Leadership & Productivity

Autumn Budget summary: The scoop for scale-ups

5 min read

23 November 2017

Former special projects journalist

Alongside investment in digital skills, maths training and funding for infrastructure and cities projects that could have some long-term effect on businesses, there were also some announcements that could impact more directly on scale-ups.

The chancellor outlined some key investment and taxation changes in this year’s speech. Real Business has put together an Autumn Budget summary, featuring key points for scale-ups.

The Autumn Budget 2017 provided the business world with a number of things to unpick – there were some important facts and figures in there for small and medium-sized companies.

Alongside investment in digital skills, maths training and funding for infrastructure and cities projects that could have some long-term effect on businesses, there were also some announcements that could impact more directly on scale-ups.

Here, in our Autumn Statement Summary, are some of the main takeaways for ambitious businesses hoping to grow over the coming months.

£20bn investment for scale-ups

The government is publishing its “Action Plan” to unlock £20bn of new investment in UK scale-ups. It will be achieved with a new funding injection into the British Business Bank (seeded with £2.5bn of public money), by facilitating pension fund access to long-term investments, and a doubling EIS investment limits for knowledge-intensive companies – while also aiming to ensure that EIS is not used as a shelter for low-risk capital preservation schemes.

This is a bit of a mixed-bag, as Leon Ifayemi, CEO and founder of student lettings app SPCE explained. “His speech contained some policies that may hold back small businesses.

“One such policy was the promised ‘crackdown on EIS as tax shelter’, which could result in many ‘lower risk’ firms becoming exempt from EIS investment – potentially overshadowing the positive announcement that the government will double the EIS limit for knowledge-intensive companies, this crackdown is a step in the wrong direction and could hinder the effectiveness of a vital investment scheme.”

The chancellor also claimed the government is standing ready to step in and replace European Investment Fund lending if necessary.

Corporation tax

The chancellor is freezing the indexation allowance, which allows for inflation, in order to bring “the corporate system into line with personal capital gains tax”.

Alex Henderson, tax partner at PwC, warned that this could be bad news for businesses in the future: “The freeze in the indexation allowance for business might seem like a technical change, but it’s raising nearly £2bn over the next five years and could have a significant impact over time.

“The allowance was there for a reason: in an inflationary economy assets rise in money terms but not in real terms. The indexation allowance ensured that businesses were only taxed on the real gains they made. Over the longer term it’s a significant tax increase for business.”

Business rates

From April 2018, business rates will be calculated using the Consumer Price Index, rather than the Retail Price Index, which is a different way of measuring inflation that tends to be higher. Hammond claimed this measure is worth £2.3bn to businesses over the next five years.

New measures are also being put in place to alleviate the burden of businesses hit by the “staircase tax” where businesses with offices linked by communal areas are being charged higher business rates.

What about Brexit?

The Budget was light on details of Brexit, with Hammond simply stating: “We have already invested almost £700m in Brexit preparations. And today I am setting aside over the next two years another £3bn. And I stand ready to allocate further sums if and when needed. No one should doubt our resolve! But this Budget is about much more than Brexit.”
While the Budget has its highs and lows for businesses, many will be left scratching their heads on how to proceed with exports or other growth plans within Europe.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.