VAT Assignment – A bridge too far for fiscal devolution?

Alongside this month’s Budget, the Scottish Fiscal Commission will set out forecasts for VAT revenues in Scotland.

2019-20 will mark the first year in which VAT assignment will be explicitly incorporated into the Budget (although, as with all the phased implementations of Scotland’s new tax powers it will be 2020-21 before it has a meaningful implication for spending).

In this blog we remind readers of the background to VAT assignment, discuss the approach that has been put forward for implementation and outline some implications for the Scottish Budget.

Working out how much VAT is raised in Scotland is exceptionally difficult. Unfortunately, a paper published recently by the UK Government on how it plans to do this suggests that little progress has been made in finding a robust way forward after over 3 years of trying.

Given the sums involved, the Scottish Parliament would be taking on a significant – and unreasonable – risk based upon current plans. It should, at the very least, press for a delay in the assignation of VAT to the Scottish Budget.Continue reading

December 6, 2018

What’s next for taxpayers in Scotland?

We’ll soon find out what the Scottish Government has in store for income tax in Scotland in 2019/20 when the Scottish Budget is published next week.

Taxpayers in the rest of the UK already know what to expect after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced changes to income tax in the UK Budget at the end of October.

These were to:

  1. increase the personal allowance from £11,850 in 2018/19 to £12,500 in 2019/20
  2. to increase the Higher Rate Threshold in the rest of the UK from £46,350 to £50,000.

As it is entirely possible that readers might not have made it through our 160 page Budget report on the 8th November, this blog will set out some tax options available to Mr Mackay for the forthcoming year.

Before we do so, here is a summary of the differences between Scottish and rUK taxpayers in the current financial year.

Continue reading

December 5, 2018

Key points from our 2018 budget report

Today we publish our annual Budget report, “Scotland’s Budget 2018” which is available at the following link.

The aim of the report is to set out the opportunities, risks and choices facing the Scottish Government as it prepares it draft budget for 2019/20. The report covers the outlook for the Scottish economy and the Scottish budget.

Each year we also focus on a variety of longer term public finance questions. This year we focus on the options for reforming taxes and introducing new taxes, and discuss the differences in the funding of higher education between Scotland and England.Continue reading

November 8, 2018

Comparing Scottish and rUK income tax liabilities – scenarios for 2019-20

Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced changes to income tax in the UK Budget, setting a new higher rate threshold (HRT) of £50,000 for taxpayers in the rest of the UK and a personal allowance of £12,500 for all taxpayers.

What does this mean for taxpayers in Scotland?

The real terms increase to the personal allowance will apply in Scotland. Compared to a scenario where the personal allowance had increased in line with inflation, the policy provides a tax cut of around £70 per year for most of Scotland’s 2.5 million income taxpayers in 2019/20.

The increase in the higher rate threshold – the threshold above which the higher 40% tax rate is charged – represents a tax cut to higher rate taxpayers in rUK*.

But the increase in the HRT will not apply in Scotland. Instead, it will be up to the Scottish Government to decide how to respond in its December budget.

Continue reading

October 30, 2018

UK Budget 2018: Additional spending but tax dilemmas for the Scottish Government

The 2018 budget was yet again underpinned by some fairly underwhelming projections for economic growth over the next few years – the outlook for which has not changed materially since spring.

But Mr. Hammond’s budget was boosted by the fact that economic growth has proved relatively more ‘tax rich’ recently than had been forecast.

The Chancellor has spent all of this spending windfall, whilst achieving early his ‘fiscal mandate’ – that the cyclically adjusted deficit should remain below 2% of GDP from 2021, and his ‘supplementary target’ (that debt should fall as a percentage of GDP 2020/21).

From the perspective of the upcoming Scottish budget, which will be presented by Derek Mackay on 12 December, the UK Budget contained two major announcements.Continue reading

October 29, 2018