BusinessCompany NewsBrown chooses to play an open hand

Brown chooses to play an open hand

For once the devil did not appear to be in the detail. Previous Gordon Brown Budget speeches have been object lessons in obfuscation and it has required the casting of an expert eye over the red book to reveal just what they year ahead holds for taxpayers.

Link: Budget 2004

Today it was all different. The Revenue and Customs will merge, the chancellor told the house. Accountancy firms will be more tightly regulated and the tax avoidance schemes they proffer more actively policed. And while the words ‘section 5.91’ did not actually pass his lips, he ushered in a new tax regime for small businesses all the same.

On VAT he was generous, on pensions he was simplistic and on films he was sympathetic. The Conservatives were dismissive but you wouldn’t have expected anything else would you?

He was also curiously tongue-tied. ‘Gross’ rhymed with ‘loss’, ‘transparent’ came out as ‘transpairant’ and pronunciation of the ‘shire’ in ‘Lancashire’, ‘Cambridgeshire’ and ‘West Yorkshire’ was so elongated that it seemed as though he had backed himself for a 90-minute speech in the Treasury sweepstake. Then in a Freudian slip he pledged to raid certain duties, before correcting himself and offering to raise them instead.

But he didn’t wash all his dirty linen in public. The Budget pack itself was still a whopper, with the press notices alone running to 54 pages.

International Accounting Standards were in there, as were further details of how the chancellor plans to protect revenues to ensure next year’s Budget – almost certainly the last before the next general election – is more overtly voter-friendly.

  • Damian Wild is editor of Accountancy Age.

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