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In the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a programme of measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of the UK economy, including four annual 1% reductions in the main rate of corporation tax, down to 24% in 2014, and a reduction in the small profits rate to 20% from April 2011, in contrast to the previous Government's plan to increase it to 22%. That will reduce the tax rate for some 850,000 companies. The Budget also included, from April 2012, a reduction in the capital allowances main rate from 20% to 18%, a reduction in the special rate from 10% to 8% and a reduction in the annual investment allowance to £25,000. Despite that, investment allowances will permit more than 95% of businesses to offset completely their annual plant and machinery expenditure. As I said in our debate on amendment 49, by delaying these changes to allowances for two years but reducing the corporation tax rate next year, we are giving companies a year's advantage.
We have been asked why we are legislating for the 1p cut in the main rate this year. This is the usual convention as the corporation tax main rate is usually set a year at a time. Stephen Timms is right to say that there was an exception in 1984, when four years were done together, but the usual convention is to do these things a year at a time. A distinction has been made between the mainstream rate and the small profits rate. The right hon. Gentleman, who was a distinguished Treasury Minister for several years, may have forgotten that payers of the corporation tax main rate are within the quarterly instalments payment regime and so require advance notice of the rate, as they might be making payments of corporation tax liability before
Both main and small profits corporation tax rates have traditionally been set in this manner, and what we are doing is consistent with the usual approach. The right hon. Gentleman asked about deferred tax assets, but they are not the reason why we are doing this; we are simply following the usual convention.
Opposition Members have asked whether business can have faith in what this Government do, but they should give us some time and they will see exactly what we will do: we will follow through on these promises. No great concerns about this issue have been raised with us. On deferred tax assets, when I was in opposition, I received representations not from a bank but from a major manufacturer who made the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made, but that is not what has driven our thinking regarding the timing in this area.
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