Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Budget: what it means for your money

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has delivered the government’s Autumn Budget.

The measures contained within it set the tone of the UK’s finances for the next 12 months. And while there are some fresh measures in there, it is the distinct lack of action on many issues that may have the biggest effect on household finances.

Here are some of the big changes, and several things that weren’t touched, but will affect your finances.

National Insurance and dividend tax hike

Not announced in the Budget per se, but perhaps the biggest shift in government taxation in many years, National Insurance and dividend taxes face a 1.25% hike to help pay for health and social care.

The hike will add £130 a year to someone on an income of £20,000, while those on a higher income of £50,000 will see an extra £505 come out in taxes.

With the dividend tax hike there’s no tax to pay on the first £2,000 of earnings, but beyond that you’ll pay an extra 1.25% on top of the current rates. That means 8.75% for basic rate payers, 33.75% for higher rate payers and 39.35% for additional rate payers.

There were a raft of other personal finance-related measures including:

  • A hike in the living wage to £9.50 per hour
  • A cut to the Universal Credit taper rate to 55%
  • An alcohol duty reform to simplify the way beer, wine and other drinks are taxed
  • Fuel duty being frozen for a 12th year

But perhaps more noticeable was the absence of certain provisions.

What was missing from the Budget?

Sunak avoided making certain changes that are in and of themselves a form of taxation. There was also a distinct lack of help in regard to economic issues that are plaguing households at the moment.

Perhaps the biggest aspect of the tax system that Sunak left untouched was allowances. This has the effect of creating a form of stealth tax. But how does that work?

By leaving an allowance for say, Income Tax, at the same level for multiple years isn’t an out and out tax rise. But as the general earnings of the working population increase over time – be that from becoming more productive or purely to keep pace with inflation – it means progressively more and more people fall into the higher bands for tax purposes.

Take the example of Inheritance Tax (IHT). The banding of IHT has remained static at £325,000 for years. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts 6.5% of estates will be liable to pay the duty by 2026 – up from 3.7% in 2020. By simply ‘doing nothing’ the government is increasing its tax take over time.

The same is true for a raft of other allowances which remain static – from pensions annual allowances to ISA limits, capital gains tax and others. The more they stay the same, the more the government rakes in.

This is all more pressing than ever in the current economic climate, which is accelerating the issue, namely inflation. In order to keep up with inflation, households are having to seek higher earnings or cut their costs. Sunak did nothing to assuage inflation fears, despite hints he might cut the VAT rate on energy bills.

Overall, the impact of squeezing allowances and rising inflation could leave household incomes stretched for the foreseeable future.