Rishi Sunak has promised he will cut taxes now the government has achieved its pledge to halve inflation by the end of the year.
The prime minister has been under pressure from many in his party to reduce the tax burden – which currently sits at a 70-year high – ahead of the next election, and rumours have been swirling that such policies could be announced in the autumn statement on Wednesday.
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Making a speech in north London on his economic plans, Mr Sunak said his “argument has never been that we shouldn’t cut taxes – it’s been that we can only cut taxes once we have controlled inflation and debt”.
And with the change in inflation – confirmed last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to have dropped to 4.6% – it was time for the government to “begin the next phase” of its plan and “turn our attention to cutting tax”.
The prime minister did not reveal what taxes would be for the chop, but they are expected to be confirmed on Wednesday when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers his statement in the Commons.
Can the chancellor lift the gloom? Watch live coverage on Sky News of the autumn statement from 11am on Wednesday.
During his speech, Mr Sunak celebrated the fall in inflation – though it still remains more than double the Bank of England target of 2% – saying it showed “when we make a major economic commitment, we will deliver it”.
Then moving on to the big question ahead of the autumn statement, he said: “I want to cut taxes, I believe in cutting taxes, what clearer expression could there be of my governing philosophy than the belief that people, not government, make the best decisions about their money.
“But doing that responsibly is hard. We must avoid doing anything that puts at risk our progress of controlling inflation, and no matter how much we might want them to, history shows that tax cuts don’t automatically pay for themselves.
“And I can’t click my fingers and suddenly wish away all the reasons that taxes had to increase in the first place – partly because of COVID and Putin’s war in Ukraine and partly because we want to support people to live in dignity in retirement with a decent pension and good health care which will cost more as the population ages.”
But, the prime minister added: “Now that inflation has halved and our growth is stronger, meaning revenues are higher, we can begin the next phase and turn our attention to cutting tax.”
The prime minister said the government “can’t do everything at once”, and it would take “discipline” to “prioritise” what should be reduced.
However, he promised to make the reductions “in a serious, responsible way, based on fiscal rules”, adding: “Over time we can and we will cut taxes.”
Over the weekend, Mr Hunt insisted the focus of the upcoming budget would be on growth for business, telling Sky News he wanted to help create a “productive, dynamic, fizzing economy”.
But the chancellor also said “everything is on the table” when asked about swirling rumours over possible tax cuts.
Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates understands taxes on personal incomes will fall in Wednesday’s statement, as the government also seeks to help households with the cost of living crisis.
In the latest edition of the Politics at Jack and Sam’s podcast, by Sky News and Politico, he said the cut was unlikely to be on the basic rate of income tax though.
However, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, warned there was “no headroom there at all” for major tax cuts.
The economist said chancellors could “always find a few billion in a budget or an autumn statement if they want to”, but the public finances were “in such a mess” due to the amount being spent on debt interest that there wasn’t a lot of wriggle room for Mr Hunt.
During his speech, Mr Sunak also promised to “clamp down” on welfare fraudsters, calling it a “national scandal” and “an enormous waste of human potential” that around two million people of working age were not in employment.
The government is said to be considering a big squeeze on benefits in order to find savings, effectively cutting working age welfare payments for millions of people.
The prime minister said: “We believe in the inherent dignity of a good job, and we believe that work, not welfare is the best route out of poverty.
“So we must do more to support those who can work to do so, and we will clamp down on welfare fraudsters because the system must be fair for taxpayers who fund it.”
Mr Sunak also used used his speech to launch an attack on Labour for having “no experience” in business, and accused Sir Keir Starmer and the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves of offering “fairy tale” answers to the questions of how to grow the economy.
“That will be the very clear choice at the next election,” he added. “A Conservative Party that is delivering lower taxes because we have now halved inflation and control spending, or a Labour Party that’s just going to borrow an enormous amount more, not having learned the lessons at all of not just the last 10 years, but of the last two years, and continue with the same failed prescription, which is more government, more borrowing, more spending.”
Expect ‘records broken’ by Bitcoin ETF: Brett Harrison (ex-FTX US), X Hall of Flame
The former president of FTX US dishes the dirt on his falling out with former Jane Street colleague Sam Bankman-Fried and predicts the spot Bitcoin ETF will far outshine the record-breaking success of the Bitcoin Futures ETF.
Who is this guy anyway?
The ex-president of FTX US, Brett Harrison, tells Magazine that he didn’t say a single word to Sam Bankman-Fried during the two-month notice period after he resigned, which was only months before the whole exchange blew up. Even getting a message to SBF to say he was resigning in the first place was hard work.
“I had to talk to other people in the company to formally resign. I wrote one text to Sam and I got back a single heart emoji. That was the last I heard from him,” Harrison declares.
Harrison and Bankman-Fried had been colleagues years earlier at quantitative trading firm Jane Street, where Harrison saw his potential while teaching SBF in a course on programming for traders. But things went south real quick between them at FTX.
Harrison claims it was due to Bankman-Fried’s inflated ego and his reluctance to accept any feedback or advice.
“Sam hated criticism and, as a result, refused to communicate with me. It drove my decision to quit even further,” he says.
Yet, Harrison says he had no clue of the storm about to engulf the company with FTX declaring bankruptcy only a few months after he bailed from the U.S. arm of exchange.
“The rest of us, especially in the U.S., were blindsighted. We were working with regulators, top lawyers, and to have the whole organization fail because of one person’s greed, will stay with us for the rest of our life.”
However, he feels justice was done in the recent fraud trial against his former boss.
“I do feel the result was absolutely just, and I’m glad that justice was served quickly; I think it was essential that Sam was held accountable for his actions,” he declares.
Meanwhile, Harrison wasted no time diving into a new project.
He co-founded Architect.xyz, a DeFi platform that focuses on bridging all the different opportunities in the digital asset space for both institutional and retail investors.
Harrison is a bit of a brainiac and has a computer science degree focused on artificial intelligence (AI) from Harvard University. So, who better to ask about the potential for AI to take over the world?
“I do not think AI is a threat to humanity,” he declares, pointing out that AI has been in development for much longer than people think:
“Lots of people are now seeing AI for the first time, they don’t appreciate the decades of progress that has gone into it.”
Harrison is more concerned about humans using AI to pull off scams and swipe identities more effortlessly.
“It truly is just linear algebra,” he says. “The idea that linear algebra is some existential threat to our survival just feels somewhat fanciful to people who have been practitioners in the field for a long time.”
What led to Twitter Fame?
Harrison is a smart guy who drops interesting stuff on social media that people seem to dig.
But let’s not dance around the fact that the FTX connection is what blew up his follower numbers, with his count hitting its highest weekly peak when FTX took a nosedive in November 2022, when he gained 2,140 followers, according to data from Social Blade.
Back in January, his long rant about his departure from X got nearly 3 million eyeballs. He said he wasn’t canned from the FTX gig; it just wasn’t his dream job, and SBF was an “insecure, prideful manager.”
Content people can expect
If you scroll through Harrison’s timeline over the years, you’ll notice his glam lifestyle has toned down considerably since the FTX days.
Back then, he was often seen hanging out with celebs and former prime ministers.
Nowadays, it’s way more low-key. Besides throwing in some market talk, Harrison’s been sharing snippets about his family life lately.
He’s even flexing about saving toys from the FTX US office that somehow dodged the whole bankruptcy drama.
What type of content does he like?
Harrison loves the blend of genius and goofiness on Crypto X — getting a daily fix of humor and high intellect.
“One of the things I love about Crypto Twitter is the perfect mix of highly intellectual cerebral, either Market structure or political commentary, and degenerate memes.”
However, when we asked about the accounts he’s into, he’s not that forthcoming.
After doing some light digging, it turns out he’s following 2,100 accounts, and guess who’s in the mix? None other than Bankman-Fried’s pal Tiffany Fong.
Harrison used to avoid making predictions, saying he’d never have predicted the events that happened to him. But that was when things were going too smoothly, and that’s all changed.
Harrison declares there is a very “high probability” that a spot Bitcoin ETF will get approved in the first quarter of 2024.
As for price predictions? Harrison isn’t tossing out any six-figure numbers right away.
“In Q1 assuming there is an ETF that’s approved. I think something in the $50,000 to $55,000 range feels pretty probable,” he states.
He doesn’t see Bitcoin hitting six figures until “toward the end of 2024 or early 2025 at the earliest.”
He points to the first day of Bitcoin Futures ETF as just a little hint of how optimistic he is about the spot Bitcoin ETF:
“If you remember the day when a Bitcoin Futures ETF was listed the inflows were some of the highest ever seen in the history of ETFs. I think we’re going to see even more records broken for a spot Bitcoin ETF.”
The most engaging reads in blockchain. Delivered once a
Kenyan crypto tax bill makes it through parliamentary committee
A bill defining crypto assets as securities and imposing capital gains tax on them has made it through a Kenyan parliamentary committee. It will be introduced to the lower chamber of parliament next.
According to the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily on Dec. 4, the Capital Markets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, has been approved by the National Assembly’s Finance and National Planning Committee. The report cites the Chairman of the Committee, Kimani Kuria:
“This is a very critical law that will guard our country against proceeds of crime and terrorism financing. Cryptocurrencies are already being traded by millions of Kenyans yet we have no law to govern it. We approve this Bill for publication.”
After the Committee’s approval, the bill will head to the reading stage in the National Assembly, the lower chamber of the Parliament of Kenya.
The Capital Markets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, amends the country’s tax code, imposing taxes on crypto assets stored on crypto exchanges and digital wallets. In its framework, Kenyans will pay capital gains for the increased crypto market value when they sell or use it in a transaction. While the bill’s text is unavailable in full, according to the Business Daily, “banks [will] deduct 20 percent excise duty on all commissions and fees charged on transactions.”
Should the bill pass, citizens of Kenya would be obliged to declare all their crypto assets and their value in Kenyan shillings to the Kenya Revenue Authority. The report cites part of the bill:
“A person who possesses or deals in digital currency shall provide the Authority with the following information for tax purposes—the amount of proceeds from the transaction, any costs related to the transaction and the amount of any gain or loss on the transaction.”
While Kenya is only preparing to introduce its crypto taxes, the tax services in other countries have recently been quite vocal in their desire to chase all those who didn’t declare their crypto accurately. For example, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs recently demanded that United Kingdom hodlers declare any crypto they failed to report in the last four, six or even 20 years.
Singapore releases national AI strategy 2.0, plans for 15,000 AI experts
The Singaporean government released its updated national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) 2.0 on Dec. 4, in which it outlined how it plans to embrace innovation and tackle the challenges coupled with the technology.
Singapore structured its AI strategy into three distinct systems, consisting of ten “enablers,” which drive those systems and then 15 action steps to make the system work. It’s first AI strategy was introduced in 2019.
The updated plan’s systematic approach focuses on three main areas of its society, including what it calls “activity drivers,” “people and communities,” and “infrastructure and environment.”
Building a smart nation
Among the action steps is Singapore’s plan to develop new AI “Centers of Excellence” (CoEs) across companies operating in the country to foster “sophisticated AI value creation and usage in key sectors.”
The updated AI plan also has benchmarks of equipping governmental agencies with “specialized knowledge, technical capabilities, and regulatory tools” and “sharpening” AI proficiency in all Singaporean public officers.
According to the vision, Singapore plans to use its government capacity to create resources to support AI adoption in the public sector.
Additionally, it said it plans to boost its quantity of “AI practitioners” or local experts to 15,000 through scaling up AI-specific training programs and technology and AI talent pipelines, and that it “remains open” to global talent.
The report said that various tech training programs centered around AI development have placed over 2,700 individuals in “good jobs” to date.
Singapore, like many other countries around the world, said it also plans to increase its computing capacity.
To do this, Singapore said it plans to “deepen” partnerships with major players in the industry, including chipmakers and cloud services providers (CSPs), as well as support local Singapore-based compute industry firms.
It plans to implement its action steps over the next 3-5 years to support its ambitions in the AI sector.
Singapore follows other countries in its push to embrace AI. Recently, at its AI Safety Summit, the United Kingdom said it plans to invest 300 million pounds into obtaining and operating 2 AI supercomputers to boost its own footprint in the global AI race.
OpenAI, one of the world’s leading AI developers, announced a partnership with G42 in Dubai to expand its reach into the Middle East region.
Meanwhile, the United States, one of the world’s top chip manufacturing hubs, has begun to tighten export controls targeting certain countries on its technology to develop and power high-level AI systems.
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