This week's musings discuss the best rumours and whispers surrounding the Chancellor's Autumn statement. The statement is expected to land on November 22nd and to issue this with a sizable caveat; there is no requirement here for a spoiler warning. Nobody knows what it will contain, but that has yet to dissuade the industry from having a guess.
We do stand fully behind the substantial value of the IFISA, both for investors and for British Industry; we understand the counterarguments being made, and we understand we have a positive bias; therefore, this piece isn't debating this topic; it's outlining a whole host of speculation from across the industry and unpacking some of the reasoning. First, we look at some significant issues that probably won't be altered and explain why, and then we look at the areas we think will be seen as the paths of least resistance.
Starting with Tax, this issue could be a dud, as the government has frozen the income tax threshold until 2028, and the Prime Minister has already forewarned that there won't be any tax cuts on the radar anytime soon. Could this be used as a political football to raise the popularity stakes in the 'low tax conservative' blue heartlands? It would be a massive ask at this juncture, as to balance the books would mean cuts somewhere and cuts to public services would undoubtedly be deemed the more provocative and visually problematic approach. It's an unlikely change.
The next issue people will be concerned about will be the state pension. The triple lock approach, where pension payments increase by the higher of earnings growth, CPI, or 2.5%, is an incredibly contentious topic as there is no way to dilute that promise without breaking it. Could that be altered? The issue the government has is earnings; currently, core inflation is at 6.1%, and back in 2011, when the triple lock came in, it was 3.86%; when inflation is high, earnings have to go up initially, pay disputes will arise, and in this instance, the bonuses that have settled some of those public sector disputes are now included in the average growth in regular pay percentage figure of 8.5%. One option the government has is to roll that earnings percentage back to not include the top-ups; the increase would keep state pensions above the core inflation figure at 7.8%. Is this likely? Not really. Anything can happen, but logic would dictate this is so electorally unappealing it wouldn't be wise.
Consider classifying the next topic as possible; several newspapers have reported that the Chancellor wants to extend the mortgage guarantee scheme beyond its year-end deadline into 2024, encouraging 5% deposits and assisting people onto the property ladder. We classify this as a maybe, as it depends on how fourth-dimensionally you view the problem and what you feel the biggest problem even is. If you are thinking of supply, inducing more buyers to the market only bids up the market further and almost neutralises your efforts; if your confident supply can be increased sufficiently, you look to induce more buyers. What happens with this will be an exciting tell on the underlying confidence in our building abilities.
Moving into what could happen, one topic discussed in the media, notably and recently by Martin Lewis, someone with a vast audience and significant sway on the public mindset, is alterations to the Lifetime ISA. We could see this being a quick win for the Chancellor as the mechanics of this product are arguably no longer viable with a £450,000 cap on home purchases. With house prices increasing by 35% since its inception, one of the limitations of the scheme is you are effectively charged 6.25% on top of losing the government bonus in scenarios where you withdraw, with millions already forfeited by people leaving the scheme, it would be an easy win for the Chancellor to adjust it, removing the penalties, and increasing the cap.
One argument regarding the IFISA is that the market would be better off somehow being simplified for the consumer. Still, there is a counterargument, which we would also classify as a possibility. This idea is to create more choices in the market and introduce different classes of ISA for things like British businesses. Having an ISA for UK-specific investments being considered an option fits perfectly into the growth narrative; it would be radical because it's taking a product designed to benefit the individual and turning it into the essence of a corporate bond offering. However, we would argue, can't it do both?
We can only see the positives in the IFISA product that already captures the critical components of the above and could quickly be developed to a much larger market share as a component of capital raising for British companies. IFISA investments already help fund UK businesses and enhance innovation on a grassroots level, with goals wholly aligned with the government's objectives; we firmly believe this will be considered when decisions are made.
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