'Accountant' Hammond told to approve £4.6bn stimulus

Philip Hammond was mockingly compared to a risk-averse “accountant” just hours before companies asked him to sign off a £4.6billion stimulus for them at Autumn Statement 2016.

Reportedly annoyed that the chancellor was seeking delays by urging caution at a Cabinet meeting about new work permits post-Brexit, a colleague of his fumed to a national paper.

“He is arguing from a very Treasury point of view,” the unnamed source told The Telegraph. “He is arguing like an accountant seeing the risk of everything rather than the opportunity.”

If accurate, the charge against Mr Hammond seems to make it unlikely that his Autumn Statement next month will contain a multi-billion-pound package of spending measures.  

Called for yesterday by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the package contains four announcements that could potentially affect contractors and their clients.

The four are; introduce no new business taxes; temporarily widen the Annual Investment Allowance; direct investment to projects like broadband and unveil an ‘indirect tax roadmap.’

Although the package was put to the chancellor before the ‘accountant’ rebuke (it was submitted to him in September despite only being publicised yesterday), the BCC framed it in numerical terms.

“[Our] Autumn Statement submission proposals require an average of £4.6 billion in spending per annum -- equivalent to 0.6% of total government spending,” it said.

One proposal set for approval on November 23rd is reform of IR35 in the public sector -- “a disaster waiting to happen” but the “major thing” contractors can expect from Mr Hammond, a former tax officer has said.

Advisers at company turnaround consultancy Opus Business Services foresee another announcement that some contractors won’t welcome.

"Disguised remuneration / loan schemes which were being peddled by tax wizards in years gone by [were part of a HMRC] consultation… [that] closed recently”, the firm pointed out.

“But Mr Hammond is due to make a statement about them in his Autumn Statement. Sadly for affected contractors, this is another area where HMRC has no obvious incentive to compromise or play anything but ultra-hardball.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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