He has made it clear that this will not be a full Budget, but will be an economic update and a response to OBR forecasts.
Rumours are that the economic forecasts will be positive, and we know that tax receipts were strong in January. It is possible that a major giveaway could be announced – but it is sure to be ‘jam tomorrow’, as Brexit is now very close and anything announced will have to be subject to what happens by 29 March. Unless the Prime Minister holds, and wins, her Meaningful Vote this week – which seems increasingly unlikely – we are still in a period of grave uncertainty for business.
We may well get a further emergency budget later in the Spring, once the Brexit outcome is clear. But in the meantime, the main corporate measures are likely to be further consultations on the Digital Economy, and more detail on how offshore companies owning UK property will be taxed from 1 April 2020. We’ve already got a consultation underway on the off-payroll working rules (IR35), which is an important issue for many companies as it could make it more expensive to engage consultants.
One measure which I hope we won’t see is any change to the rate of corporation tax – it is due to reduce from 19% to 17% on 1 April 2020, and legislation to implement this has already been passed. Putting the rate back up again, at a time when there is major business uncertainty, would send a very negative signal and would contradict the Government’s ‘open for business’ message.