What time is the Autumn Statement 2023? Will Jeremy Hunt announce tax cuts? Full predictions
Both Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt have hinted that tax cuts could be on their way during this Autumn Statement.
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This is the second-biggest fiscal announcement of the year, after the Spring Budget, and often includes decisions on income tax, VAT and benefits - which affect everyone in the country. There has been greater attention on the Treasury's announcements since last year's disastrous mini-Budget and due to the ongoing cost of living crisis. Polling shows this is the main issue for 71% of voters.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, Rishi Sunak has hinted at tax cuts, but said they need to be made "carefully and sustainably". The Prime Minister said: “We will do this in a serious, responsible way, based on fiscal rules to deliver sound money, and alongside the independent forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility. And we can’t do everything all at once. It will take discipline and we need to prioritise. But over time, we can and we will cut taxes.”
When is the Autumn Statement, what taxes might Jeremy Hunt cut and how will the public respond? Here's everything you need to know.
When is the Autumn Statement 2023?
The Autumn Statement is on Wednesday (22 November) after Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PMQs starts at 12noon and usually lasts around 30 minutes, so Hunt will likely start speaking at around 12.30pm. Rachel Reeves, Labour's Shadow Chancellor, will then respond around 1.30pm and then there will be a wider debate amongst MPs. You can watch the Autumn Statement on Parliament TV and keep an eye on NationalWorld's politics page for all the reaction and analysis.
Will it include tax cuts?
Both Sunak and Hunt have hinted there are likely to be tax cuts in the Autumn Statement. The pair are under intense pressure from the right of the Conservative Party to cut taxes, with the current tax burden at its highest level for 75 years. Worryingly for the Prime Minister, a poll by Survation found that more voters associate the Conservatives as the party of high tax rather than Labour.
Last week, Sunak hit his own self-imposed target of halving inflation in some rare economic good news for the country. Hunt has been cautious so far as Chancellor and much of his time has been spent seeking to undo the economic chaos caused by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, however he hinted at tax cuts for businesses on Sunday (19 November).
He said he wants to “bring down our tax burden” as he presented a positive tone after a year of urging restraint while battling to halve the rate of inflation. “I think it’s important for a productive, dynamic, fizzing economy that you motivate people to do the work, to take the risks that we need,” he told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.
He did not rule out any specific changes, including most controversially to inheritance tax, saying “everything is on the table in an autumn statement”, and he stressed that “lower tax is essential to economic growth”. With the party flagging in the polls and growth - one of Sunak's five pledges at the start of the year - flatlining, the Chancellor will be desperate for some sort of pre-election giveaway, but which taxes could get cut?
Sunak said on Monday (20 November) that the Government had decided to “cut tax and reward hard work” - which hints that either income tax or national insurance could potentially be reduced. In June, Sunak said he wanted to reduce income tax rates by 2p in the pound before the next election, however several experts think Hunt may instead cut national insurance - which Boris Johnson raised despite a manifesto pledge in 2019 not to increase any taxes.
The other big talking point ahead of the Autumn Statement is inheritance tax. Only about 4% of deaths in 2020-21 resulted in inheritance tax being paid, with exemptions allowing many couples to pass on up to £1 million tax-free, however it has become a totemic issue for the Tory right. Reports earlier this month stated a cut was being considered, however it now looks like this may get pushed back to the Spring Budget.
Polling by More In Common found three in five Britons think it should be abolished or the tax-free threshold should be increased, even when told that hardly anyone is affected by it. Focus group respondents said it was unfair to tax things twice when people were passing something on to their relatives. Rachel Reeves said Labour wouldn't support cutting inheritance tax during a cost of living crisis, as it only benefits the richest in society.
Council tax, the tax the most people want to see cut according to More In Common, could be raised by up to 5%, the Telegraph reports. While the government has reportedly ruled out cutting stamp duty as it could be inflationary.
One of the other main points of contention ahead of the Autumn Statement has been around the uprating of benefits. Traditionally, benefits are increased at the start of the financial year (April) based on the inflation figures from the previous September - which would be 6.7%. However, Hunt is reportedly looking to free up cash by uprating benefits by October's figure of 4.6% - which is roughly a third lower.
Given the PM and Chancellor want to make the Autumn Statement about helping hard-working families, this would be a controversial call - especially if the state pension is increased by the September figure, as per the triple lock. ITV has also reported that Hunt may finally unfreeze local housing allowance, which charities say has caused homelessness across the country. This would be a huge about turn from Suella Braverman's comments that rough sleeping is a "life-style choice".
Jeremy Hunt will be looking to give the Conservatives flailing poll numbers a kick-start ahead of next year's election, while also growing the economy, but this will be tough when contending with the current mood of the public. Luke Tryl, More In Common's UK director, said the public want to "have their cake and eat it" when it comes to fiscal policy. The company's polling shows people want more public spending, while bringing down the national debt and cutting taxes.
How to square that circle then for Hunt? The most effective way is to grow the economy, something which has been a real struggle. This increases tax receipts for public spending and also allows more headroom for potential tax cuts. Growth is currently flatling, and looks set to continue that way for 2024.
One way Hunt has hinted he may try and boost growth is by cutting business taxes, such as corporation tax. However, the More In Common polling found Britons are much more in favour of raising business taxes instead of those for the individual, believing that many companies don't pay enough tax. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
What has Labour said?
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves announced on Saturday Labour’s Better Off Plan which she says will cut household bills by up to £3,000-a-year over the next decade. The party claims people will save £500-a-year by insulating homes, £900 with cheap power via Labour's new public energy company and £1,200 a year on mortgage bills by building 1.5 million homes over the next five years.
Before Wednesday, Reeves said: “The economy is not working for working people. After 13 years of economic failure, families are worse off, with higher taxes, higher mortgage payments and prices still rising in the shops. The 25 Tory tax rises since 2019 are the clearest sign of the Conservatives' economic failure, with households paying £4,000 more in tax each year. The Conservatives have become the party of high tax because they are party of low growth."
Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.