Budget 2012: What we already know

In every good drama, viewers already have a sense of what might happen before the main action begins.

And so, before Chancellor George Osborne's Budget speech on Wednesday, some of the key financial plot lines in the year to come have already been announced.

There may be some surprises in the story outlined by the chancellor, but his Budget and Autumn Statement last year gave details of various changes to taxes and benefits.

They affect the cost of buying a home for the first time, how much people can save tax-free, and by how much pensions and benefits will rise.

So what do we already know about changes coming into force in April?

Pensions

The full basic state pension will rise by £5.30 to £107.45 a week in April.

Documents People have had the chance to prepare for some changes to come into force in April

However, there is also the Pension Credit, which ensures that pensioners reach a guaranteed minimum income level. This is in line with the government's triple-guarantee system which means that state pensions always rise by the greater of average earnings, prices, or 2.5%.

This will increase by 3.9% to £142.70 a week for single pensioners. For pensioner couples, it will rise by the same proportion to £217.90 a week.

For private pensions, a lifetime allowance for tax relief on pension savings, of £1.5m, will be introduced.

Benefits

The amount received by many families in benefits is set to jump next month, as they are linked to inflation.

Sterling notes and coins Millions of people will see their benefits rise in line with last September's rate of inflation

A host of benefits and tax thresholds rise in April, in line with the inflation rate the previous September - so this time that will be by 5.2%.

The benefits that are linked in this way are jobseeker's allowance, income support, most income tax allowances, national insurance thresholds, inheritance tax allowance, disability benefits, maternity benefits, incapacity benefit and child benefit.

It will be the first time that benefits have increased in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation instead of the historically more generous Retail Prices Index (RPI), because of new rules.

Tax credits

One truth of tax credits are that they are extremely complicated. In April, there will be a new level of complexity added.

Some 5.7 million families, with 9.2 million children between them, were receiving tax credits at the end of 2011.

They will see the child element of child tax credits rise by £135 in 2012-13. The child element is an amount paid to support lower-income families depending on the number of children in a family, in addition to child benefit.

However, a host of other changes means that many people will miss out on other payments.

For example, the chancellor has already said that an additional £110, plus inflation, increase in the child element of child tax credits will not go ahead.

The couple and lone-parent elements of working tax credit will not go up in line with inflation. These parts of the tax credit system are paid to working, low-income couples or lone parents in addition to a basic tax credit payment.

One major change is that, other than a few exceptions, couples with children will have to work for 24 hours a week between them, not 16, in order to qualify for working tax credit. One member of the couple will have to work for at least 16 hours a week.

Income tax and inheritance tax

The personal allowance is the amount of income you can receive without paying tax on it.

Tax terms explained

  • Taxable income: Includes money earned from employment, self-employment, savings, pensions and shares
  • Non-taxable income: You do not pay tax on some benefits or premium-bond winnings
  • Income tax allowance: The amount you can earn tax-free. From April, it will be £8,105 per person for those under 65
  • Income tax threshold: This is the point where tax rates change. The threshold at which you start paying the 40% rate will be £34,370 of taxable income from April. This is in addition to your personal allowance. Taking this into account, you will pay the higher rate on earnings from £42,476.

For people aged under 65, the allowance will rise by £630 on 6 April to £8,105 for the 2012-13 tax year. So everyone who is earning more than this amount will benefit from this extra tax-free allowance.

However, the upper threshold of the basic rate will fall by £630 to £34,370 in April. This means a few people whose total taxable income is just below the current threshold of £35,000 will be taxed at the higher rate of 40% on the top £630 of their taxable income from April.

For 65- to 74-year-olds, the personal allowance will rise from £9,940 to £10,500. For 75-year-olds and over, the allowance will rise from £10,090 to £10,660. This extra amount is gradually withdrawn from those with a taxable income between £24,000 and £29,000.

There is a gradual withdrawal of the personal allowance for everyone, regardless of age, with income above £100,000.

The first £325,000 of inheritance when somebody dies is exempt from inheritance tax, a level that remains unchanged.

However, from April, the rate of inheritance tax for amounts over £325,000 will be cut from 40% to 36% for estates that leave 10% or more to charity.

Housing

The 1% stamp duty rate for first-time buyers, on properties costing between £125,000 and £250,000, is being reintroduced on 24 March.

This stamp duty "holiday", which has run for two years, was considered by the chancellor to be "ineffective" in getting more people onto the property ladder.

Various surveys have suggested a pick-up in first-time buyer activity at the start of this year, before the tax kicks in again.

The government's New Buy scheme - aimed at helping first-time buyers purchase a newly built home with a small deposit - was launched earlier in March.

Savings

Currently savers can put up to £10,680 into an Individual Savings Account (Isa), half of which can be in cash.

In April 2012, the allowance will rise to £11,280. Up to £5,640 of this can be saved in cash with one Isa provider. The remainder can be invested in stocks and shares with either the same or a different Isa provider.

Transport

A 3.02 pence per litre fuel duty increase that was initially due to take effect on 1 January is now due to take effect on 1 August, unless the chancellor makes a new announcement in the Budget.

aircraft in flight The rise in Air Passenger Duty has angered a number of airlines

Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates will increase from 1 April. The amount of APD that passengers have to pay depends upon whether their flight is short or long-haul, with business and first-class travellers having to pay more than those with an economy ticket.

Under the new rates, economy-class passengers flying no further than 2,000 miles will see their APD rise from £12 to £13 per passenger.

Longer flights up to 4,000 miles will see an increase from £60 to £65, flights between 4,000 and 6,000 miles will rise from £75 to £81, and the tax on economy flights above 6,000 miles - such as trips to Australia - will rise from £85 to £92.

The changes will also see the duty extended to private business jets for the first time.

Workers' rights

A member of staff will need to be employed for two years, rather than one, from April, to be able to make a claim against their employer for unfair dismissal, with some exceptions.

The government says this is to help address employers' fears about the risks of taking on a new member of staff, but unions have argued that it has watered down workers' rights.

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Budget 2012

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