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PBR: Initial reaction from IFAs

The Government’s pre-Budget report contained very few unexpected measures and not much to get excited about, according to the initial reaction from IFAs.

Whitechurch Securities managing director Gavin Haynes says: “There had been so many leaks it was a bit of an anti-climax.”

Haynes says the Chancellor has attempted to take a balanced approach over the long term as “what he is giving away in the short term he is looking to take back in the long term”.

The most eye catching initiatives were the heavily trailed measures to reduce VAT by 2.5 percentage points to 15 per cent and increase income tax for earnings over £150,000 up to 45 per cent from April 2011.

Syndaxi Financial Planning managing director Robert Reid says the PBR changes open opportunities in some area, particularly in revisiting salary sacrifice schemes, but says overall the PBR has not been particularly positive for IFA clients: “An average IFA client is not going to be that much better off and could be worse off so there is an opportunity for good quality financial planning.”

According to Haynes, many of the Chancellor’s other initiatives, such as increases in tax credits and alterations to were targeted at lower earners and will not have an impact on many clients.

Reid agrees and says the Chancellor has been careful to aim his fiscal measures at those most likely to spend the extra cash: “The money has been targeted at those less able to keep it in their pockets and those most likely to spend.”

Although the Chancellor was keen to make some measures felt by the beneficiaries immediately it is some of the longer term measures that may have the most opportunities for IFAs.

AWD Chase de Vere head of research Cliff Husband says the increase in income tax for higher rate earners presents opportunities as does the Chancellors £3bn public spending programme: “The proposals will only come into effect after the next general election as there is a pledge not to increase income tax this term but this gives people plenty of time to plan for any changes. Pension planning should be given serious consideration to lessen the impact of any tax increases and for those willing to take the risk, there are always VCT and EIS investments offering 20 per cent and 30 per cent income tax relief respectively.

“With all the doom and gloom in the investment world, one area that may benefit from the chancellors actions is infrastructure funds. With the announcement that many major public spending projects, from road building to new schools, will be brought forward, the outlook for infrastructure could look very promising.”

But while there may be opportunities for IFAs, Whitechurch Securities chairman Kean Seagar says the proposals will not do anything for their stated aim of reducing the time and severity of a recession.

Seagar says: “The problem is that sentiment is not only a real force in the markets it is a real force within the general economy and sentiment has tanked. Consumers have for years converted higher property prices into loans and hence into purchases. Now, however, property prices are going the other way and people are very, very worried about the debt positions they have built up. Not only that but we are all now expecting unemployment to increase next year. So lower VAT etc. will not boost sales and more money in the pocket will go towards reducing debt/increasing rainy-day reserves.

“I believe that they only cure will simply be time. When we have had a recession for a reasonable period people can start to ask themselves whether it is time for an improvement in fortunes which will slowly start to re-build the economy. Until then we just have to wait.”

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