WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC. 12, 2014
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Top 7 Autumn Statement Highlights (UK)

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UK Chancellor George Osborne’s eagerly awaited Autumn Statement has given some people reasons to be cheerful and others, reasons to feel frustrated. But ’tis the season to be jolly; so here are seven highlights from this year’s Autumn Statement,  which Osborne  clearly hopes  will bring some festive cheer.

 #1 Stamp duty  overhauled

Prospective homebuyers will no longer have to pay stamp duty on the entire cost of a property. Instead, they will pay stamp duty in a similar way to income tax, with the rate increasing only on a portion of the price of the property. According to the Statement, almost all homebuyers will be better off. Here are the new thresholds:

  • Zero stamp duty on properties less than £125,000
  • 2% stamp duty on property prices between £250,000 and £925,000
  • 10% stamp duty on property prices between £925,000 and £1.5 million
  • 12% stamp duty on property prices higher than this

 #2 The North will  get lots of money

Osborne  has put forward a vision of  a “northern powerhouse”, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is. A not insignificant 7 million will be ploughed into the North to boost its infrastructure. Northern research centres will also get more money to enhance their status as centres for science and innovation.

 #3 Good news for workers

The personal allowance, which is the amount of tax-free pay an employee can earn each year, will go up £100 to £10,600. This frees  3.5 million people from having to pay any income tax. Those who pay the higher rate of tax will also benefit: the 40% income tax threshold will go up to £42,385 from £41,865 next April, meaning that 138,000 will be taken out of the higher rate of tax.

 #4 Good news for those doing postgraduate master’s courses

If you are under the age of 30, you will be entitled to an “income-contingent loan” for any master’s course. Loans of up to £10,000 will be available from 2016-2017, so students from the poorest backgrounds can benefit from postgraduate education.

 #5 Spouses can inherit their dead partner’s savings

A surviving spouse will be able to inherit the ISA savings of their partner without incurring any tax penalties.

 #6 Good news for  High Street businesses

Osborne’s Statement reveals plans to review the challenges that businesses face regarding business rates – widely believed to be the reason for the ‘death’ of Britain’s high streets. Business rates increases are set to be capped from next April 2015 at 2%.  The chancellor has also announced measures to increase the “high street discount” offered to “shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants” -   by £500. In addition, the Small Business Rate Relief has been doubled for an extra year which means that 380,000 small businesses will not be required to pay business rates.

 #7 Kids go free - from  air passenger duty

Children under the age of 12 will no longer have to pay tax when flying abroad (on economy flights). This represents a saving of up to £142 for a family of 4 on a long haul flight to the States.

It’s not surprising to see a number of vote-winning measures before a general election, but these measures are welcome, nonetheless. Certainly, not everyone will be opening the Prosecco – there will be many who feel hard-done-by by some of the measures in the Statement.

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