£37bn, but the words aren’t worth the paper they are written on

Today’s announcement of £37bn of investment in British banks was accompanied by words from Gordon Brown at his press conference about rewarding “hard work, effort and enterprise” rather than “irresponsibility and risk taking”.

This is a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly but one I find very strange coming from the government who only a year ago scrapped Taper Relief, effectively increasing the CGT rate for hard working and enterprising small business owners by 80% from 10% to 18%. Given the number of SME’s in the PR industry this is particularly pertinent to this sector.

At the same time they reduced the rate on speculative asset transactions e.g. share sales and buy-to-let from a maximum rate of 40% to the same new rate of 18%. The overall benefit to the Treasury? A reported “massive” £350m – small beer these days!

The government subsequently made a small gesture to the SME community by introducing entrepreneur relief on the first £1m of gains by owner managers – arguably peanuts in the scheme of things.

So at a time when the country needs, as the PM rightly points out, “hard work, effort and enterprise”, they have created a tax environment that draws no distinction between this and “irresponsibility and risk taking” in asset markets. Unless this decision is reversed in the pre-budget report I find I cannot take these messages seriously.