Spreadsheet Phil talks tech

I have tracked the last few budgets with an IT Faculty hat on to see how technology and digital is impacting the government’s fiscal behaviour. In a budget claiming the ‘era of austerity is coming to an end’, the self-proclaimed Spreadsheet Phil noted he had included so much on tech in previous budgets that, bar the headline items, he referred the House to the Red Book to confirm full details of the measures.

Three brief thoughts from me.

  1. Despite referring to the Red Book for details, the Chancellor continued to stress the importance of the technological change ahead and being ready for the new age. In the speech he referred to continuing investment in digital, highlighting nuclear fusion, quantum computing and digital infrastructure. There is indeed a lot of detail in the Red Book, with mentions of investment for all our ABCD technologies (AI, blockchain – distributed ledgers and crypto, cyber and data).
  2. The Chancellor outlined a new 2% Digital Services Tax that is targeted at larger tech firms with revenues of over £500m; this is due in part to slow progress in global talks and although due for introduction by 2020, the Chancellor noted that if progress is made in the OECD to ‘fix it’ by then he may review the tax. This reflects difficulty felt globally with the new business models of the larger tech companies and paying a fair share of tax on revenues made locally.
  3. Finally, the decision to keep the VAT threshold at its current level. There had been speculation it may have been lowered to £40,000, which would have brought many more businesses into MTD for VAT. I am sure there is a collective sigh of relief in a number of quarters that that extra pressure will not be there, at least for now.

In a high skills/high wage economy that Britain aspires to be, the continuing reference to and investment in technology needs to be maintained to achieve that objective.