Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Local entrepreneurs speak out on Budget wishes

With the Budget just around the corner (Wednesday 23 March), we canvassed some of our clients – a mixture of business owners and professionals – for their Budget wishes.

Understandably in this climate, our clients have a number of concerns – covering not only business issues, but also worries about the NHS, for instance, and our ageing population.

Martin Pollins, managing director of Bizezia in Haywards Heath says: “We need tax relief on private medical insurance premiums, which will help the overburdened NHS.”

Richard Bamford, key account director with Citrus Healthcare Consulting in Hildenborough agrees that the government needs to introduce measures to reduce the financial pressures placed on the NHS.

“Individuals who take out private medical insurance should be encouraged and rewarded for taking responsibility for their health and wellbeing, therefore reducing the cost burden placed on the NHS,” he says. “The constant advancements in medical treatment come at a price, with more money needing to be pumped into the NHS for it to cope with these costs. People should be given a tax break to help pay for their private medical insurance, especially pensioners. If the government wants the NHS to be sustainable in the future, bold decisions need to be made.”

If people are lucky enough to remain fit and well and outside of medical system as they head towards retirement – old age itself brings with it more than enough to worry about. Michele Pearson, wealth adviser with iMAP Your Finances in Cuckfield, would like to see a simplification of the pension laws.

“People want to know what they can expect at retirement, regardless of their savings,” she says. “If you want people to invest now to make their future in retirement better, then you need to give them certainly for them to build on.”

Martin adds: “Abandon the minor allowances for the elderly, such as winter–fuel payments, and combine them into an increased basic pension – it will save money on administration costs and put the level of UK pensions closer to those in other countries. Also for the retired population, I would like to see better interest rates on savings, or no tax on savings, lower taxes or no taxes on state and other privately-funded annuities.”

When it comes to saving, Michele says that personal investors want better returns from their savings. She adds: “The government can help by providing more tax-free havens – we haven’t seen a TESSA account for years – and why not extend the ISA limits further?”

Kieron Robertson, an estate planner and independent financial adviser with Valiant Financial Consultants in Tunbridge Wells, says that it would be good to see more done to encourage people to save both in the short-term and beyond.

“It would be good to see a reduction in Capital Gains Tax for those with assets held over periods of say, more than five years and more to encourage savings towards retirement,” he explains.

Richard Holme, a partner with Creaseys in Tunbridge Wells, wants George Osborne to ‘leave Capital Gains Tax alone or perhaps look to reduce the main 28% rate slightly. He adds: “Above all, retain the 10% rate for sales of businesses (entrepreneur relief) in order to encourage entrepreneurs to invest to assist in the continuing recovery of the UK economy.”

We – and our clients - are united in wanting to see more done to stimulate business investment and offer companies support.

“George Osborne must fulfil his promise to centre the Budget on entrepreneurialism and business growth,” says Neil Edwards from The Marketing Eye. “Getting people back to work and safeguarding the liquidity of small businesses is the priority. Offering rewards and incentives to businesses to employ people by offering relief from employers’ NI or rebates on previous years’ corporation tax will take the risk out of new hires for small businesses and get consumers spending again.”

Chris Winning from The Winning Partnership in Tunbridge Wells says that there need to be tax incentives for Research & Development.

“We need to ‘kick start’ the economy again and, more importantly, help businesses to recover from years of depression,” he says. “They need assistance with R&D to give them a chance to be innovative, create new income streams and boost the bottom line profit.”

He’d also like the 50% tax rate to be abolished, as he feels it is discouraging entrepreneurship.

“Much wasted time was spent preparing for this incredible leap upwards,” says Chris. “For the costs involved and fees paid to advisors, I would have thought more cost effective methods of collecting taxes from a larger proportion of the population would have been better employed.”

Adds Nick Green, branch manager from Handelsbanken in Tunbridge Wells: “There are many ways that businesses can be supported, such as reducing red tape, incentivising local government to speed up the planning process, simplifying the corporate tax regime and looking to reduce the 50p income tax rate to encourage entrepreneurship and spending.”

Finally, a major worry to everyone is the price of fuel.

“The price of fuel is reaching crisis proportions and is rapidly becoming an inhibitor to business growth. Steps need to be taken to bring fuel prices down or at least cap them at where they are,” says Neil Edwards.

Adds Nick Green: “Individuals’ spending power is being eroded through inflationary pressures, due to increasing food, commodity and oil prices. With the rising price of oil, the government is already benefiting from additional ‘tax take’ and while the additional fuel duty levy was built into their calculations for reducing the UK debt burden, the impact on individuals and business is becoming increasingly apparent and, therefore, I would like to see this potential further imminent rise in fuel duty deferred or scrapped.”

Finally, Richard Holme is hoping for a quiet Budget.

“Please no tinkering with the tax system unless absolutely necessary – we already have over 12,000 pages of tax law,” he says. “It would be good to have a Budget one year which makes no tax changes at all!”

Looking ahead, at The Marketing Eye, we are remaining upbeat. Neil says: “We are countering uncertainties around growth, inflation and interest rates by maintaining our marketing to build our brand and keep in touch with the evolving needs of our clients. Businesses that have the courage to continue marketing will survive and prosper when growth returns to the economy in the latter part of the year.”

What are your pre-Budget wishes? Do you agree with our commentators? Let us know.

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