Chancellor Philip Hammond has just finished his 2018 Budget speech, which has been relatively surprise-free, with help pledged for schools, mental health services, defence and the NHS, but no news for savers and just a few positives for first-time buyers. Here are the key points for consumers:
- The big news for those who are looking to step onto the property ladder is that the first-time buyer stamp duty exemption introduced last year – which means those buying first homes worth up to £350,000 don't have to pay any stamp duty – has now been extended to those looking to share ownership. This change is backdated, so those who bought a shared ownership property worth up to £500,000 in the last year should be able to expect a rebate on any stamp duty they've paid. It also gives some more options for those looking to buy their first home, but don't have enough saved up to buy one on their own.
- Related to this, the Chancellor has once again pledged more money to go towards new housing, which means first-time buyers could have more options to choose from in a few years' time.
- Wine lovers will be disappointed to hear that while duty on beer, cider and spirits has been frozen, wine duty has not. At the same time, fuel duty has remained frozen for the ninth year in a row.
- Workers will be happy to see that the National Living Wage will be going up by 4.9% to £8.21 per hour from April.
- People under the age of 18 will be able to benefit from an increase to the Junior ISA allowance, which will be increased in line with the Consumer Prices Index to £4,368 for the 2019-2020 tax year. However, the adult ISA allowance will remain unchanged at £20,000.
- The personal allowance is to be raised to £12,500 from April 2019 for basic rate taxpayers and to £50,000 for higher rate taxpayers, which means a little bit more breathing space on earnings before income tax gets applied.
- The minimum investment limit on NS&I's Premium Bonds will drop from £100 to £25, opening up the scheme to far more people. It was also revealed that extended family and friends will be able to buy bonds for children – currently, only parents or grandparents can do so – with the change recognising the fact that more people want to gift Premium Bonds to under-16s.
- Alongside pots for defence, Brexit preparations, the NHS, schools and potholes, the Chancellor has set aside £1.7 billion to make universal credit more generous, which will hopefully help those who need it the most.
- Last but certainly not least, a new commemorative 50p coin is due to be released in Spring, to mark the UK's exit from the EU.
More information may become available later, with the Budget announcement coming unusually late today. If anything relevant to consumers is revealed later on, we will be sure to update you here.