Ministerial tax, tax relief on charitable giving and Child Benefit were among topics discussed at the 10 Downing Street press briefing.
Asked whether the PM paid the top rate of tax, the PMS said that he would not discuss the PM’s tax affairs, but his salary was a matter of public record.
Asked how many of the Cabinet paid the top rate of tax, the PMS said he would not discuss the tax affairs of individuals.
Asked whether the PM’s declaration of members’ interests was complete, the PMS said that it was.
Asked whether cabinet ministers were required to place any shares into a blind trust, the PMS said that was the standard procedure, but the Cabinet Office could provide further detail.
Pensioner tax allowance
Asked whether the PM regretted the way the freeze on pensioners’ tax allowance became public, the PMS said that it was an announcement in Parliament and was clearly set out in the Red Book.
Asked whether the PM was happy that the pensioner tax allowance freeze had been called the ‘granny tax’, the PMS said that it was not a tax but a freezing of a tax allowance. The Chancellor set out the reasons for a change. The decision has been taken to freeze the age related allowances but the triple lock would ensure that state pensions would rise by CPI, or earnings or 2.5%, whichever was highest.
Asked whether the situation for pensioners would be better overall, the PMS said that the state pension would increase by 5.2% this year, which was a cash gain of £127 for 2012/13 when compared to the previous policy of uprating in line with earnings.
Asked whether the government would be addressing the cost of social care for the elderly over the next year considering it was not discussed in the Budget, the PMS said the government was planning to say something about social care in the coming months.
Asked whether tax paying pensioners will still be better off in real terms over the next 2 to 3 years, the PMS said that there would be no cash losers. Half of the population over the age of 65 do not pay tax, so the poorest pensioners would be unaffected. Looking over the coming years, pensioners would benefit more from the triple lock than the notional loss from the personal allowance freeze.
Tax relief on charitable giving
Asked whether the PM was happy or worried by the cap on tax relief for charitable giving, the PMS said that the Chancellor had presented the government’s Budget and the PM agreed with the Budget.
Asked whether there were unintended consequences the PMS said that there was a cap on benefits and we thought it was fair that there was also a cap on tax reliefs.
Asked whether the 45p tax rate was a permanent measure if the 50p rate was temporary, the PMS said that the Chancellor was treating the 45p rate tax like any other tax. The tax system is constantly under review.
Asked whether the statement in the Budget that it was the ‘government’s view’ that the 50p rate should be removed was from officials or ministers, the PMS said that the analysis undertaken by HMRC experts was reviewed by the independent OBR.
Asked whether the final decision on child benefit had been taken, the PMS said that the government set out its position in the Budget.
Asked whether the Chancellor believed he had removed unfairness from the child benefit scheme, the PMS said that the government thought it was fair for people on higher incomes to make some contribution to the consolidation of the country’s finances.
Asked whether the Budget showed that the country was still ‘all in it together’, the PMS said that the Budget was very transparent on the impact of the measures taken. The government was trying to be as fair as possible when taking the tough decisions needed to reduce the deficit.
Asked whether the government was still committed to eradicating child poverty, the PMS said that the commitment was set out in law. The government had said that looking purely at relative income measures was not the best way of analysing poverty and we needed to look at other measures of deprivation.
Asked whether changes to child benefit would be debated as part of the Finance Bill before introduction in Jan 2013, the PMS said that they would.
Asked what the PM’s reaction was to coverage of the Budget this morning, the PMS said that the important piece of news this morning was the announcement by GlaxoSmithKlein, which planned £500 million of investment in the UK.
Asked whether GSK would not have made the announcement on investment and jobs if it was not for the measures in the Budget, the PMS said that GSK themselves had said the decision to confirm the patent box was a considerable factor in their decision to invest more in the UK.