Budget to Focus on Business Tax Avoidance 
Businesses are expected to face a permanent tax crackdown on abusive tax schemes, under schemes set to be unveiled by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in Wednesday’s budget.

It is widely believed that tax avoidance is set to be at the heart of the budget, with the Chancellor telling the Andrew Marr Show, yesterday, that the it would be “a budget for working people”, at the same time as pledging to “come down like a tonne of bricks” on those who used tax avoidance schemes.

Treasury sources have also fuelled speculation that tax avoidance will be the main element of the budget, by suggesting the government is set to adopt the GAAR, following a recent report by Graham Aaronson QC, despite businesses traditionally being wary of the General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR), due to it complicating tax planning, as under a GAAR companies have to disclose their tax arrangement in advance and schemes can be shut.

Mr Aaronson has attempted to address such concerns by businesses, by recommending an “anti-abuse” rule rather than an “anti-avoidance”, which would limit the scope of its application.

Mr Aaronson said: “A general anti-abuse rule narrowly targeted to deter such schemes, while not affecting responsible tax planning, should lead to a fairer, more principled and ultimately simpler tax system.”

The clampdown on tax avoidance is also expected to be used as a way to justify a reduction in the top rate tax, from fifty-pence to forty-five pence.

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Fifty Pence Tax to be Scrapped 
With less than a week to go before the Budget, the Chancellor, George Osborne, has given the biggest indication that he is to scrap the fifty-pence tax.

Mr Osborne has come under intense pressure from business leaders, as well as many in his own party, to slash the top rate of income tax amid claims it deters money-makers from being based in the UK.

Although Downing Street insisting the claims that the levy on earners over £150,000 would be reduced to 40p were "speculation", newspaper reports suggest that Mr Osborne is set to push ahead with a reduction in the fifty pence tax rate after analysis found the levy is reaping substantially less for the Exchequer than expected.

The newspaper reports suggest that a preliminary study, due to be published next week, is to show the tax on the highest earners is bringing in hundreds of millions, not the £2.6 billion predicted

A government source said: "The budget has to strike a balance. It has to show we are all in this together, but it also has to show that as a country we are open for business. We want a top rate that does not put off entrepreneurs or businesses.

“It is one of the highest top rates worldwide at a time when we need real growth. Above all, real growth is what we need to promote wealth and prosperity."

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UK Could Lose AAA Rating 
The UK has been warned that it faces a one in two chance of losing its safe haven status, if the government eases its deficit reduction measures.

Following a ratings assessment, the credit ratings agency Fitch have said that Britain still has a higher budget deficit and debt than most triple A rated bonds, and was in a similar position to France and the US, who also had a top rating with a negative outlook.

Within a statement released following the closure of the London markets on Wednesday, Fitch warned the UK had, "very limited fiscal space to absorb further adverse economic shocks in light of such elevated debt levels and a potentially weaker than currently forecast economic recovery".

Fitch’s announcement, which echoes that made previously by Moody’s comes a week before the UK’s budget, and adds more pressure on the Chancellor, George Osborne, who said: “A week from the Budget, this is a reminder of why it is essential Britain sticks to its plans to deal with its debts.

“As Fitch itself says, the reason we are keeping our triple A rating is because of ‘the progress made in reducing the government’s structural budget deficit and the credibility of the fiscal consolidation effort.”

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Government Considering Long-Term Bond 
The government are reported to be considering a new long-term bond, which it hopes will cut the country’s interest payments for years to come.

At present the government, like many, issue bonds – a form of IOU – which pay interest before being paid back after a fixed term; however a long-dated bond typically gives the government thirty years to repay in full.

Currently, the average duration of the Government's £1 trillion debt is around 14 years – with maturities ranging from months to a 50-year bond issued in 2005.

However longer-dated debt is widely thought to offer a country more stability, and under radical plans the Chancellor, George Osborne, is looking at issuing bonds with a 100 year repayment date, in the hope of the long-term gilt allowing the government to lock in the current record low interest rate.

A Treasury source said: "This is about locking in for the future the tangible benefits of the safe haven status we have today. The prize is lower debt interest repayments for decades to come.

"It is a chance for our great-grandchildren to pay less than they otherwise would have done because of the government's fiscal credibility."

If the bond proved popular with investors, future governments would pay less debt interest, with Treasury officials saying their figures reveal that the low cost of long-term interest rates would save the UK £20 billion in debt interest over the next five years.

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Boost to UK Economy 
A leading global think-tank, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), has reported that the UK may finally be in the early states of economic recovery.

The OECD’s composite leading indications for January rose 0.1 percent – the biggest monthly rise since Britain pulled out of recession in 2009.

The OECD’s widely watched indicators having a track record of being roughly six months ahead of events, these latest findings suggest the seeds of recovery have now taken root.

Following a 0.2 percent contraction in the UK economy during the final months of last year, 2012 has started strongly with retail sales and domestic indicators of both services and manufacturing sectors suggesting a return to growth; and the OECD say that the small rise in the January index, following a stable month in December suggests “a possible change in momentum.”

Although the UK may have started an economic revival, there is a warning that work still remains to be done before growth climbs back above trend.

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