wait another month to know for certain whether measures such as the long-awaited Intellectual Property reforms and substantial shareholdings relief will be coming in at 1 April.

"The Treasury could also lose out on revenues from increases to taxes, such as petrol & diesel duties, which normally come into effect immediately. And of course, an April Budget is one month closer to 5 August - the cut off point for passing the Finance Bill to ensure that income tax goes back on the statute book. However, I am sure this will not be of concern to most taxpayers!"

The later date - Budgets usually occur in March - is due to Gordon Brown's absence from the Treasury from the start of this year after the tragic death of his baby daughter Jennifer.

The Chancellor announced in this year's Pre-Budget Report that a major rethink was needed on how public services are paid for - hinting that tax increases may be necessary. Squaring this circle may also explain the delay.

Announcements are expected on a volume-based research and development (R&D) tax credit for large companies, plus changes to the corporate debt and forex regimes.

Intellectual property reform, rollover relief for companies with substantial shareholdings and further changes to stamp duty could also feature.

AccountingWEB will be running full coverage of the event on its dedicated Budget page.

January 2002




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