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Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak updated Parliament on how he is to continue “protecting jobs”, after the Treasury quietly withdrew previously announced plans for an emergency Autumn Budget.

It seems the Treasury believe that “now is not the right time” for “long-term plans”, as the country prepares for a long six months of continued restrictions in the hope of staving off a second wave of COVID-19 infection.

And while Mr Sunak has announced a job support package, and extended the reduction to VAT to boost the hospitality sector without allowing people to eat out after ten pm, perhaps the rest of us can breathe easy knowing that the inevitable bill for the 2020 bailout in the form of tax changes won’t be brought to our tables until the Spring.

The breathing room is welcome, as is the extra time available for developing robust and appropriate tax measures ready for when the day of reckoning arrives; far too often in the recent past has tax legislation been introduced quickly without proper consultation or consideration, resulting in years of tweaks and tightening to improve the position as originally drafted.

But this does not mean that there is not still opportunity to take the time to look at tax planning. Reliefs that were under threat in an Autumn Budget may not be off the hook in Spring, so anyone looking to maximise reliefs such as Business Asset Disposal Relief (formerly Entrepreneurs’ Relief) or Business Relief from inheritance tax may still look at taking action now with the luxury of more time to fully consider the tax position. Other options such as R&D claims may not be so high on a hit list, but making claims now could accelerate cash flow, helping fend off any storms of the long, dark winter we may be facing.

Overall, the delay in the Budget is likely to be a good thing; businesses can focus on getting back to work alongside the virus as far as is possible, and HMRC can continue to deal with COVID-19 assistance schemes, and the inevitable issues that will arise after the 31 December Brexit withdrawal. And in these uncertain and unpredictable times, at least that’s one fewer thing to worry about.

Iain Wright

Partner

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