Across the different parties’ election manifestos there is a range of taxation measures which will affect particular business sectors.  As with other areas, there is some common ground across parties and some points of differentiation.  Here is a summary of some of the main sector specific tax proposals:

Common ground across parties 

Change is almost certain in a number of areas regardless of who wins the election: 

  • Retail and business rates: for any business with a bricks and mortar footprint, and particularly retail, some shake up of business rates seems inevitable. The Conservatives propose a fundamental review of the business rates system. As a first step, they will further increase for one year (2020-21) the business rate discount for small retail businesses, and extend it to local music venues, small cinemas and pubs.  Labour and Liberal Democrats both propose replacing business rates with a tax on land value, calculated on the basis of the land and payable by the owner not the tenant.
  • Digital services tax: The digital services tax announced by Philip Hammond last year looks set to be introduced, taxing online technology giants and marketplaces:  a 2% levy on revenue from search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces that make more than £500m turnover a year globally.  Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos commit to this. Labour is proposing a levy collected from tech giants and Internet Service Providers to pay for the running costs of its free broadband plans.
  • Real Estate: Both main parties propose to charge additional levies for certain buyers of residential property. Labour would introduce a levy on overseas companies buying housing, as well as introducing a levy on holiday homes. The Conservatives propose to bring in a 3% stamp duty surcharge on foreign buyers – this is anticipated to be non-UK resident individuals, companies and ex-pats  The Liberal Democrats are proposing a similar stamp duty surcharge on overseas buyers.

Labour proposals

There are a number of additional Labour proposals that may have more of an impact on specific sectors

Financial transaction tax:  Labour will extend existing stamp duty in some shares to apply to a wide range of transactions including corporate bonds, equity and credit derivatives transactions, and certain forex, commodities and interest rate transactions.

Public sector contracts:  Labour’s tax transparency and avoidance programme proposes additional tax transparency requirements for businesses delivering public services. 

Energy:  A new Labour Government will introduce what they refer as a ‘’windfall tax’’ on oil companies, proposing to use these funds to help cover the costs of remedying ecological damage.

Education: Their manifesto reports that a new Labour Government will close what it perceives as the tax loopholes enjoyed by private schools, with such private schools also coming within the VAT regime.

Health: Labour has proposed to pay for free hospital parking by increasing the tax on private medical insurance premiums.

 Conservative proposals

The Conservative manifesto also contains some specific sectoral tax proposals:

Single use plastics: The manifesto confirms that a Conservative Government will introduce a new levy on single use plastics.

Alcohol duty:  The Conservative manifesto proposes to review UK alcohol duty to support British drinks producers (NB the Liberal Democrats also suggest this).

Construction tax:  tax relief on the purchase, building, or leading of a structure will be increased from 2% to 3%.

These sectoral changes are in addition to tax proposals that may affect you as an employer [see https://www.grantthornton.co.uk/en/insights/election-2019-people-and-skills/ ] and corporate tax and reliefs [see https://politicsandeconomy.grantthornton.co.uk/post/102fv0j/election-2019-corporate-tax-revenue-fairness-and-efficacy ] as well as changes which may arise from Brexit.  

Taken together, this underlines the importance of taking a ‘whole tax’ approach to reviewing points of exposure and opportunity.  Looking at the entire tax system in the round is essential.