Yesterday lunch time, I had an exciting time listening to the Budget speech while my son coughed and spluttered next to me (off school, sick).
I’ve waded through the growth forecasts and bad jokes so you don’t have to. Here’s a quick round up of the important bits for those of us living on less.
Paying less tax
- We get to earn more without paying income tax. Allowances go up next April, so basic rate-taxpayers can earn up to £11,850 a year before paying tax, or £46,350 for higher-rate taxpayers. Paul Lewis, god of Moneybox on Radio 4, reckons that adds up to an extra £100 in your pocket (or £200 if you’re lucky enough to pay higher-rate tax).
Bonus for first-time buyers
- This is the headline grabber. First-time buyers now don’t have to pay stamp duty on purchases up to £300,000, and on the first £300,000 of purchases up to £500,000 in expensive areas like London. Whoo hoo that’s a potential saving of up to £5,000! But still a drop in the ocean, when properties are so hugely expensive in the first place.
- However, no changes on stamp duty for anyone else, which could prevent homeowners selling the houses suitable for first-time buyers, if they can’t afford to move. Removing stamp duty for first time buyers might also push up house prices for everyone.
Rail card tweak for the young
- From spring, train travellers will be able to get a Young Person’s Railcard right up to the grand old age of 30, rather than stopping at 26. Still can’t use it on peak trains though, so fat lot of help with getting to work.
Good news for drivers – unless you drive a diesel
- Fuel duty is frozen yet again, which the budget number crunchers reckon will save the average driver £160 a year.
- Owners of diesel cars – but not vans – will have to pay one band higher vehicle excise duty from April
Frozen booze (and I don’t just mean margharitas)
- Full of Christmas cheer, Philip Hammond has frozen duty on beer, wine and spirits, although he’s whacking it up on strong cider. Bad news, White Lightning fans.
State pension up as expected
- Basic state pension up as expected by inflation – so up 3%, and £3.65 a week for the full basic State Pension. Still worth saving for your own retirement, as even after the increase, the full basic State Pension will only provide £8,456 a year. Previous version of the state pension pays less, up to £6,551 a year. Sobering thought.
No good news for savers
- Nothing unexpected about pensions. Reckon that’s actually a relief, after massive changes in recent years.
- No change to individual savings accounts (Isas). You can still salt away up to a chunky £20,000 a year, sheltered from tax.
- Annual allowances for Junior Isas (Jisas) and Child Trust Funds go up to £4,260 as expected from April.
Hike for the national living wage
- Increase in the National Living Wage next April by 4.4%, from £7.50 to £7.83. This is good news because it’s higher than inflation.
- Hiked up the youth rates on minimum wages, also by more than inflation. I’m past the age when this relevant (cough), but for apprentices it goes up from £3.50 to £3.70 per hour, for 16 to 17 years olds from £4.05 to £4.20 per hour, for 18 to 20 year olds from £5.60 to £5.90 per hour and for 21 to 24 year olds from £7.05 to £7.38 per hour. Whole other question whether it’s appropriate to pay people less for doing the same job, just because they’re younger.
Tweaks to Universal Credit
- Hefty £1.5 billion going towards improving the hideous mess that is Universal Credit – but I suspect it still won’t be enough.
- One week lopped off the delay before Universal Credit is first paid out. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that still leaves 5 weeks before normal payments kick in.
- People will be able to request an advance of up to a month’s payment within 5 days. Might sound good – but it still has to be paid back, although the time to repay will be stretched from six months to a year.
- New claimants from April will continue getting Housing Benefit for a couple of weeks after claiming Universal Credit. Better than before, but that still seems to leave a yawning gap.
There’s a bung for Brexit, extra for the NHS and some twiddling with internet access over the Pennines (eh?) but reckon those are the key things affecting the pounds in your pocket.
Net result: not a lot, no fireworks, and no ripping up any rule books.
What do you reckon? Any fascinating details or were you blissfully unaware the Chancellor was banging on about the Budget? Do comment below.