independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Budget date move 'will boost Christmas shopping'

CONSUMERS will spend more on their Christmas shopping under plans to switch the date of the next Budget from December to October.

The declaration by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin that he believes people have seen their last December Budget has been welcomed by small business group ISME.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said holding the Budget in December was a deterrent for Christmas shoppers.

"It's something we've been calling for over a number of years," he said.

"December is so late in the year for budgetary purposes that it has an effect on consumer spending for Christmas."

The retail sector relies on the three months running up to Christmas for about 40pc of its annual sales.

Mr Fielding predicted that switching the Budget to October would have a positive effect on Christmas sales and give businesses more time to adjust to changes.

In a recent newspaper interview, Mr Howlin said it looked like there would be "an October Budget rather than a December Budget next year".

Cuts

The biggest motivation for moving the Budget from December to October is due to the new requirements in the fiscal treaty approved by voters last year.

The Government will have to submit a draft Budget plan to the European Commission for scrutiny by October 15 – with all other EU member states doing the same.

It would be extremely difficult for the Government to then delay the final implementation of the Budget for two months once the details were in the public domain.

Despite the €3.5bn in tax increases and spending cuts in the last Budget, retailers reported that the expected negative effect on Christmas shoppers was not as bad as they feared. Some reported a rise in sales of up to 10pc on St Stephen's Day compared to the same day the previous year.

Retail Ireland chairman Frank Gleeson said that moving the Budget date from December would have a positive effect on Christmas sales.

He said his organisation, which is part of employers' group IBEC, had lobbied for the move during its pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

"December is a crucial time for consumer confidence and we feel the Budget doesn't help because people are uncertain about how much money they will have left in their pockets," he said.

Irish Independent

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