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4 Mar 2021

Budget 2021: what was in the small print?

We read the fine print so you don't have to
person using magnifying glass to read page

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has delivered his 2021 Budget speech, with coronavirus support extensions and a corporation tax rise making headlines. But what didn't make the speech?

The Chancellor's House of Commons speech gets the most attention, but there's a lot more to the Budget than that.

Mr Sunak spoke for around an hour yesterday, but the actual text of the Budget would take many more hours to read out (and would be much more boring).

After every Budget speech, the Treasury releases Budget documents including the 'red book' - this year's is 107 pages long - and another large document called the overview of tax legislation and rates (OOTLAR).

A lot of the detail in them is related to departmental public spending, but there are always a few nuggets of personal finance news that it would be helpful for you to know. That's where we come in.

Here, we comb through the Budget 2021 small print to bring you what you need to know about the things the Chancellor didn't say out loud.

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Contactless payment limit rises to £100

The Treasury confirmed this policy to journalists around an hour before the Budget speech, but the Chancellor didn't mention it at all when he was at the dispatch box. Still, it was confirmed on page 50 of this year's Budget 'red book'.

Once the banking industry implements the change later this year, you'll be able to spend up to £100 on your contactless card. Once you've spent £300, you'll need to enter your Pin.

With the higher limit, you'll be able to pay for more expensive items or larger weekly food shops without entering your Pin.

On the other hand, some worry that this could encourage card theft, and accelerate the decline of cash, which the Chancellor pledged to protect in last year's Budget but did not follow up with legislation.

Listen:our experts unpack the Budget on the Which? Money Podcast

State pension payments to rise by 2.5%

Changes to the pensions lifetime allowance made the Chancellor's speech, but the Budget documents also confirm that the state pension will increase by 2.5% from next tax year, starting 6 April 2021.

This means recipients of the full new single-tier state pension will get £179.60 a week, up from £175.20.

How state pension weekly payments have changed

Isa tax-free saving limits frozen

Mr Sunak mentioned the new NS&I 'green' bond that will give savers the chance to invest in 'green' projects but didn't mention that tax-free Isa allowances for adults and children would be frozen again.

Thresholds on adult Isas and junior Isas will remain unchanged at £20,000 and £9,000 respectively for the tax year 2021-22.

How the Isa allowance has changed over time

How the junior Isa allowance has changed over time

Full lifetime Isa penalty will return

The budget documents confirmed the full Lifetime Isa penalty will be reinstated.

The charge on unauthorised withdrawals from Lifetime Isas was reduced to 20% at the start of the pandemic, but will be returning to 25% as of 6 April 2021.

National Insurance thresholds will increase

The Chancellor's speech contained details on how the personal allowance thresholds would rise in 2021-22 but he didn't mention anything about what will happen to National Insurance.

Budget documents reveal the Class 1 threshold for employed people will also rise by inflation to £9,568 in 2021-22, up from £9,500.

Self-employed workers will pay Class 2 contributions if they earn more than £6,515, in addition to Class 4 if they earn more than £9,568 in the new tax year. For 2020-21, Class 2 contributions kick in at £6,475, and Class 4 at £9,500.

You can find out how much this will affect your tax bill using our income tax calculator.

Air passenger duty hike

Air passenger duty (APD) is a levy that applies to all flights on aircraft of 5.7 tonnes and above.

Budget documents reveal APD is rising on long-haul routes by £2 a ticket for economy fares and £4 a ticket for premium, business and first-class fares in 2021.

In April 2022, long-haul fares are set to rise again by £2 a ticket on economy fares and £5 a ticket on more premium classes.

Short-haul APD will remain frozen until April 2022.

Reduced rate

APD nowAPD from 1 April 2021APD from 1 April 2022
Band A (0-2,000 miles from London)£13£13£13
Band B (over 2,000 miles from London)£80£82£84

Standard rate

BandsAPD now APD from 1 April 2021APD from 1 April 2022
Band A (0-2,000 miles from London)£26£26£26
Band B (over 2,000 miles from London)£176£180£185

Blind person's allowance boost

The blind person's allowance is increasing by £20, from £2,500 to £2,520 in the next tax year according to the Budget documents.

The blind person's allowance is an extra amount of tax-free allowance, so if you qualify it means you can earn more before paying tax.

Child benefit payments will rise

Child benefit will increase by 10p to £21.15 per week for the eldest child and by 5p to £14 for other children, Budget documents confirm.

You can use our child benefit calculator to find out how much more you will get from April.

Marriage allowance uplift

The Budget documents also confirm the marriage allowance will rise by £10 a year to £1,260 in 2021-22.

This allowance is a tax perk available to couples who are married or in a civil partnership, where one low earner can transfer a portion of their unused personal allowance to their partner.

Married couple's allowance (for people born before 6 April 1935) will also increase slightly. The maximum will rise £50 to £9,125, and the minimum will rise by £20 to £3,530 in 2021-22.

Government loans for vulnerable consumers

In a section of the red book subtitled 'supporting the most affected', the government revealed a new pilot scheme to give no-interest loans to people who need money to pay for unexpected costs linked to the pandemic.

The loans are intended to be a form of 'affordable short-term credit' and could act as an alternative to expensive payday loans or 'buy now, pay later' schemes.

There's very little detail on how the pilot will work, or how many people will be able to benefit, but we do know that £3.8m has been set aside for it.