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So I waited with baited breath and pen poised on the 23 March, “Tax day”. Judging from what I’d read in the run up to this first “Tax day” I thought I would have much to report... Changes to pension tax relief... Capital gains tax aligned with income tax... Online sales taxes?!
We didn’t get any of it, after all of the hype we found out the Government's thinking on Aviation Tax Reform. The cost of air travel; up on long haul flights and down for domestic ones. On Inheritance Tax we got “non-taxpaying estates” will no longer have to complete unnecessary paperwork and in our increasingly digitised age “physical signatures” will not be required. Phew... I’m sure you’ll agree well worth waiting for!
There were a couple of things that will be quite useful (for some people).
The Government is considering making it mandatory for Tax Advisers to have Professional Indemnity Insurance in the same way that Financial Advisers and Solicitors do. This, in itself should improve the quality of the advice given, which will obviously be of benefit to those taking tax advice. There will also be some changes to the way tax relief is given to some members of workplace pension schemes. Ensuring that all workers get the tax relief that they’re entitled to (quite right). There will also be some technical fiddling to make sure that employees who exceed the annual allowance and incur tax charges can instruct their pension scheme to pay the tax.
So to rely on “Tax day” for this blog would result in quite a short read, but you’re not that lucky! Instead I’m going to consider what the latest vaccine row will mean for the United Kingdom and our European “Friends”.
It does appear that our vaccine rollout is motoring on at pace. I’ve had my first jab and scheduled for my second in late May. I’m hoping that the Government’s cautious approach is just that and that once the data starts to come through they will “let us out” a bit sooner than planned. I can understand (after so many false dawns) the need to proceed carefully but if the vaccine is (was) the answer then that’s what it must be, otherwise the whole thing will have been pointless (pardon the pun). But what does a successful rollout, falling infection rates, falling hospitalisations and fewer deaths mean? It means the reopening of our economy, getting back to near normality and the United Kingdom looking more like a place to do good business. But what of Europe?
Even some ardent remainers are shocked by the actions of the European Commission and some of the more prominent European leaders. There’s the story about Police confiscating millions of vaccines in Italy, which were intended for… you guessed it, the Italians (you couldn’t make this up!), politicians calling into question the efficacy and safety of the Astrazeneca/Oxford vaccine and worse, the tearing up of legal contracts because they have got their vaccination efforts so wrong. But what does it all mean? For our EU “Friends” it isn’t good news. Who would want to do business with people who, when it suits them can seemingly tear up legally binding agreements. I think the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace’s comment “the world is watching” is apt and that unfortunately these ill timed interventions will come back to haunt the EU in the years that follow the pandemic.
One of the worst things to come out of this debacle is that Astrazeneca are now saying they will never again produce a not for profit vaccine. Why? because of the reputational damage the firm has suffered following the smearing of the effectiveness and safety of their vaccine. This for the developing world (poorer countries) is a potential disaster and all for what? To score a few political points!
Looking to the months ahead, I hope we will have much to celebrate. A roaring economy, a pub lunch and dare I say it... a foreign holiday. I for one live in hope of these things!
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