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March 2004 Budget - Key Points
By RACHEL CONSTANTINE
Key points from Gordon Brown's eighth Budget, which was delivered in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 17th March 2004.
Taxes and duties
* Tax rates will be frozen on: corporation tax, capital gains tax, air passenger duties, vehicle excise duty, insurance premium tax.
* VAT threshold for small businesses up to £58,000.
* Stamp duty also frozen.
* From 1st April, the zero rate of corporation tax applied to businesses with less than £10,000 of profits will rise to 19%. The zero rate will continue to apply to reinvested profits up to £10,000.
* Venture capital trust relief extended to top rate taxpayers for investments of up to £200,000.
* Betting duties also remain unchanged, but there will be a review of the tax treatment of betting exchanges.
* Inheritance tax rates are frozen, with the starting point for the tax raised to £263,000.
* Tax relief for small-budget British films will be transferred directly to the filmmakers to avoid third parties wrongly taking advantage of the measure.
* Duty on pint of beer raised by 1p, and by 4p on wine, but frozen on spirits, cider and sparkling wine.
* Tax on cigarettes up in line with inflation - 8p a packet.
* Accountancy firms will have to register tax avoidance schemes with the Inland Revenue.
Council tax help
* Pensioners aged over 70 to get an extra £100 this year to help with their problems paying rising council tax bills.
* The chancellor opened his speech saying: "The purpose of this Budget is to lock in for Great Britain the economic stability that can and will endure."
* The British economy grew by 2.3% in 2003, meeting Treasury forecasts.
* The growth forecast remains at 3-3.5% for 2004 and 2005 and at 2.5-3% for 2006.
* Claimant count unemployment was now at 2.9% on Wednesday's new figures - the lowest since 1993.
* Manufacturing output is expected to grow by just under 2% this year and over 2% next year.
* The deputy prime minister will consult on how to increase the supply and affordability of housing after Wednesday's Barker Review on homes' shortages.
* The Treasury will review progress on joining the euro in the next Budget, but not now.
* The government's fiscal rules have been met at every stage of the economic cycle, said Mr Brown.
* The "golden rule" on balancing the books over the economic cycle will be met with a £11bn surplus.
* The public sector borrowing for 2003/4 will be £37.5bn, falling to £23 billion by 2009.
* 20,000 civil servants to be moved out of Whitehall to the regions.
* Department of Work and Pensions to lose more 30,000 staff over four years, with its Budget cut by more than 5% by 2008.
* Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue to be merged.
* All departments will cut back room administration budgets by at least 5% by 2008.
* In 2006-07 and 2007-08, current spending will rise by 2.5%, with the money allocated in this summer's spending review.
* Mr Brown said he had already rejected calls to freeze the defence, Home Office and transport budgets. Both defence and transport would get real terms increases, he said.
* Education budget to rise to £8.1bn by 2008, with spending on early years teaching to rise to £669m.
For an indepth look at the budget, please click on the BBC News link below.