The Autumn Statement: The Choose view

4 December 2014, 12:14   By Samantha Smith

AHEAD of next year's election, the Autumn Statement is one of the last chances for the Government to impress with its handling of the national finances.

government downing street uk
Credit: Pres Panayotov/

But the measures announced have a serious impact on everyone.

Here we look at the headlines from yesterday's Autumn Statement, and what they mean for our wallets beyond the cost of a pint.

Employment and tax

The Chancellor says half a million new jobs have been created this year - and 85% of them are full-time, rather than zero-hours or part-time positions.

Jobs are being created fastest in Scotland and the north of England.

It's forecast that unemployment will fall to 5.4% in 2015, and to 5.3% in 2016.

Taxes & wages

From next April the minimum threshold for paying income tax will rise to £10,600, while the threshold for going from 20% basic rate tax to the higher 40% rate will increase to £42,385.

But at the same time, the Government also announced that tax receipts for this year will be £7.8 billion lower than previously forecast, with roughly half of that shortfall accounted for by falling income tax revenue.

That's a direct result of the shift in the economy to low-paying jobs where little or no income tax applies - and stagnant wages for many of the rest of us.

That said, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting above-inflation pay rises again within the next five years.

Inflation itself is predicted to have been 1.5% in 2014, and the forecast is that it will fall to 1.2% next year.

The type of job

Meanwhile business and industry leaders have repeated warnings about a serious skills shortage in the UK, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and construction.

Jobs in these fields not only pay well, but they have several knock-on benefits for the economy as a whole.

Firstly, they boost tax revenue - something the Government could do with after admitting that £7.8 billion shortfall.

Secondly, people in better paying jobs are less reliant on the State for help, meaning a lower benefits bill - another issue the Government has been grappling with.


Despite an increase in the number of people claiming housing benefit, particularly among low-paid workers, the Government says welfare spending will be £1 billion lower than forecast in March.

Benefits & help
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Help for winter fuel bills

One of the measures helping the Government achieve this is the continuing freeze on working-age benefits.

Jobseeker's Allowance, Income support, child benefit and child tax credit, and working tax credits are among those that'll be frozen for a further two years, as is the Universal Credit work allowance.

Pensions, disability benefits and statutory maternity pay won't be affected.

Stamp Duty

Perhaps the biggest change for many people is the reform of stamp duty, which came into effect today.

Previously the amount of stamp duty paid on a property was a percentage of the value of the house, with that percentage jumping at various thresholds:

Property price, above Stamp duty applied at
£125,000 1%
£250,000 3%
£500,000 4%
£1 million 5%
£2 million 7%

That meant people looking at properties with values around the trigger points faced stamp duty bills of vastly differing amounts.

For example, a house costing £250,000 - less than the national average price of a standard family home - incurred stamp duty of £2,500. But a house costing just £1 more would fall into the 3% bracket, with stamp duty of £7,500.

Replacing this is a progressive system like that used for income tax, where each rate only applies to the part of the property price within its particular band.

Portion of property price, up to Stamp duty applied at
£125,000 0%
£250,000 2%
£925,000 5%
£1.5 million 10%
above £1.5 million 12%

That means the family buying the slightly more expensive house above would only be liable for another 5 pence of stamp duty, rather than £5,000 more.

Anyone going through the house-buying process at the moment will be given the option of which set of rules they wish to use, giving them the chance to save thousands of pounds.

Savings and pensions

While the amount we're allowed to save in our ISAs is increasing to £15,240 as of next April, that's not the really big news.

Savings & pensions
About ISAs guide
How to improve rates
Compare saving accounts
Find lost pension money

Previously when someone with an ISA died, the money in the account would lose its tax-free status, meaning the spouse would have to start paying tax.

But with immediate effect, spouses will be able to add their late partner's ISA to their own, tax-free.

A similar measure has been announced regarding the passing on of pensions.

Previously, the beneficiaries of anyone who died under the age of 75 faced tax of 55% on the deceased's annuities, but this tax has now been removed.


Fuel duty has been frozen again, and combined with the recent drop in the price of oil finally trickling through to customers, it should mean the cost of filling a tank of petrol becomes a little more affordable again.

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Can you avoid tax on flights?

Anyone planning a family holiday abroad should benefit from the scrapping of air passenger duty for children under 12 from May 2015.

The amount this costs varies depending on distance travelled and class of travel, but the Treasury say it should save a family of four £26 on a flight to Europe, and £142 on a flight to the US.

People who have already booked flights for next summer should get in touch with their airline, as it's up to the individual companies whether they choose to refund eligible customers.

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