George Osborne’s latest budget is targeted at helping pensioners and savers.

Despite an improving economy the Chancellor had little room for pre-election give-aways due to the state of the economy. Mr Osborne said that the government would continue their austerity plan and announced a cap on the welfare budget and that the tight controls on public spending would continue. However he was able to make some headline grabbing announcements.

The most prominent change is the previously announced increase in the annual personal allowance to £10,000 from 6 April 2014. This saves a basic rate taxpayer £112 in 2014-15. The personal allowance will increase to £10,500 for 2015-16.

Approximately 400,000 extra taxpayers will be dragged into paying the 40% tax rate in 2014/15 due to the threshold not being increased. This has been an area of criticism so Mr Osborne announced that the higher rate threshold would be increased in line with the increase in the basic rate threshold, however this does not come into effect until April 2015.

The increase in the personal allowance brings it into line with the pensioner’s higher personal allowance, which was frozen in 2012. Mr Osborne believes that pensioners should be better off due to the introduction of a pensioners bond and his changes in the taxation of savings income and pension draw down rules. However it would appear that these will be more of an advantage to wealthy pensioners.

Interest rates have been at an all time low for several years which has made it very hard for anyone depending upon investment income. From next January over 65’s will be able to invest in a special bond paying 2.8% for a one year bond and 4% for a three year bond. The limit for both cash and stocks-and-shares ISA’s will be increased to £15,000 so that more income will be tax free.

The 10 % tax rate on savings income for anyone with income of under £13,000 is being abolished and replaced with a £5,000 nil rate band for savings income so that the vast majority of taxpayers on moderate incomes will pay no tax at all on their savings income.

Mr Osborne also made a surprise announcement that the requirement to buy a pension annuity will be abolished. Pensioners are currently able to take a 25% lump sum tax free. Any lump sums withdrawn over this 25% limit would be taxed at a punitive 55% tax rate. Under the new rules pensioners will be able to withdraw money from their pension schemes and be taxed at their marginal tax rate. Larger amounts will therefore be liable to the 40% higher rate. The treasury anticipate that this will result in higher amounts being withdrawn from pension schemes which will increase the tax yield in the next few years.

This change is good for people wanting greater flexibility in managing their pension funds but there is a risk that people will be over optimistic and withdraw too much from their pension schemes leaving them with insufficient funds in later life.

Working parents will be given help with the cost of child care. Parents paying £8,000 childcare costs to a registered provider will get a £2,000 subsidy per child from the government from next year.

This is not a budget for anyone who is unemployed or on state benefits, but if you are employed or have sizeable savings then you should be better off.

Budget 2014 – What help was there for small business?

Mr Osborne will be cheered by the recent news that the economy is recovering, however there is concern that this is based too much on consumer spending. He therefore wants to encourage manufacturing and exports.

To boost the economy and particularly the construction industry it was announced that the “Help to Buy” scheme will be extended to 2020 and a number of high profile infrastructure schemes.

It had previously been announced that the main corporation rate would be reduced and the Chancellor helped further helped businesses by announcing that the Annual Investment Allowance would be increased to £500,000 meaning that capital expenditure for the majority of companies would be fully tax deductible in the year incurred.

To encourage exports lending via the government backed UK Export Finance scheme to UK businesses will be doubled to £3m and the interest rate charged cut by a third.

For smaller businesses he announced support in the extension of the small business rates exemption and the Employment Allowance which gives rebate of £2,000 on all employers NIC payments. There is also a £1,000 reduction in business rates for retail businesses.

He also announced plans to abolish the weekly Class 2 national insurance contributions for the self-employed from 2016. This is a simplification rather than a saving as the contributions will be collected through self-assessment system.

Mr Osborne also announced help to control fuel costs for businesses that use large amounts of energy.

Whilst many small business will welcome the reductions in employers national insurance contributions and business rates the changes to capital allowances will only help businesses that are able to make large capital investments .

HMRC delay the introduction of RTI penalties

Real time PAYE (RTI) was introduced in April 2013 for all employers. All payroll changes and amounts due are now reported as they occur rather than at the end of the tax year.

This was a major change to the way employers wages were processed and some had problems with the introduction if they were not using a payroll software provider.

To ensure compliance HMRC had originally intended to introduce late filing and late payment penalties from April 2014. However the implementation has not been without problems as there have been errors and technical issues with HMRC’s systems. This has led to late filing notices being issued incorrectly and payments not showing on the HMRC website.

As a result HMRC have announced that the introduction of penalties will be delayed. In year interest on overdue payments will commence from 6 April 2014, late filing penalties start from October 2014 and late payment penalties from April 2015.

Whilst it is a relief that HMRC are listening to concerns over RTI and delaying the introduction of automatic penalties it can only be hoped that they can resolve the system problems before they start sending out penalty letters.