Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Budget night summaries - worth the effort?

My summary is better than your summary. Actually they're all pretty similar. So similar in fact that I see little point in devoting time and effort to producing an overnight Budget summary.

Over the years I was in practice I often worked as part of a team (and latterly even led the team) that worked late into the night attempting to produce a unique Budget night summary. I never felt it was worth the effort - even when we moved to web based copy rather than printed summaries. In almost every case such summaries did little more than regurgitate what was in the Budget day press releases. There is rarely time or space for informed comment.

Some firms defend their attempts on the grounds that clients like them. Really? Or are they just being kind. Are they really of any value? The papers will invariably contain more detailed summaries, analysis and comment than any one firm's overnight Budget commentary. And within 48 hours it's often out of date as more related documents are published by HMRC and Treasury revealing more details of the announcements contained in the Budget. And in time some of the least well thought out ideas will be modified (if we're lucky) before new rules come into force. I'm quite sure this will happen, for example, as regards the taper provisions related to the 45% top rate of tax announced last year - which causes an unintended rate of 60% on some income bands between £100k and £150k.

If you really feel it's necessary then, in my view, it's much more cost effective to buy in a Budget summary from a commercial source - and to share this with clients and contacts in a branded cover. This approach allows you to satisfy the (supposed) client demand whilst allowing you to focus on key elements of the Budget that might be of immediate relevance to key clients. In recent years there haven't been many such issues as most tax changes are now announced so far in advance. The reduction in VAT from 17.5% to 15% last year is the exception that proves the rule! ;-)

This year of course even more attention than usual is being focused on the Budget. But how clear will the commentaries be as regards the impact of the tax changes that Mr Darling announces? ie: When will the tax changes actually hit taxpayers' pockets? I'll post a separate blog about this.

On past performance most commentators will only have time to replicate the headlines and spin that are contained in the main Budget press releases. I'm happy to let others do that. I'll explore and explain the TaxBuzz over the coming weeks and month as further details and implications become apparent.

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