Keep your eye on the ball

While not wanting to alienate myself from the great and the good of the tax world, my newly acquired toy seems as good a place as any to ask for the traditional Budget predictions.

Not surprisingly it reacted with disbelief when I asked whether Brown would increase the basic rate of income tax. ‘Are you kidding?’ it responded.

And the ball was only slightly less certain that Brown would resist the temptation to increase the rate of VAT to bring it into line with Europe -ð and at the same time raise a few billion quid.

That one will probably have to wait for the post-election Budget. But we ‘can count on’ a slew of new anti-avoidance measures, there is ‘absolutely no chance’ that inheritance tax will be tampered with and I am ‘not to bet on’ the possibility of the pre-owned assets regime finally being clarified.

One particular prediction I found frighteningly astute, considering it had been offered by a round, plastic toy, was that resident and domicile rules would not be visited ‘just now’. This revelation could have come straight from the horse?s mouth!

I am the first to admit that asking a toy for Budget predictions is a little pointless, but I would also argue that the Budget itself is teetering on the edge of pointlessness too.

Normally, one of the most exciting days of the calendar for the news desks of business papers, this year the Budget already has a hint of farce about it.

Brown is more likely to accept a job at the Foreign Office than say anything remotely controversial this close to a general election.

And while we are all aware that he will probably have to raise that few billion quid somehow over the next couple of years, next week is certainly not the time to do it.

So, expect the odd boast over tax credits here, a tweak of tax legislation there and start wondering what you will have for dinner by about a quarter past one next Wednesday.

I didn?t need the magic 8-ball to predict that.

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