This year’s Autumn Statement will come just before the end of the year, on a wintry December 5th. It should show us that this time the economy is performing better than the official forecasts. Tax revenue will be higher, the deficit lower, and output higher than the OBR thought in the spring. This gives the Chancellor room to accelerate the deficit reduction strategy, with or without tax cuts at the same time.
He could make his job easier still in cutting both the deficit and taxes by taking more action to curb the growth of spending. Cancelling or delaying HS2 for a few years could save £16bn over the next Parliament, and a bit in preparatory costs in this. Cutting the growth out of the Overseas Aid budget would be popular, whilst still leaving plenty for emergencies like Syria and the Philippines tsunami. Tightening the rules on eligibility to benefits for recently arrived migrants could also make a contribution. Helping more people to own a home couild cut the budget for subsidised rental housing.
The economy does need tax cuts. Individuals and families need tax cuts so they have more spending power. I assume there will be a further increase in the Income Tax threshold, as that seems to be the only tax cut that Lib Dems will readily accept. It is also time the Chancellor looked again at the threshold for 40% tax, which cuts in too soon on the income scale.
We also need cuts in capital taxes to stimulate more activity. Capital Gains Tax at 20% would raise more revenue for the next couple of years than keeping it at 28%. Changing Stamp Duty so the higher rates only apply to that part of the purchase price over the threshold would cost some revenue, but would stimulate home buying and ownership which in turn will stimulate housebuilding.
Small business is still feeling squeezed. Some relief on business rates would be a welcome way of helping them.