Chancellor George Osborne has officially made his budget statement, unveiling a raft of measures which will have a serious impact - for good or ill - on the UK technology scene over the coming years.

Announced late yesterday, the new budget is headlined by the long-suggested 'Google Tax' which will see companies such as the eponymous advertising giant and other large multinationals taxed at the rate of 25 per cent - five percentage points higher than the standard corporation tax rate - on 'diverted profits.' This initiative is designed to prevent companies like Google, Amazon, and Starbucks from making money in the UK and sending it overseas where it can be taxed at a lower rate, claiming to run their UK operations at a loss in order to avoid paying corporation tax.

As to where this money will end up, some may be used to fund Osborne's plans for a national superfast broadband network. Under the new budget, additional subsidies are to be provided to offer satellite internet services in rural regions, to provide 100Mb/s minimum connectivity to the majority of UK homes - with no set timescale, unfortunately - and to investigate raising the service obligation under which all UK telecommunications companies operate to guarantee 5Mb/s minimum connectivity for all. A £7.4 million fund was also put aside to provide publicly-accessible Wi-Fi access points in public libraries.

The UK games industry was given a shot in the arm with a £4 million 'videogames prototype fund' being set up to provide finance and business support for smaller UK developers, although the details of which companies will qualify have yet to be released. This will be the second prototype fund, after the original ran between 2010 and 2014, and is to be joined by a further £4 million 'skills investment fund' for training in creative skills related to games, film and animation.

Other technology-related announcements made as part of the budget include a commitment to implementing a simpler digital system for self-employed people to file their tax returns each year, a commitment to prevent the criminal use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and an impressive £40 million to build a research centre for Internet of Things (IoT) projects.

Full details of the budget, including Osborne's speech in full, are available on GOV.UK.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04