Chancellor’s plans extend help to Scots companies

Plans to rationalise Air Passenger Duty were announced in yesterday's Budget. Picture: Getty
Plans to rationalise Air Passenger Duty were announced in yesterday's Budget. Picture: Getty
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OSBORNE’S proposals are not exciting but they offer genuine support to oil, gas, whisky and manufacturing, writes David Watt

This may not be seen as the most exciting of budgets, but Chancellor George ­Osborne has announced a number of measures which will be genuinely helpful to businesses across the spectrum with one or two especially important to Scotland. The support for oil and gas, whisky and manufacturing is all welcome.

Doubling the capital investment allowance from a quarter to half a million pounds and extending the scheme to the end of 2015 is hugely significant. This means businesses can take the opportunity to invest in capital equipment without paying huge amounts of tax. It’s also good to see the government recognising that it can no longer keep passing the costs of carbon savings on to businesses.

Energy-intensive manufacturers will benefit from Whitehall’s capping of the controversial carbon price support rate at the 2015-16 level of £18 per tonne of C02 from 2016 until 2020.

For small businesses, particularly start-ups, increasing the R&D tax credits from 11 per cent to 15 per cent along with making the two-year-old pilot Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) permanent – it was due to expire in 2017 – is welcome news. This is very attractive to investors who can now commit up to £150,000 in a single company under SEIS and receive 50 per cent capital gains tax reinvestment relief tax in the year the investment is made.

Investors in social enterprises will also benefit from the same 30 per cent income tax relief as enterprise investment schemes and venture capital trusts. This means that eligible social enterprises can receive maximum investments of about £290,000 over three years.

Scotland has had a poor record on exporting – only 8 per cent of our companies export – but this will hopefully change with the doubling of the fund for export finance to £3 billion.

It’s also good to see the Chancellor adopting the Wood ­Report on the oil and gas industry, suggesting a new tax allowance for the onshore and offshore oil and gas industries as well as launching a review of the tax regime for the entire sector.

Overall, the budget is positive for Scottish businesses, the only disappointing aspect is the plan to rationalise Air Passenger Duty (APD). Making the duty on a flight to China the same as one to North America will only bring marginal improvements to Scotland, our preference would have been to scrap APD altogether.

• David Watt is executive director of IoD Scotland