Jeremy Hunt weighs up radical plan to cut income tax or National Insurance ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement after the UK economy ‘turns the corner’
- Hunt and Rishi Sunak understood to have ruled out changes to inheritance tax
Jeremy Hunt was yesterday weighing up whether to cut income tax or National Insurance, saying ‘everything is on the table’.
The Chancellor didn’t rule out a last-minute cut to personal taxes ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, admitting they were ‘too high’.
Mr Hunt declared: ‘I want to bring down our tax burden.’ He and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are understood to have ruled out changes to inheritance tax or stamp duty after switching their focus to a potential cut in personal taxation.
The pair were buoyed by forecasts from the Office For Budget Responsibility (OBR) on Friday. These showed there was fiscal headroom of up to £30 billion, enough for a cut in the headline rates of income tax or National Insurance. The Autumn Statement has been agreed and was signed off last night before being submitted to the OBR for inspection.
Treasury officials have been examining how feasible a 1p or 2p cut would be ahead of Wednesday’s statement. They have ruled out relaxing the frozen thresholds around the levies.
Jeremy Hunt was yesterday weighing up whether to cut income tax or National Insurance, saying ‘everything is on the table’
Mr Hunt and and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) are understood to have ruled out changes to inheritance tax or stamp duty after switching their focus to a potential cut in personal taxation
Cutting income tax by 2p in the pound would cost £13 billion to £14 billion a year and save UK households around £450 annually on average. It would also give the Tories a much-needed boost ahead of the election, expected to be in autumn next year, as it trails Labour by 20-plus points in the polls.
The Chancellor and PM have been under growing pressure from backbench MPs to slash duties, with the tax burden on course to reach its highest level for 70 years. Mr Hunt told Sky News yesterday: ‘Everything is on the table in an Autumn Statement.
‘I’m not going to talk about any individual taxes because that would lead to even more fevered speculation.
‘What I will give you is a general view about tax. It’s too high. A Conservative government wants to bring it down because we think that lower tax is essential to economic growth… I want to bring down our tax burden. ‘It’s important for a productive, dynamic, fizzing economy that you motivate people to do the work, take the risks that we need.’
However, he stressed that ministers may choose to defer any cuts until the Spring Budget, saying that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.
Cutting income tax by 2p in the pound would cost £13 billion to £14 billion a year and save UK households around £450 annually on average
He added: ‘I actually want to show people there’s a path to lower taxes. But we also want to be honest with people – this is not going to happen overnight.’ Inflation fell to 4.6 per cent in October, meaning ministers have met their target of halving it by the end of the year. Some MPs believe it provides more cover to bring forward tax cuts. However, Treasury officials believe cuts to personal taxation could cause inflation to spiral again and threaten the goal of driving it down to 2 per cent.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt was asked if he ‘regrets’ the high tax burden. He said: ‘In 2019, no one expected a-once-in-a-century pandemic or energy shock like we had in 1970s, and we had to react to that and I don’t pretend I didn’t have to take very difficult decisions.’
READ MORE: Jeremy Hunt to make last-minute decision on whether to cut income tax as former Home Secretary Suella Braverman urges party to demonstrate to the public that ‘we’re on their side’
It comes after an exclusive poll for the Daily Mail found that more voters now associate Labour with lower taxes than the Tories. The poll found that 51 per cent of voters believe now is the time for tax cuts, rather than waiting until the Spring Budget. Just 28 per cent think taxes should remain the same.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said yesterday: ‘Ever since Rishi Sunak, when he was Chancellor and tried to raise National Insurance, I said that was the wrong approach, especially when people are struggling with rising bills, rising food prices etc.’ Other big decisions for the Autumn Statement include whether to increase the pensions triple lock by average earnings of 8.5 per cent, or to strip out bonuses and one-off payments, lowering it to 7.8 per cent. It will also set out whether to increase benefits in line with the consumer prices index rate of inflation in September (6.7 per cent) or October (4.6 per cent).
There was also speculation last night that winter fuel payments could be targeted, after a minister questioned whether they should be means-tested. John Glen, then chief secretary to the Treasury, told a Cambridge University Conservatives event last month that the money could be better spent on child poverty, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The Treasury insisted yesterday a change was not being announced in Wednesday’s statement.
Former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mr Hunt must slash personal taxation if the Tories are to have any chance of catching Labour in the polls.
He told the Mail: ‘We’ve had the net-zero relaunch, the party conference relaunch, the King’s Speech relaunch and the reshuffle relaunch, none of which has made a difference to the polls. We now need the Autumn Statement relaunch which will actually connect with voters.’
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