Tuesday, 18 February 2014
The most politically astute tax cut for Budget 2014: Employers NI
Whilst the Liberal Democrats are all too keen on raising the tax free threshold to £12,500, there is precious little the Government can do in terms of the basic or higher rates of income tax. Changing these thresholds costs billions, as does raising the tax free threshold. Far more than any offset that will come through higher growth.
Plus tax cuts like these fail on some of the basics, they don't really encourage new jobs or investment. Whilst being a success for the very low paid - few of whom vote for either Tories or the Lib Dems if we are being honest - the benefits are very limited for those on average incomes. Worse, on higher incomes, all sorts of manoeuvres such as withdrawal of child tax benefit, removal of the free allowance at £100,000 anyway, conspire to push the tax ceiling to nearer 50% in any event.
The small return of cash to people is always welcome, however it is limited in its impact to help the 'cost of living crisis' as the vast sums returned are spread over so many millions that it ends up being a few pounds a week here or there. How this will turn into an election winning formula is unclear.
However, there is a saviour at hand in the form of removing another stealth tax. All employers pay this and it is a bewilderingly complicated formula to work out who should pay what. A classic example of the mess that our tax system has become with constant fiddling.
Nonetheless, companies pay around 12% on each employee they employ and this is a direct tax on employment. Not only that, it is a direct tax on salaries as companies staff costs are by default higher and they have a negative incentive to pay people more, as it has a double cost for them to give pay rise.
Cutting this rate by 2% would reduce companies costs of employment and potentially increase growth in the job market. Furthermore, with the right kind of 'nudge' messaging to the business community which is firmly behind the Government, it can also be used as a way to begin the process of increasing pay in a more sustainable way than has happened over the past couple of years. Companies would not be expected to pass on all of the saving, but sharing the benefit with employees would be a win-win compromise.
It's the only pro-growth cut that can please business and all employees at the same time.