Tuesday News Review

“Unfair” budget hits middle classes

The middle classes and stay at home mothers have borne the brunt of ‘unfair’ tax changes introduced in this year’s budget, experts will today inform Parliament. Small businesses were also hit by regulations unveiled by George Osborne, the Chancellor, in his March budget, with a range of measures aimed at cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, but which the wealthy will work out how to sidestep. The verdicts were delivered by tax experts who were asked by the Commons Treasury committee to assess the budget to see whether it met principles of fairness, support for growth, certainty, simplicity, stability, practicality and coherence. Their views are published in a report for MPs who are preparing to debate the Finance Bill, which enacts measures set out in the Budget. Far from being “fair,” the experts said, moves contained in the budget to strip middle class families of tax credits and child benefit payments while freezing higher rate tax thresholds would have a disproportionate effect on those with an income of between £40,000 and £50,000. – the Telegraph

Clegg appeals to Labour voters

Nick Clegg has made a last-minute appeal to Labour supporters to set aside their desire to “poke him in the eye” and recognise that thealternative vote is an unambiguously progressive reform. He has also vowed that his party will be more independent of the Conservatives after the referendum, saying the first phase of unanimity in public had been necessary due to the need to tackle the economic crisis. In a Guardian interview, Clegg said: “For Labour party supporters thinking about how they should vote, Labour has always been at its best a progressive movement for reform. It always has been and always will be. This is a progressive change, an unambiguously progressive change. “Yes, I understand people want to poke me in the eye and signal their displeasure. I understand all of that – I do not want to belittle that – but this is a fork of the road for progressives which is much bigger than me. This is not about Nick Clegg or the coalition government, it is about whether you take the progressive fork in the road, or do you stick with the status quo.” – the Guardian

‘No’ appeal for turnout

No campaigners are urging supporters not to become complacent following polls which give them a double-digit lead ahead of Thursday’s vote. With turnout expected to be as low as a third of the electorate, and the campaign generally failing to capture public imagination, there are warnings that the more motivated Yes campaign could succeed in ushering in AV “by the back door”. Turnout is likely to be particularly low in areas such as London, where no other elections are taking place and where experts predict as few as 14 per cent could make it to the polls. In contrast, a high turnout is expected in Scotland, the only part of the country where surveys suggest voters support AV, because of the neck and neck battle between Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party to capture the devolved Parliament on the same day as the referendum. In recent days, the No camp has been scrambling to damp down any sense of triumphalism at polls which show support for AV, which was backed by a majority at the start of the year, running at between 10 and 20 points below the numbers who plan to oppose it. – the Telegraph

Osborne adviser criticises oil tax

THE government’s own tax tsar has attacked the chancellor’s surprise tax raid on North Sea oil and gas producers, just days after British Gas owner Centrica warned it could shut one of its fields in response to the windfall levy. John Whiting, head of the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), told City A.M. the North Sea tax raid was a “rabbit punch” – an illegal boxing move aimed at the neck or base of the spine – that was “precipitate and unexpected”. He added: “If there is one industry that requires stability, it is oil and gas. The long-term nature of the business means companies need visibility to plan.” The chancellor appointed Whiting to lead the newly-created OTS amid much fanfare last July, and tasked him with simplifying a tax code that he said had become overly complex after “a decade of meddling and intervening” by Labour. Although Whiting yesterday said he was criticising the chancellor in his capacity as a director of The Chartered Institute of Taxation rather than head of the OTS, his outspoken attack is likely to put further pressure on Osborne, who is facing calls to rethink the windfall tax. Whiting’s comments come as Centrica, one of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers, said it could permanently close two of its Morecambe gas fields as a direct result of the windfall tax. – City AM

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