HC Deb 20 March 1990 vol 169 cc1022-3

Next, I turn to income tax, before turning to other matters. I have no change to announced to either the basic or the higher rate of tax. They will remain at 25p and 40p respectively. Notwithstanding that, I reaffirm our objective of moving towards a basic rate of 20p when it ns possible to do so.

I turn now to personal tax allowances. This year, I propose to uprate the main income tax allowances by the statutory indexation factor of 7.7 per cent., rounded up. The personal allowances will rise by £220 to £3,005. The new married couple's allowance will be set at £1,720, as will the additional personal allowance for single parents and the widow's bereavement allowance. However, the basic rate limit, the level at which higher rate liability begins, will be unchanged, at £20,700 of taxable income. This means that a married man with a £30,000 mortgage will not begin to pay higher rate tax until his income is over £30,000.

The allowances for the elderly will similarly be fully uprated in line with inflation. For those aged 65 to 74, the personal allowance goes up by £270 to £3,670 and the married couple's allowance goes up by £160 to £2,145. For those aged 75 and over, the personal allowance goes up by £280 to £3,820 and the married couple's allowance will rise to £2,185. The income limit for these allowances will also be fully indexed to £12,300.

I also propose to raise the inheritance tax threshold by £10,000 to £128,000, in line with inflation.

The capital gains tax exemption—that is, the amount of real capital gains free of tax in any one year—currently stands at £5,000. However, from April, the introduction of independent taxation means that married couples will be entitled to not one but two exempt amounts rather than having to share one between them as at present. I have therefore decided to leave the exempt amount at £5,000 per person, which effectively gives a married couple an exemption of £10,000 in total.

I also have to set the scales for the taxation of the private use of company cars. The tax treatment of this benefit remains generous, although less so than previously, as a result of the significant increases in these scales in recent Budgets. I therefore propose an increase—but a smaller one than in previous years—of 20 per cent. The yield from this will be £160 million in 1990–91. There will be no change in the fuel scales.

In the tax system there is one allowance, the tax allowance for the blind, that, although anomalous, has long been accepted as a proper recognition of the special difficulties faced by blind people. The allowance is modest, but welcome, at £540 a year. I propose to make it less modest and more welcome and to double it. From 6 April, it will stand at £1,080.

Before I leave income tax, I have a small supply side measure to announce that will help the labour market to work better. We have always made it clear that it is not for the Government to encourage or discourage women with children to go out to work. That is rightly a decision for them to take, and one in which the Government would be wise not to interfere. However, it is undeniable that an increasing number of mothers do want to return to work, and many employers, in private industry and in public services such as health and education, are keen to encourage them to do so.

If an employer provides a nursery for his staff in order to recruit and retain skilled people, he can set the full cost against corporation tax. However, any employee who benefits and who earns more than £8,500 a year is required to pay tax on the value of the benefit in kind. Many employers have argued that this is an obstacle to the growth of nursery provision and has created recruitment difficulties for them, and many women see that as a positive disincentive to return to work. For those reasons, therefore, I have decided to exempt the value of workplace nurseries and playgroups from taxation as a benefit in kind. That will take effect from 6 April this year.

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