Budget talks - by video link from the US?
The Quad is about to meet at No 10 for crunch talks on the Budget. But I hear that David Cameron is willing to hold further discussions by phone or video link from the United States if necessary this week.
That indicates that the negotiations between the PM, DPM, Chancellor and Treasury Secretary are far from settled. And all the sticking points are said to be about tax.
“I doubt if everything will be nailed down today,” said a senior source. “But they would like to make significant progress this afternoon.”
A clampdown on stamp duty dodgers and a squeeze on pension tax relief for high earners are both set to be agreed, I hear.
But the Liberal Democrats’ Mansion Tax plan that would hit Londoners in big houses will probably be shelved for at least a year, pending a broad negotiation over taxes hitting the very wealthy, including the 50p income tax rate.
The suggestion is that the price for Mr Osborne announcing his intention to scrap the 50p rate on £150k+ earners, is a major review of all taxes on the very wealthy, including the Mansion Tax and Nick Clegg's new Tycoon Tax idea. In other words, yet another even longer negotiation.
Some Lib Dems have a brutally simple way of making it add up: If the 50p rate is found by the HMRC review to bring in £2.5 billion, then the new taxes on the wealthy should bring in the same amount, whether they are the Mansion Tax, the Tycoon Tax or a further pension squeeze.
This afternoon's talks are not the end of the discussion.
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