Sunak sets out Budget to protect businesses

The main headlines.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a Budget to protect businesses through the pandemic, fix the public finances and begin building the future economy.

The Chancellor once again pledged to do 'whatever it takes' during the COVID-19 pandemic and confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended until September to support jobs through the crisis.

Mr Sunak also confirmed that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended, with two further grants this year. Claimable by the self-employed who have filed their tax return for 2019/20 by midnight on 2 March 2021, which should include the newly self-employed from 6 April 2019 provided they have filed their 2019/20 tax return.

The stamp duty nil rate band on residential properties in England up to £500,000 will continue until the end of June. It will taper to £250,000 until the end of September, and then return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October.

Citing the latest economic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), Mr Sunak said the economy is predicted to grow by 4% this year and by 7.3% in 2022. However, despite further growth predicted for the following three years, the economy will still be 3% smaller in five years' time than it would have been if the pandemic had not hit the economy.

To support businesses as they re-open following lockdown, £5 billion will be made available in restart grants. Non-essential retail businesses re-opening first will be eligible for up to £6,000 but the leisure and hospitality sectors, which have been worse affected and will re-open later, will be eligible for up to £18,000.

Hospitality and leisure businesses will also pay no business rates for the next three months, then rates will be discounted for the remaining nine months of the year.

However, the rate of corporation tax will increase to 25% in April 2023 for companies with profits over £250,000, whilst retaining a Small Profits Rate of 19% for companies with profits of £50,000 or less.

Turning to duties, tax on beer, wine, cider and spirits has been frozen while fuel duty will also remain frozen for an 11th consecutive year.

Mr Sunak also introduced green measures, including a new national infrastructure bank, which will open in Leeds with £12 billion capitalisation from the government, which will also offer a green retail savings product.

He also confirmed the location of the eight Freeports in England. Freeports are special economic zones with favourable tariffs and lower taxes to make it easier and cheaper to do business.

Budget Highlights

  • Extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until 30 September
  • Fourth and fifth SEISS grants this year
  • Extension of stamp duty holiday until 30 September
  • £5 billion restart grants to boost businesses after lockdown ends
  • Corporation tax set to rise to 25% in 2023
  • Eight locations named for Freeports in England
  • A super-deduction providing allowances of 130% on most new plant and machinery
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