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Boring Budgets need a revolution

Viresh Paul, North West London chair, harks back to the days when ‘rabbit out of the hat’ Budgets created more excitement than today’s dull events.

Viresh Paul

December 2018

When Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his Budget at the end of October, there was none of the fiscal fireworks that we used to get in years gone by. There were no earth-shattering announcements, no major changes to the tax system with possibly just one exception relating to Entrepreneurs’ Relief.

Back in the 80s and 90s, when the likes of Nigel Lawson and latterly Gordon Brown stood up in the House, the nation held its collective breath to see what rabbit was going to be pulled out of the hat (or the red box), even if most were only interested in how much the cost of fuel or the pint in the pub was going to go up.

This may be partly because the secrecy surrounding the whole process has gone. We read most of the Budget announcements in the weekend newspapers before the Chancellor gets up on his feet.

Do you remember the haste to get the Budget summaries out to clients after the Chancellor had finished his speech? Now, with social media throwing out instant tweets, comments and opinions and the round the clock news channels relaying all the action live from the House, I have long stopped blocking my Budget day evening to write up a Budget newsletter. In any case you can now buy one and send it to your clients and pretend you sat and wrote it all by burning the midnight oil.

Now, with a revolutionary Chancellor we could have had some real stuff to write about or explain to our clients. He could have announced the merger of income tax and NIC, simplification of the tax rates or maybe even a system of regional taxation (like the US and some EU nations) and a post-Brexit corporation tax regime.

Budgets have certainly become boring. As I read somewhere, they have become acts of insurance rather than acts of political imagination.

Viresh Paul is Chair of North West London Chartered Accountants.

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