While business rates relief was the Budget headline grabber as far as the papers were concerned, pharmacy owners contemplating investment in automation might want to look at the temporary 400 per cent increase in the annual investment allowance.

The allowance lets a business deduct qualifying capital expenditure on business equipment such as machinery from its taxable profits.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond announced that the AIA will increase from £200,000 to £1,000,000 for a period of two years, starting on 1 January next.  

The Chancellor claimed that his £900 million worth of business rates changes will lead to £8,000 savings for almost 500,000 small businesses.  Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will see their bills cut by a third over a two year period. A more nebulous figure was £675 million for "transforming the high street". Little detail was available for what exactly this funding was for, other than for potentially converting commercial buildings into residential ones.

Community pharmacies with delivery vans on the road may find small comfort in the freezing of fuel duty for the ninth year running, a move it is said will save van drivers £2,500. On the other hand, the the 4.9 per cent increase in the national living wage to £8.21 from April 2019 will offset the benefits from the business rate relief.  And the Employment Allowance, which gives many businesses a £3,000 reduction in employer’s national insurance will only be available to employers with an annual NI bill  of less than £100,000 from April 2020.



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