IMF warns Jeremy Hunt against tax cuts in budget (2024)

The International Monetary Fund has issued a strong warning to Jeremy Hunt against cutting taxes in his budget in March, stressing the need to boost key areas of public spending instead.

In updated forecasts for the UK and the rest of the global economy, the Washington-based fund doubted whether the widely anticipated tax cuts would be possible without extra borrowing or post-election spending cuts.

The IMF said the chancellor should be focusing on repairing the public finances after the damage caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine in order to meet growing spending pressures.

IMF warns Hunt against tax cuts; eurozone avoids recession – business liveRead more

An IMF spokesperson said: “Preserving high-quality public services and undertaking critical public investments to boost growth and achieve the net zero targets, will imply higher spending needs over the medium term than are currently reflected in the government’s budget plans.

“Accommodating these needs, while assuredly stabilising the debt/GDP ratio, will already require generating additional high-quality fiscal savings, including on the tax side.”

Hunt is expected to cut income tax in the budget, but the IMF called on the chancellor to increase carbon and property taxes, take steps to eliminate loopholes in the taxation of wealth and income, and overhaul the pensions triple lock. “It is in this context that [IMF] staff advises against further tax cuts,” the IMF said.

Hunt rejected the IMF’s call. “The IMF expect growth to strengthen over the next few years, supported by our introduction of the biggest capital investment tax reliefs anywhere in the world, alongside national insurance cuts to improve work incentives,” the chancellor said.

“It is too early to know whether further reductions in tax will be affordable in the budget, but we continue to believe that smart tax reductions can make a big difference in boosting growth.”

However, it has been reported the Hunt warned the cabinet that “major structural weaknesses” in the economy meant tax cuts would be smaller than in the autumn statement, when he reduced national insurance contributions by two percentage points.

“We are not likely to have as much room for tax cuts as we had in the autumn,” Hunt told a cabinet meeting, according to the Times.

The IMF said it was forecasting UK growth of 0.5% in 2023 and 0.6% in 2024 – both unchanged from October – and with only Germany of the leading G7 industrialised economies expanding more weakly.

With lower inflation likely to boost consumer spending power, the IMF said it was pencilling in UK growth of 1.6% in 2025 – slower than forecast three months ago. “The markdown to growth in 2025 of 0.4 percentage points reflects reduced scope for growth to catch up in light of recent upward statistical revisions to the level of output through the pandemic period,” the IMF said.

Last year, the Office for National Statistics revised up its estimates of UK growth in 2020 and 2021 by 1.8 points in total across the two years.

The IMF said the global economy was gliding towards a “soft landing” after coping with the impact of tough central bank interest-rate action to reduce inflation.

Revising up its growth estimates for 2024, the IMF said a number of big economies – including the US, China, Russia and India – had posted stronger than expected performances in 2023 and it was surprised by the resilience shown.

Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s economic counsellor said: “The clouds are beginning to part. The global economy begins the final descent toward a soft landing, with inflation declining steadily and growth holding up.”

Announcing details of the interim World Economic Outlook (WEO), Gourinchas said the IMF expected global growth to be 3.1% in 2023 and 2024, upward revisions of 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points respectively. But he stressed the pace of expansion – which compares with an average of 3.8% during the 2010s – remained slow and there was a risk of turbulence ahead.

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The IMF said the likelihood of a hard landing had receded and risks to its forecasts were evenly balanced. Growth could be higher than expected if tumbling inflation allowed deeper cuts in interest rates, if governments facing elections boosted public spending or if artificial intelligence increased productivity.

However, the IMF warned of downside risks including the volatile situation in the Middle East; the possibility that inflation would prove stubborn and signs that investors were excessively optimistic about the scale of interest rate cuts from central banks this year.

The global economy is poised for another tumultuous year in 2024 | Kenneth RogoffRead more

Gourinchas said he had been particularly surprised by the rapid improvement in the supply side of the global economy, singling out higher labour force participation rates, the easing of supply chain bottlenecks and lower commodity and energy prices.

He warned that central banks “must avoid premature easing that would undo many hard-earned credibility gains and lead to a rebound in inflation”.

However, Gourinchas added: “Signs of strain are growing in interest rate-sensitive sectors, such as construction, and loan activity has declined markedly.

“It will be equally important to pivot toward monetary normalisation in time, as several emerging markets where inflation is well on the way down have started doing already. Not doing so would jeopardise growth and risk inflation falling below target.

“My sense is that the US, where inflation appears more demand-driven, needs to focus on risks in the first category, while the euro area, where the surge in energy prices has played a disproportionate role, needs to manage more the second risk. In both cases, staying on the path toward a soft landing may not be easy.”

The IMF produces two full versions of the WEO each year, in April and October, then updates its forecasts in January and July. The latest interim WEO revised up US growth for 2023 from 2.1% to 2.5%, China from 5% to 5.2%, India from 6.3% to 6.7% and Russia from 2.2% to 3%.

The eurozone, in contrast, performed less strongly in 2023 than previously forecast and its growth has been revised down by 0.2 percentage points to 0.5%.

As an expert and enthusiast, I have access to a wide range of information and can provide insights on various topics. While I don't have personal experiences or emotions like a human, I can provide factual information and answer questions based on available data.

Now, let's discuss the concepts mentioned in this article:

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1944 with the goal of promoting global monetary cooperation, securing financial stability, facilitating international trade, promoting high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reducing poverty around the world. The IMF provides financial assistance, policy advice, and technical assistance to its member countries. It also conducts research and analysis on global economic issues.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey from 2005 to 2019. He held various ministerial positions in the UK government, including Secretary of State for Health and Social Care from 2012 to 2018. In the context of the article, Jeremy Hunt is referred to as the chancellor, which indicates that he is responsible for the UK's economic and financial matters.

Tax Cuts

Tax cuts refer to a reduction in the amount of taxes that individuals or businesses are required to pay to the government. Tax cuts can be implemented for various reasons, such as stimulating economic growth, incentivizing investment, or providing relief to taxpayers. However, tax cuts can also have implications for government revenue and public spending.

Public Spending

Public spending refers to the expenditure of government funds on various goods and services, such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, defense, and social welfare programs. The allocation of public spending is a key policy decision for governments, as it affects the provision of public services and the overall functioning of the economy.

Debt/GDP Ratio

The debt-to-GDP ratio is a measure that compares a country's total debt to its gross domestic product (GDP). It is used to assess a country's ability to repay its debt obligations relative to the size of its economy. A higher debt/GDP ratio indicates a higher level of debt relative to the size of the economy, which can have implications for a country's fiscal sustainability and creditworthiness.

Carbon and Property Taxes

Carbon taxes are levies imposed on the carbon content of fossil fuels or other greenhouse gas emissions. They are designed to incentivize the reduction of carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. Property taxes, on the other hand, are taxes imposed on the value of real estate or property. They are a common source of revenue for local governments and can vary based on the assessed value of the property.

Pensions Triple Lock

The pensions triple lock is a policy in the UK that guarantees an annual increase in the state pension by the highest of three factors: average earnings growth, inflation, or a minimum of 2.5%. The triple lock mechanism is intended to ensure that the state pension keeps pace with the cost of living and provides a minimum level of income for retirees.

Please note that the information provided above is based on general knowledge and may not reflect the specific details or context of the article you shared.

IMF warns Jeremy Hunt against tax cuts in budget (2024)


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