Budget 2010: VAT rise ‘on hold until after election’

Despite chancellor Alistair Darling saying he had “no further announcements
about VAT” in this week’s Budget, there are many in the accountancy profession
who expect such an announcement to be made in just a few short weeks.

They expect that an increase in VAT to 20% has been merely delayed for
political purposes until after the general election, which is almost certain to
be held in early May.

According to Richard Woolich, tax partner at DLA Piper UK LLP, the Budget
contained “no great surprises from the tax point of view” before the upcoming

He said: “We must wait for the post-election Budget, or more likely next
year, for the really hard-hitting changes.

“VAT is likely to rise to 20%, which is the EU average.”

John Voyez, VAT director at Smith & Williamson, agreed with this

“Many in the profession are expecting a hike in VAT,” he said. “A 1% hike in
VAT brings in around £4.5bn to £5bn in tax receipts. As the average VAT standard
rate in the EU is around 20%, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to raise it.”

However while Voyez noted that a 2.5% rise in the standard rate of VAT to 20%
would “easily raise £12bn for the Treasury,” he admitted that the current
fragile economic recovery should be taken into account.

“A rise in the VAT rate could impact inflation and the cost of living,” he

“If whichever party is in government is trying to kickstart the economy, a
rise to 20% may not be such a good idea, but a smaller rate rise could work.
I’ll be surprised if the standard rate remains at 17.5% beyond this autumn.”


Historically, Labour governments have been averse to raising VAT rates
and this trend continues. The Chancellor also knows that, given the fragile
economic recover y and a highly taxed populace, a VAT hike would be unpopular
before an election. However, given that a mere 1% increase raises around £5bn
for the Treasury coffers, a hike will be useful.

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