March 18, 2012 3:19 pm

Osborne promises tax crackdown

George Osborne has promised to “aggressively” crack down on stamp duty avoidance in next week’s Budget, as he attempts to reshape the way that the wealthy are taxed in Britain.

The chancellor is expected to scrap the 50p top rate of income tax but will simultaneously offset that measure by increasing the total tax paid by the rich by closing loopholes.

The abolition of the 50p rate in favour of a 45p band has been described by Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, as evidence that Mr Osborne is “totally out of touch” and was shaping a Budget to help the rich. “Whose side are they on?” Mr Balls asked. “What planet are they on?”

Mr Osborne knows that cutting income tax rates for people earning more than £150,000 is highly controversial and he used an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme to stress his commitment to closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy.

He said he would come down “like a tonne of bricks” on those trying to dodge stamp duty on the purchase of homes by putting the property into a company.

Mr Osborne said “the bulk of the measures” in the Budget were not aimed at the rich but in helping poorer households, including an increase in the income tax threshold towards £10,000.

As the spinning of the Budget began in earnest, Mr Osborne said: “It will be a Budget for working people – a Budget to show Britain is earning its way in the world.”

He also confirmed plans to relax Sunday trading laws during the Olympic Games, a move which he suggested could lead to a more permanent reform. Although he said the change referred just to the Olympic period, he added: “Maybe we will learn lessons from it.”

David Cameron will on Monday set out government plans to improve the country’s infrastructure – part of measures he hopes will establish a more pro-business climate in Britain.

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