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6 March 2000

6 March 2000
Budget boost for IT recruitment from overseas

GORDON BROWN is planning to relax the rules governing work permits to allow information technology companies to recruit specialists from abroad.
The changes will be announced on March 21 in a Budget aimed at promoting the dot.com economy. The Chancellor has become increasingly concerned at the recruitment problems facing high-tech companies. They cite skill shortages as one of the biggest obstacles to the development and expansion of their businesses.
Other governments are also reviewing their rules. Germany plans to encourage workers from countries such as India with proven IT skills, and America has eased its regime. Many immigrants have built up powerful companies and made fortunes.
Mr Brown's Budget will include financial incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, including easing the capital gains tax regime. For business assets, the tax liability will tail off faster, and the qualifying rules changed to allow investors with a 5pc stake in a company to benefit, against the present requirement of 25pc.
Other initiatives to be announced in the Budget include:
corporation tax relief for companies which undertake corporate venturing, to encourage businesses with surplus capital to put it into small, high-risk companies.
extending the number of people in a company who can qualify for favourable tax treatment on share options from 10, perhaps to 20.
improving the rules governing general employee share ownership schemes.
After an intense lobbying campaign by the Stock Exchange, the Chancellor is considering a reduction in stamp duty on share purchases from the present level of 0.5pc to 0.4pc. Gavin Casey, chairman of the Exchange, has been asked for a paper on the subject to help the Treasury assess the risk posed by the tax to London's position as a major share trading centre.
Mr Brown is expected to confine most of his Budget tax give-aways to the corporate sector. Cuts in private taxation would fuel the consumer boom and are considered highly unlikely. Action to harmonise tax and National Insurance to remove the kink in the current system is a possibility, perhaps offset by lifting the threshold for 40pc tax to protect middle income earners.
An alliance of organisations representing 10,000 engineering and manufacturing companies yesterday called on the Chancellor for permanent 100pc first year capital allowances for smaller companies, another ъ250m in handouts under the Enterprise Grants scheme and to reduce the rising burden of government regulation on business.

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