Fifty Pence Tax Rate Damaging Economy 
Over five hundred business owners and entrepreneurs have warned that the fifty pence tax rate is damaging the economy and delaying the recovery from recession.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph the small and medium sized business owners have said that the tax rate has prevented them from expanding their business and taking on more staff; adding that the levy is reducing government incomes and damaging the economy, rather than assisting its recovery.

Within the letter, the business owners not only accuse the Chancellor, George Osborne of “putting populist politics before sound economics” but they are also calling for the levy to be scrapped in next months budget.

The 537 business owners who signed the latter say: “Given the current state of the UK economy, we urge the Chancellor to urgently consider scrapping the top rate of tax in his forthcoming budget.

“The tax, which is in effect a fifty-eight pence tax after national insurance is taken into account, puts wealth creators like us in a very awkward position, penalising high earners through an unfair, politically motivated tax puts populist politics before sound economics.

“The result is that the fifty pence tax is set to reduce government income, and damage the economy, the public services and charitable giving.”

Despite the letter from the business owners, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves, has claimed that now is not the time to do away with the fifty-pence rate, saying: “When millions of families and pensioners on middle and low incomes are being squeezed by the VAT rise and cuts to tax credits, cutting taxes only for the richest 1% cannot be the right priority now.

“But these business owners are right to call on the government to take action to stimulate growth and jobs in our economy.”

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Tax Blunder Sees 17,000 Hit With Fines 
A glitch in the tax office’s computer system means letters demanding a penalty fee for late tax returns has been sent out in error to thousands of homes across the UK.

It has been estimated that up to 17,000 people will receive the letter, demanding the penalty fee of £100, in error, which states that if recipients do not pay the fine debt collection agencies will be sent.

The letters also warn that anyone who is three months or more late in filing their tax returns will face a second fine of £10 per day for up to three months, followed by an additional fine of five percent of the full tax bill after a six month period.

A spokesperson for the taxman has said that the letter mix-up has affected anyone who paid online between December 14th and December 16th 2011, adding: “We have cancelled the penalties and apologise to those affected. If these customers check online, they can see their payments have been correctly credited to their account.”

It has been reported that HMRC are already set to make £85 million from the 850,000 taxpayers who missed the February 2nd 2012 deadline.

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Tax Loopholes Closed 
The Treasury has closed two “aggressive” tax loopholes after a leading bank tried to avoid paying more than £500 million.

The move from the Treasury is the first time to Coalition government has clawed back taxes which have been avoided in the past, and the closure of the loopholes will also ensure billions of pounds in tax are paid in future.

One of the schemes which has been closed down involved a bank avoiding corporation tax on profits it made buying back its own IOU-notes; and the Treasury said it will move to block the recent use of the scheme by the bank and by any other company.

The second scheme involved investment funds trying to receive tax credits from the Treasury on non-taxable income; and the government yesterday brought in legislation to block any future use of the scheme.

David Guake, the Exchequer secretary said that the government was clear that “businesses must pay the tax they owe, when they owe it.”

He added: "The Government wants to ensure that the tax system is fair for all and we will not allow those who seek to benefit from this aggressive avoidance to get an unfair advantage.

“We do not take today's action lightly, but the potential tax loss from this scheme and the history of previous abuse in this area mean that this is a circumstance where the decision to change the law with full retrospective effect is justified."

Tax avoidance - unlike tax evasion - is not illegal but the UK's major banks have agreed to a code of practice to pay their fair share with the government.

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Chancellor: UK Has Run Out of Money 
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has admitted that the government has run out of money and cannot afford debt-fuelled tax cuts or extra spending.

Speaking ahead of next months Budget, the Chancellor has issued the stark warning that there was little the Coalition government could do to stimulate the economy and that Britain’s only hope rests with the private sector creating growth.

Mr Osborne told reporters: “The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years.

“The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”

Despite coming under increasing pressure to ease his tough austerity measures, amid fears the country is set for another recession, Mr Osborne, has also added that he’d stand firm on his pledge to balance the book’s by refusing to borrow money, saying: “Any tax cut would have to be paid for. In other words there would have to be a tax rise somewhere else or a spending reduction.

“In other words what we are not going to do in this Budget is borrow more money to either increase spending or cut taxes.”

The tough words by George Osborne were also echoed by Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, the foreign minister, who has warned that the country faces an “accelerated decline” without measures to tackle its debt and increase competitiveness.

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Banking Sector Needs to Change 
Bank of England official Andy Haldane has said that Britain's banking industry needs sweeping changes so that it can assist small and medium sized businesses better, claiming that the industry requires more middle-sized banks which would be natural lenders to the sector.

Speaking yesterday at a business conference, Mr Haldane argued the lack of lending to smaller businesses was one of the main reasons behind Britain’s weak economy, adding that the banking sectors needs structural reconfiguration to ensure that SMEs have the financing they need to be tomorrow’s growth.

Mr Haldane added that along with the government looking to address the lack of lending to smaller firms with a loan guarantee scheme, which the finance minister George Osborne plans to present with his 2012 budget next month, longer term changes to Britain’s banking industry were needed too.

He added: “We have a small number of very large banks and a quite large number of small banks and a missing middle.

“It is the missing middle of medium-sized banks that would be the natural lenders to small businesses.”

In recent months, the government has set out on sweeping regulatory reforms of the banking sector, requiring banks to ring-fence their retails operations from riskier investment banking.

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