On your marks – an early Spring Budget for 2024

A date to note in this year’s calendar is the early Spring Budget on Wednesday 6 March.

The Treasury issued a press release in the time between Christmas and the New Year revealing the Spring Budget date, a week earlier than in 2023. The unusual timing of the announcement may seem strange, but there were two inter-linked reasons which could explain it:

  • First, local and mayoral elections will be held in England on 2 May 2024. If – and it looks unlikely at present – the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak decides to call a general election for the same day, then Parliament would have to be dissolved 25 working days earlier. That would mean the week beginning 25 March, allowing for the Easter holiday which follows. Given all the work to be rushed through in the ‘wash up’ period before dissolution, a Budget on the first Wednesday in March is about as late as possible.
  • Second, the Chancellor is normally required to give the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) at least ten weeks’ notice to prepare its Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which is published alongside the Budget. Ten weeks backtracked from 6 March 2024 arrives on 27 December 2023.

If you feel like you have been here before, that is because the OBR issued its last Outlook on 22 November – only fifteen weeks before the next one is due. It is doubtful much will have changed in the interim to make much difference to the OBR’s five-year projections.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister will likely be hoping that the OBR will discover some extra money down the back of the sofa as they did in November, thanks to higher-than-expected, inflation-boosting tax revenues. However, as an OBR head once memorably remarked, “What the sofa gives, the sofa easily takes away.”

In most years, the date of the Budget is a factor to consider in your year-end tax planning. In 2024, with an election looming, it is probably less of an issue with the Chancellor aiming to please the electorate. However, the earlier you can plan, the better, as certain aspects may require information that can take a while to obtain.

9th February 2024