Spring Budget 2024 – latest news for small businesses

The Spring Budget will be announced at the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, London

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered this year’s Spring Budget earlier today, announcing the government’s spending plans for the upcoming year. From a fuel duty extension to a cut to National Insurance contributions, here’s everything you missed that could affect your small business.

6 key Spring Budget announcements for small businesses

In a continuously challenging economic landscape, financial worries are high – especially for small business owners and the self-employed. It’s more important than ever before that the government supports small businesses when they need it most.

Here are the six key Spring Budget announcements that could impact your business.

1. Reducing National Insurance contributions

The chancellor rounded up his Budget statement with a reduction in National Insurance contributions – which has been cut for the self-employed from 9 per cent to 6 per cent.

This 2p cut comes after a 1p cut was announced during the Autumn Statement. According to the chancellor, cutting National Insurance could save the self-employed an average of £650 a year when combined with the need to no longer pay Class 2 contributions.

2. Increasing the VAT registration threshold

Another change announced in this year’s Budget is an increase to the VAT threshold, which had previously remained the same since April 2017. The VAT threshold has now been raised to £90,000 from £85,000.

Historically, there are many smaller businesses which attempt to keep their business turnover below this threshold in order to avoid registering for VAT – potentially missing out on new business growth opportunities.

Michelle Liu is the owner of Mama Chen’s, a noodle and dumpling restaurant based in Romford, who found success after a series of pop-ups and a residency at the Gantry Hilton in London.

However, after Michelle hit the VAT threshold of £85,000, the tax burden threatened her business and the prospect for further growth plans. It led to her leaving the residency and setting up in a space in Romford.

Michelle wanted the chancellor to raise the VAT threshold to £130,000 – so the increase of just £5,000 came as a “disappointment”. She said: “While this is a move in the right direction, it will only help relatively few SMEs. I thought he would raise it to £100,000 at least.”

By raising the VAT threshold, small businesses can have more opportunities to grow without the need to pay VAT.

Daniele Paduano owns pizza restaurant Kotch, located in Stratford, and agrees with Michelle’s comments, saying: “The figure of £90,000 can only help new businesses to get started but once you go past the threshold you no longer benefit from this. £90,000 works out to £1,700 a week – no business can survive while paying 20 per cent VAT on that.”

3. Fuel duty freeze extended again

As inflation remains high and the country continues to struggle with the cost of living crisis, the government has decided to keep fuel duty frozen once more (for the 14th year in a row).

The current rate will be maintained for an additional 12 months, extending the existing 5p cut and cancelling the planned inflation increase. This extension could save the average car driver £50 a year.

With recent rises in the cost of fuel, small business owners who rely on their vehicle for work could use any additional government support.

If you’re a small business owner who frequently works with a van or car, make sure you’re prepared for this year’s latest driving laws.

4. Extending the alcohol duty freeze

Hospitality businesses will take note that the chancellor has extended the freeze on alcohol duty – from 1 August 2024 until 1 February 2025.

Beginning from 1 August 2023, the alcohol duty system was simplified, with all alcoholic drinks being taxed based on their alcohol by volume (ABV) by litre of alcohol. This latest extension will result in 2p less duty on the average price of a pint of beer, which the chancellor says should benefit 38,000 pubs across the UK.

Daniel, who opened the Angel & Crown pub in Bethnal Green last month, was disappointed with the chancellor’s continued freeze on alcohol duty, saying that “it’s literally the least he could have done.”

5. Child benefits threshold increased

The child benefits threshold has also seen an increase, which comes after the chancellor addressed the “unfairness” of the previous system. The High Income Child Benefit Charge threshold has now been raised from £50,000 to £60,000.

In January, the chancellor admitted “unfairness in what happens with dual-income families on £50,000 each compared to a single earner on £100,000”.

But with the new threshold, this has been raised to £60,000 – with the taper raised from £60,000 to £80,000.

But that’s not the only change planned for childcare benefits, as the chancellor also announced plans to base the system on total household income, rather than on individual parental income. However, this change isn’t set to come into effect until 2026.

6. A welcomed dip in inflation

The chancellor also brought up an anticipated drop in inflation. The Budget revealed that the Office for Budget and Responsibility (OBR)’s latest forecast shows that inflation is set to drop below two per cent in the next few months.

A recent study found that 63 per cent of small business owners see inflation, rising taxes, and interest rates as a significant challenge when running their business (SME Insights Report 2023), so a drop in inflation would be a welcomed change for the UK’s 5.5m small business owners.

‘He has put the UK’s SMEs in lead boots’

Alan Thomas, UK CEO of Simply Business, said: “The chancellor’s budget is on the right track, but the train is too slow. We know from our own insight that small businesses are specifically looking for long-term measures, and the changes announced today do not meet those needs.

“Raising the VAT registration threshold by £5,000 and reducing self-employed National Insurance, though certainly welcome measures, are not reflective of the situation that the small business community now finds itself in. Cash flow and access to funding is a persistent thorn in the side of SME owners. Customers are spending less, costs are increasing, and more robust support is not forthcoming.

“Our research revealed that an eye-watering £32bn in late payments is owed to small businesses, over a quarter of SMEs are spending up to 40 per cent more on energy each month compared to last year, and expansion and hiring plans have been halted across the board.

“Further, with an upcoming increase in the national minimum wage – which is undoubtedly a positive for the workforce – many small business owners will be forced to reduce their workforce and take on even more themselves.

“Thousands of small businesses are being held back – not because of a lack of ambition, but because of a set of circumstances which are stretching them to the limit. Nonetheless, in a show of determination which is so characteristic of this sector, our research found that three quarters of SMEs remain confident about the prospects for their business. In his Autumn Budget, the chancellor said he wanted to ‘supercharge’ the growth of the UK – instead, he has put the UK’s SMEs in lead boots.”

What did you think about the announcements made in the Spring Budget? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business specialising in side hustles – as well as all things freelance, social media, and ecommerce. She’s been writing professionally for nine years. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world.

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