Martin Lewis grills Chancellor Rishi Sunak on self-employed income support, stamp duty, benefits help & more
Martin has put your questions to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a Budget Special of ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show, tackling the man in charge of the nation's finances on income support for the self-employed and limited company directors, whether the stamp duty holiday really helps homebuyers, extra help for those on legacy benefits, mortgage prisoner solutions and much more.
We've a full round-up of what we learned from the interview below. You can watch the whole show now on the ITV Hub.
Budget 2021: Other key stories
We've a full summary of Martin's interview with the Chancellor below, but for more Budget 2021 coverage, also see:
- Full Budget round-up: Furlough, stamp duty, income tax & more
- Self-employed support and furlough extended
- New mortgage scheme for buyers with 5% deposit
- Stamp duty holiday extended in England and Northern Ireland
- Income tax thresholds frozen - meaning many will pay more
- Universal credit £20/week uplift to continue for a further six months
- Green Savings Bond to launch via NS&I
- Contactless payment limit to rise to £100
Martin meets Rishi – what we learned
Here's a quick summary of some of the key topics Martin raised with the Chancellor. (We've included the timestamps for each topic so you that if you're watching on ITV Hub you can skip straight to that bit of the interview):
- The application date for the fourth self-employed grant WON'T be moved forward. Martin challenged the Chancellor on the timing of applications for the fourth grant of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – while the grant is supposed to provide support for February, March and April, it won't launch until April. He read out a tweet from a viewer called Fi, which said: "Why, why, why isn't the fourth grant for SEISS available now - late April will leave me homeless?"
Martin added: "I would have expected it to be next week that people could apply - why is it the end of April you're going to start paying people?" He later added that with past grants, the application had been available much earlier in the period the grant related to.
The Chancellor appeared to rule out moving the date forwards, saying the Government needed extra time to process the admin, especially as eligibility has been extended to those who filed 2019/20 tax returns. He said: "The simple reason is the grant covers the period from February to April, so people will need to have a sense of their circumstances over that period.
"The difference this time is we're making an improvement in access to the grant and we want to bring in all of those people who have filed tax returns for 19/20 and that means we need to have those come in, and I think you were keen for us to extend flexibility around the deadline which we did. That has meant we need a little bit of extra time to process all of that." Watch this bit of the interview from 7.03 on the ITV Hub.
- Support for previously excluded self-employed people WON'T be backdated. Martin read out a tweet from viewer Vicky, which said: "Chancellor, why won't you backdate the help for newly self-employed people who have previously been excluded and spent 12 months with no financial support?"
Martin added: "This argument of course is that they're filing tax returns that ended in April at the start of the pandemic and they're saying 'we've had no help for a year, we're desperate - why don't we get parity on that basis?'"
The Chancellor replied: "If you were going to go down that road, Martin, of backdating, you'd have to treat everyone the same actually. And then backdating everyone's grants would throw up a whole host of questions. You'd start going to people and saying 'actually with your new tax return maybe you should have got less than you got last year', and will we have to claw that grant back?"
Martin interjected to say "It's not going to happen?" to which the Chancellor replied "No." Watch this bit of the interview from 9.08 on the ITV Hub.
- Limited company directors WON'T be getting any additional coronavirus support. Again, the Chancellor confirmed the door was "firmly shut" on this. Read full details in our separate No more support to come for limited company directors MSE News story. Watch this bit of the interview from 10.38 on the ITV Hub.
- Those on legacy benefits WON'T get the extra uplift those on universal credit have. In this week's Budget, the £20/week universal credit uplift put in place due to coronavirus was extended for another six months, and working tax credit claimants will also get a one-off £500 payment – but others haven't had a similar increase.
Martin read out a message from a viewer called Claire who said she'd been shielding for nearly a year, has an adult disabled son and huge extra expenses due to coronavirus. Claire asked: "Why have people who are on legacy disability benefits – eg, employment support allowance – not been included in the extra £20/week universal credit payment. Why isn't this backdated?"
Martin added: "And income support and jobseeker's allowance as well - there are legacy benefits that haven't been given the support. Why not? And will you look at changing that?"
The Chancellor defended the decision not to extend the uplift to those on legacy benefits: "The original rationale for doing the temporary uplift in universal credit was to help those on low incomes. People who were in work but whose incomes were going to be affected by the crisis. It's universal credit and working tax credit that are the benefits that capture the vast, vast, vast majority if not all of those people. The legacy benefits don't do that." Watch this bit of the interview from 15.36 on the ITV Hub.
- The Chancellor believes the stamp duty holiday has helped protect the housing sector – even though Martin warned it may not have helped many homebuyers. The stamp duty holiday – brought in last July for purchases in England and Northern Ireland and extended in this week's Budget to the end of June – means homebuyers don't need to pay stamp duty on the first £500,000 of a property's purchase price if buying a main residence.
Martin asked: "Are you really helping struggling buyers, or are you just stoking the house price market? Let me give you some numbers – before stamp duty [the holiday] the average house price was £252,000. Now it's £269,000. So that's £17,000 more. The stamp duty saving on that is £2,600 – over the life of a mortgage someone's paying £27,000 more.
"Is intervening in the housing market like this really a help, or does it actually harm first-time buyers and others when they're trying to buy property? Is house price inflation really a good thing?"
The Chancellor replied: "Why did we do what we did? Well it's because there are over half a million jobs that are supported by the housing sector and given the situation that we face I wanted to try and make sure that activity in that really critical sector, carried on so that those jobs could be protected. That has worked." Watch this bit of the interview from 18.16 on the ITV Hub.
- The Chancellor believes the income tax threshold freeze is necessary – even though many will pay more. In this week's Budget, the Chancellor announced that, after a planned rise in April, the tax-free personal allowance and higher-rate income tax threshold will both be frozen until 2026 – a move which is expected to mean many pay more as a result.
Martin asked the Chancellor to explain the move, adding: "In the Budget, you were pretty open that this means people are going to pay more money."
The Chancellor said he believed the move was necessary to help balance the books, arguing: "When you're running a small business you worry about your borrowing, your debt. We can't have that going up forever and a day."
He added: "For an average basic rate taxpayer, earning say £27,000, the theoretical loss that they will experience not next year but the year afterwards, is about 77p/week just to give you a sense of scale." Watch this bit of the interview from 4.55 on the ITV Hub.
- The Government accepts the need to look for "workable solutions" to help mortgage prisoners after MSE's campaign. Martin asked the Chancellor about help for mortgage prisoners - homeowners who are unable to remortgage to a cheaper deal with another lender because they don't meet strict borrowing criteria, even though they'd often be paying less if they switched.
The Chancellor praised the work Martin and MSE have done on the issue, and agreed that there was a need to "make sure we have workable solutions" to help all mortgage prisoners. See full info in our separate Chancellor commits to looking for 'workable solutions' to help mortgage prisoners MSE News story. Watch this bit of the interview from 20.15 on the ITV Hub.