Britain set to slash tax on goods and services
AFP - 32 minutes ago
LONDON (AFP) - - The British government is on Monday set to announce a cut in value added tax (VAT) to 15 percent from 17.5 percent to stimulate spending on goods and services as Britain faces recession, reports said.
The cut in VAT was emerging as a likely centrepiece of the Labour government's upcoming budget report, British newspapers said on Sunday.
"I want every household facing difficulty at this time to know we are ready to help and on their side," Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote in the popular News of the World weekly tabloid.
"I know how worried many people are about their jobs, making ends meet at the moment and about the security of their homes.
"No politician can promise to stop the difficult times, but I can promise that we will do everything we can to help people get through them fairly," Brown added.
British finance minister Alistair Darling will on Monday unveil a budget report also expected to outline plans to boost government spending.
Darling, whose official title is chancellor of the exchequer, will present his pre-budget -- an outline of his taxation and spending plans ahead of the full 2009/2010 annual budget due early next year.
The opposition Conservatives warned that any cut in VAT would serve as only a short-term boost for the British public.
"Any temporary giveaways now will be more than dwarfed by the tax rises that are coming," the party's finance spokesman George Osborne told Sky News television channel.
British media had on Saturday said Darling would warn that taxes will have to rise in the future to pay for the government's stimulus plan aimed at boosting a faltering local economy.
Britain's public finances worsened in October as the government's surplus narrowed to 4.9 billion pounds (5.8 billion euros, 7.3 billion dollars), official data had revealed last week.
The figure compared with a surplus of 6.0 billion pounds 12 months earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Recent official data also showed that Britain's economy is on the verge of a recession after shrinking 0.5 percent in the third-quarter -- the first contraction since 1992.
A subsequent and widely expected further contraction in the fourth quarter will put the economy technically into recession.
"Like every other country in the world hit by major economic shocks we are in a difficult position," Darling wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
"And we, like many advanced economies, are moving into a recession."
Darling added: "I will not play down the economic difficulties but equally I am confident that with sensible and responsible measures they can be overcome.
"In these difficult times the public sector will, like the rest of the country, be tightening its belt. I have asked my colleagues throughout government to make further savings."
The chancellor predicted: "Because we have decided to boost the economy now the looming recession should be shorter and shallower."
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A pedestrians walks past the Somerfield supermarket in central London's Soho district, January 2008. The British government is on Monday set to announce a cut in value added tax (VAT) to 15 percent from 17.5 percent to stimulate spending on goods and services as the country faces recession, reports said.
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