Thursday, March 6, 2008

Overnight Budget commentaries - what's the point?

Many years ago the Chancellor's March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April.

In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor's announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.

That was then. This is now.

Ken Clarke moved the Budget to the Autumn - at which point the overnight Budget commentaries became of far less value. Many larger firms however continued to rush something into print within hours of the speech. This was often before anyone had had a good chance to digest and consider the implications of the detail contained in the supporting papers.

Some firms still produce their own or buy in a commercially produced 'overnight' Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I've hard the arguments for this. "Clients expect to get one from us." "They get one from every other accountant in the town." "They like them" (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These Budget booklets are of very little value.

When Gordon Brown became Chancellor he moved the Budget statement back to March but enhanced the Autumn spending statement. Thus began his game of announcing tax changes two or three times in Budgets and pre-Budget reports.

The introduction of self assessment and computerised tax returns also constrained the facility for significant changes to be made at (very) short notice. Those that will take place with effect from 6 April 2008 were announced either last October in the PBR or even earlier.

So I repeat my question. What is the point of producing overnight Budget commentaries? Most of the National daily papers will have devoted more time to their commentaries than anyone rushing to create a Budget booklet. And of course the Booklet is out of date - sometimes within just 24 hours as further papers, con docs and clarification are published by HMRC, the Government and the Treasury.

The Tax Advice Network will not be producing an overnight Budget commentary. Indeed, as I noted in our newsletter this week, we will issue next week's newsletter ahead of the Budget. As usual it will feature 3 practical and commercial tax tips for accountants in general practice. Tax Adviser members of the Network may choose to add Budget commentary articles and blogs to the website after the Budget. But we won't be rushing to do so unless there is a good reason for so doing.

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