Happy Birthday Baldie!

By Adrian Harvey

Ok, so Wednesday 8th March is the budget and, ever the optimist, I am hoping that Mr Hammond delivers me a birthday boost. You see Thursday 9th March is my birthday and it has caused me to reflect on what I really want for my birthday. A fast car, a weekend away with the wife, a trip to the 6 Nations game with Ireland … actually no, whilst I wouldn’t obviously turn these down, this is NOT what this SME owning UK-based entrepreneur wants for his 49th birthday. The fact I look 59 is probably a function of why I might be asking for what I am!

What do I want for my birthday? I want to hear Phillip Hammond say, “…And penultimately, I want to reverse the recent trend of this government and prior governments, of fawning over big firms that treat the UK as a tax haven and in the future I promise that I will compel these firms to pay tax where profits are earned, here in the UK. I intend to use the hundreds of millions of pounds this will be raised to invest in a raft of initiatives and support measures for the unsung heroes of the British economy, the small business persons.”

I don’t mean wonky quangos, dubious research and head-line grabbing nonsense. I mean hard-hitting, real investment. Investment that encourages UK citizens to stake their hard-earned tax paid money in their own new business. I mean tax-breaks for the army of risk takers, wealth and employment creators that are our SME economy. I mean infrastructure, PAYE holidays, mortgage guarantees so that the banks don’t myopically apply the ‘affordability criteria’ and deny mortgage renewals to those without 3 years Report & Accounts. I mean legislation that provides protection from creditors like Chapter 11 in the US. I could go on … you get the picture.

But I am likely to be disappointed as I have read in the press that Mr Hammond is, in fact, seriously considering doing the opposite! Yup, hot on the heels of his announcement to raise Business Rates (note: large firms get a decrease), he is allegedly going to INCREASE the tax burden for small businesses. Hammond is considering rising the National Insurance rates for the self-employed, small business people of the UK.

This must be because these people are ‘making out like bandits’ trousering excessive salaries and huge bonuses for doing very little and sometimes for outright failing and retiring to millionaire lifestyles in the sun. Or did I confuse that with Mr Hammond’s acquaintances who run the FTSE 100? No, the reality is that most SME owners,  the self-employed and entrepreneurs make just above average wages and many fail and lose thousands of their money in the process. For sure there are exceptions but ‘being minted’ isn’t the driving force behind the millions of small business people in the UK.

So come Wednesday afternoon, am I going to be hearing Mr Hammond say and “Finally, I conclude by saying, Happy Birthday Baldie”? I strongly suspect not. And as my generation of risk takers shuffle off into retirement (Not on our super yacht I might add), let’s hope Blair’s legacy millennials rise to the challenge to pay for my healthcare!