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Editor’s note: Hopes for a bland Budget

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As you read this the Chancellor is likely to be applying the finishing touches to his latest Budget speech. There is one area of the market whose members will be praying that he shows them some mercy: the buy-to-let sector.

The combination of increased stamp duty rates, a gradual reduction in tax relief and the potential for Bank of England intervention is likely to hit the sector hard.

But the Government’s U-turn on its planned shake-up of pensions tax relief offers hope for the buy-to-let market.

With the Brexit referendum on the horizon, the Cabinet clearly wishes to avoid poking a stick in Middle England’s nest and risk pushing undecided voters into the ‘Out’ camp.

The same logic could equally be applied to the 1.4 million landlords in the UK and it would be a risky call if the Chancellor were to launch a fresh attack on the sector.

That said, one should not hold out too much hope of the Government watering down any of the proposals it has already announced.

Last week, 145 members of the Residential Landlords Association lobbied their MPs in the hope that the Chancellor would change his plan for mortgage interest relief so that it affects new borrowing only. At best, this is wishful thinking.

So what can we expect from the Budget?

It is likely there will be no ‘Rabbit out of the Hat’ moment like those we have seen in recent Budgets and Autumn Statements, although one can never be certain.

There may be some tweaking around the edges and self-congratulatory announcements regarding housebuilding but this will not be a Budget for a showpiece announcement, unless it is positive.

The buy-to-let sector in particular will be praying for a bland showing from George Osborne on 16 March. Whether its members get what they want will depend on whether the Chancellor has come to believe that his clampdown on landlords risks jeopardising the Government’s ‘In’ campaign.

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