What do businesses want from Philip Hammond?

Trains on the line Image copyright Getty Images

Just about everyone agrees that extra investment in transport infrastructure, delivered locally and immediately, is a good idea. Because this is so universally popular, the chancellor is almost certain to deliver - but on a pretty limited scale.

As my colleague Kamal Ahmed has explained, the forecast for the public finances is likely to make depressing reading and Treasury coffers are emptier than projected six months ago.

We expect a billion or so for transport improvements.

Everyone likes lower taxes - right? That's true, but with an existing plan to reduce corporation tax to 17% by 2020, the UK is already on course to have the lowest tax rate in the G20, (unless Donald Trump cuts taxes in the US from 35% to 15% - possible but unlikely).

Not only that, but there is relatively little clamour among business groups for further cuts here.

Small businesses face a weakening domestic economy, rising labour costs, pensions auto-enrolment and increasing tax administration - together with a business rates revaluation and the prospect of mandatory quarterly tax reporting.

The tax rate they pay on any profits comes below some of those concerns.

On balance we expect no change to tax rates.

Business rates

What the government really wants is for businesses to feel confident enough to invest in the future. This boosts the economy immediately and increases future productivity.

The problem is, when you build new stuff or invest in new premises, you incur more of something businesses perennially complain about - business rates.

One answer would be to exempt new plant and machinery from business rates. This is a bit of a long shot but could be the fillip that business needs from Philip. Unlikely but possible.

The government needs any money it spends so look out for tax rises. For example, many businesses reduce salaries and offer benefits instead like childcare, bicycles to work, gym membership or mobile phone contracts.

The government loses out here as it collects less in income tax and national insurance. That could be tightened up but childcare and bicycles look like being safe.

The thing that many businesses want is a bit more clarity around Brexit. But as Theresa May has made clear on many occasions - they are not going to get it - certainly not on Wednesday anyway.