While last year the Chancellor used his fiscal speech to brace the UK for the “storm” of tax rises, this year, Jeremy Hunt was able to turn his attention to cutting taxes.
Against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, a near-stagnant economy and a looming election, the 2023 Autumn Statement was seen to reflect a pivotal moment in the UK’s economic trajectory.
As Jeremy Hunt stepped up to the dispatch box for his second Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the nation’s attention was firmly fixed on potential tax cuts.
Last autumn, the Chancellor used his fiscal speech to brace the UK for a “storm” of tax rises. This year, however, with a fiscal windfall of around £27bn to play with, Hunt was able to turn his attention to reducing the tax burden for households and businesses.
The Chancellor announced “110 measures to help grow the economy”, including a 2% cut to the main rate of National Insurance (NI) from 06 January, alongside incentives to encourage business investment, such as permanently extending the full expensing initiative.
The speech may have done more to answer calls from the backbenches for tax cuts than was expected a few months ago, but Hunt held off from announcing any changes to Inheritance Tax or Income Tax, despite much media speculation.
Hunt also used his speech to set out the government’s new ‘back to work plan’, promising additional support for those with health conditions, raising the minimum wage and introducing stricter benefits rules to encourage more people to rejoin the workforce.
We’ve outlined the main announcements from the Statement below and have put together a report with all the details, which you can download here >.
Class 1 National Insurance Contributions
The Chancellor announced a 2% cut to the main rate of National Insurance – a move that is set to benefit 27 million people.
Unusually, rather than waiting until the start of the new tax year, the change will be implemented for paydays on or after 06 January 2024.
This reduction will only apply to annual earnings between £12,570 and £50,270, meaning that the maximum saving is £754 a year, while the average worker on a £35,400 salary will be £450 better off.
Pensions triple lock
Despite reports to the contrary, the Chancellor remained committed to the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, meaning that pension payments will rise by 8.5% next April.
Under the triple lock, the government is supposed to increase the State Pension each tax year by either the previous September’s rate of inflation (6.3%), the rate of wage growth (8.5%), or 2.5%, whichever is higher.
Support for the self-employed
Acknowledging the important role small businesses play in the UK economy, the Chancellor announced measures to reward self-employed individuals for their hard work.
These changes included eliminating Class 2 National Insurance and reducing Class 4 National Insurance from 9% to 8%.
It has also been announced that self-employed with income under £30,000 will not be brought into Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self-Assessment for now.
See details of all personal announcements in our Autumn Statement Report:
Full expensing for businesses
One of the most significant business announcements was Hunt’s decision to make the full expensing scheme permanent.
Full expensing provides 100% first-year relief to companies on qualifying main rate plant and machinery investments, including IT equipment. Initially introduced in the Spring Budget 2023, the scheme was due to expire in March 2026.
Business rates support package
A £4.3bn business rates support package over five years was announced. This includes freezing the small business multiplier for the fourth consecutive year and extending Retail, Hospitality and Leisure (RHL) relief to continue supporting vulnerable businesses.
This business rates package is part of a broader effort to invest an additional £20bn in business per year over the next decade.
Pensions reforms and investment
Pension reforms will be introduced, aimed at streamlining the pensions market by encouraging the consolidation of pension schemes. The reforms are proposed to unlock £75bn of financing for high-growth companies by 2030.
Investment in R&D and innovation
Hunt announced his plans to invest over £750m in Research & Development (R&D) to maintain the UK’s leadership in science and technology, including substantial funding for discovery fellowships and business innovation.
Meanwhile, the extension of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts until 2035 ensures continued support for start-ups and SMEs.
Support for SMEs
The Chancellor’s Statement also included several measures to bolster the growth of SMEs:
- Freezing small business rates.
- Addressing late payments.
- Enhancing digital adoption and skills.
- Supporting self-employed individuals.
- Clarifying tax deductibility for training.
R&D tax relief reforms
The Autumn Statement 2023 ushered in significant reforms to R&D tax relief to foster innovation across the business landscape.
From April 2024, the current R&D expenditure credit (RDEC) for larger businesses and the SME R&D scheme for smaller enterprises will merge into one scheme.
This will reduce the tax rate for loss-making companies from 25% to 19% and lower the threshold for additional support from 40% to 30%, expanding eligibility to about 5,000 more SMEs.
Companies fluctuating below the 30% threshold will also receive a one-year grace period, allowing more businesses to become classified as ‘R&D-intensive’.
See details of all business announcements made in our full Autumn Statement Report:
We can help
If you have any questions about how the announcements in the Autumn Statement may affect you, your family or your business, please get in touch