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6.2 million taxpayers owed around £39bn in November 2021

   News / 28 Mar 2022

Published: 28 March 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


6.2 million taxpayers owed around £39bn in November 2021 and the Public Accounts Committee says it is “not confident” in HMRC’s ability to recover from this “mountain” of tax debt and take it back to pre-pandemic levels of £16bn. The pandemic pushed an extra 2.4 million taxpayers into debt with HMRC, who, the committee said, on average, owe more money and require longer to pay. Over the past two years, the average value of each debt increased by 60%, from £4,300 to £6,800.
 
Britons are being forced to resort to high-cost lenders after being rejected for loans by high street banks, a survey by loan provider Creditspring shows. A quarter of men (25%) and 13% of women borrowed from a high-cost lender as they were left with no other option, the analysis suggests.  
 
The Treasury has sold a further £1.2 billion worth of shares in NatWest Grouptaking its stake to less than 50% for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, when the bank was bailed out by the taxpayer. It now has a stake of 48.1%, down from a peak of 84% in 2009.
 
The government plans to take a 20% stake in a £20bn large-scale nuclear plant at Sizewell, the BBC has learned. French developer EDF will also take a 20% stake in the Suffolk power station.
 
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is warning Peter Hebblethwaite, the CEO of P&O Ferries, that he must rehire the 800 workers he sacked earlier this month. Shapps is preparing to overhaul laws on pay for seafarers, including a requirement that all ferry companies operating from UK ports to pay the minimum wage. An aide told the Financial Times that Shapps is to tell Hebblethwaite that “if he doesn’t perform a U-turn, we will force him to do it anyway”. The ferry company recently made 800 staff redundant without notice, replacing them with agency staff on an average of just £5.50 an hour. Meanwhile, PA says it has received information that P&O Ferries calculated it would cost £309 million to keep the business going through a consultation period of at least three months with staff about job losses. A consultation was consequently rejected by the business, on the basis it would have caused disruption which would have led to customers leaving to competitors, dealing a “fatal blow” to P&O, a source told the news agency. Protests against the sackings continued at ports over the weekend.
 
Gatwick Airport is reopening its south terminal, which has been dormant since June 15 2020 to reduce costs during the coronavirus pandemic. Flights are ramped up from around 300 to 570 a day yesterday, the equivalent of opening a medium-sized airport overnight. The terminals shops, cafes and other facilities have undergone months of refurbishment, updating and cleaning ahead of the reopening.
 
Uber Technologies Inc said on Saturday it has received permission to continue operating in London under a new 30-month license. “TfL now finds Uber to be a fit and proper person and has granted a license with conditions,” a TfL spokesperson said. There have been numerous rows previously about Uber’s commitment to safety. The firm also now allows union representation for drivers.
 
According to the AA, average petrol prices have fallen just 2.71p, and dieselis down just 1.59p, since Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that a 5p fuel duty cut would come into force immediately. The motoring organisation concludes that retailers have passed less than half (2.71p) of the fuel duty cut on to drivers, after finding the average UK petrol price was 164.59p a litre and diesel 178.72p a litre after the reduction came into effect.
 
Utilities company National Grid (NG) is to sell a 60% equity interest in its UK gas transmission and metering business to a consortium of long-term infrastructure investors. NG will receive approximately £2.2bn in cash for its NGG unit from a consortium made up of Macquarie Asset Management and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, and receive a further £2bn in debt financing at completion. National Grid said will retain a 40% stake via a new holding company called GasT TopCo but has entered into an option agreement with the consortium for the potential sale of the remaining 40%.
 
Drinks maker Diageo has agreed to sell its Windsor business to a South Korean private equity group for KRW200bn (£124m). The business is being sold to the Bayside Private Equity and Metis Private Equity consortium. As part of the agreement, Diageo will supply Scotch whisky to Bayside/Metis under a 10-year supply agreement.
 
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to delve deeper into NortonLifeLock's acquisition of Avast after the companies failed to offer any undertakings that the acquisition would not "substantially lessen" competition. NortonLifeLock agreed the acquisition of FTSE 100 cybersecurity software developer Avast in August last year, in a deal worth up to $8.6bn (£6.53bn).
 
Supermarket Iceland has been forced to reverse a ban on palm oil amid an acute shortage of sunflower oil, a staple ingredient in frozen chips and breaded fish. The chain had banned the ingredient in 2018 in a stand against tropical deforestation. Sunflower crops are trapped in Ukraine and Russia, which together account for almost 70% of the world’s sunflower oil production.
 
Lidl is looking to fill more than 1,200 new warehouse jobs by the end of 2025, for its new Regional Distribution Centre in Luton.
 
The European Union has given marketing approval to AstraZeneca's Evusheld coronavirus medicine for adults and children over 12 years old, the company said on Monday. AstraZeneca said the drug, also called AZD7442reduced the risk of coronavirus symptoms or death from Covid-19, both when taken preventively and within three days of developing symptoms.
 
Sky News says it has discovered that the contenders to buy Chelsea FC have been told they must commit at least £1bn to future investment in the club if they are to succeed in the battle to end Roman Abramovich's two-decade tenure as owner of last season's Champions League-winners.
 
The Telegraph says US President Joe Biden “is to wage war” against America’s wealthiest with a new minimum wealth tax targeting billionaires in his 2023 budget. The plan is to levy a minimum 20% tax rate on the incomes of households worth more than $100m (£76m), to raise around $360bn over the next decade from America’s 700 billionaires, However, analysts say the proposals could hit more than 30,000 Americans. Controversially, the new taxes will target unrealised income made on investments, taxing shares if they rise in value even before they are sold. Economists are warning the President’s plans could trigger an exodus of firms from the country and encourage individuals to work fewer hours or retire earlier.


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