However, two items heavily tipped to feature are a freeze in
business rates and higher taxes for the energy industry.
The oil industry already pays higher corporation taxes, and
Osborne is likely to implement a similar regime for energy
businesses. Richard Rose of BDO said this would combat the
Labour Party’s call for a price freeze for energy
costs, and would also prove popular with voters ahead of an
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of
Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), said tax avoidance and
tax evasion will be high on the agenda and we should expect to
hear more from the Chancellor on his commitment to action on
the international stage. He said the focus on avoidance and
evasion is likely to be twofold.
"The aim is to tackle both the criminals who ignore the
rules and the weaknesses in the current system which have given
rise to so much comment and debate over the past year or two,"
said Roy-Chowdhury, who believes that on the whole the Autumn
Statement will not bring anything new to the table but is more
likely to reiterate the announcements of Budget 2013 in March,
with a few additional extras.
Though avoidance announcements are unlikely to include
unilateral UK action on the issue of taxing multinationals,
there may well be further news on the UK tackling offshore
evasion and non-compliance, particularly in the form of further
automatic information exchange agreements being announced.
"The Chancellor may also make an announcement on how to
tackle outstanding disputes on tax avoidance schemes where tax
remains uncollected and thousands of cases are listed for
Tribunal. The [UK Parliament’s] Public Accounts
Committee has been very hot on this topic," said Rose.
Robert Gaut, tax partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver
& Jacobson, agrees with Roy-Chowdhury that the December 5
announcement is unlikely to introduce rafts of new tax
measures, though the Chancellor has surprised people on
previous occasions – for example through the
announcement of an additional percentage point corporate tax cut in the March 2011
"I believe that any significant tax cuts are likely to be
deferred to 2015. Although the economy seems to be improving,
it is a weak recovery so far, and the Chancellor is likely to
use any excess revenue to increase the rate of deficit
reduction this year and next," said Gaut.
However, if comments made by Matthew Hancock MP in the past
week are anything to go by, a corporate tax cut should not be
"We have reduced corporation tax already and we are going to
reduce it further," Hancock told the Daily Telegraph.
"We should always be looking for what more we can do."
Roy-Chowdhury said what the ACCA really wants to see from
the Autumn Statement is a coherent long-term tax strategy which
encourages long-term investment by businesses and savings by
individuals. He also wants to see moves forward through the
work of the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) on a streamlined
and simpler tax regime.
Capital gains tax
Gaut is worried that rumoured changes to the levying of
capital gains tax on non-resident individuals would be damaging
for the UK’s reputation.
"Reported proposals to bring non-resident individuals within
the charge of UK capital gains tax on real estate investment
gains are troubling," said Gaut. "This would be a populist
move, but one that would increase the perception among foreign
investors that the UK tax environment cannot be trusted to
Damian Bloom of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) also warns
against letting media pressure and political agendas influence
tax policy, saying the tax regime should not become a
"Media headlines increasingly backed up by ministerial
quotes suggest capital gains tax on non-UK resident owners of
UK real estate may be on the agenda," said Bloom. "We believe
this policy could be misguided and badly timed."
Stability is vital
Michael Wistow, head of tax at BLP, reiterated his
colleague’s point, saying clarity and stability in
tax matters is one of the cornerstones of a healthy
"But that is precisely what has been lacking for months
now," he said, adding that this is being made worse by
fundamental changes being rushed through without proper
consultation. "Business confidence is starting to return but it
should be bolstered by an Autumn Statement that provides
reassurance and a strong message of stability and not hasty tax
policy revisions made up on the hoof without a proper
assessment of the consequences."
This is a common complaint from businesses and their
"This government promised to make stability and
predictability in the tax system one of its main goals when it
first came to power," said John Overs, head of the corporate
tax team at BLP. "However, this is not what we have seen in
recent months with multiple anti-avoidance rules piled up on
top of the GAAR, originally hailed as the catch-all answer to
piecemeal tax legislation."
And the property taxation issue referenced by Bloom and Gaut
is one example of such a shifting of the goalposts. The rumours
of CGT changes come less than a year after the new regime for
taxation of high-value residential property came into