John Whelan: Plenty moves to satisfy business with Brexit on the horizon

There was much to please business in the budget.

John Whelan: Plenty moves to satisfy business with Brexit on the horizon

There was much to please business in the budget.

Transports costs are expected to rise due to Brexit and the resurgence in crude oil prices. Businesses will welcome the near miss, with the widely expected excise tax on diesel not materialising.

The 1% increase on VRT on diesel vehicles imports from January will be taken as a fair nod to cutting emissions.

The extension of VRT relief for conventional hybrids and plug-in electric hybrids for a period of one year, until end 2019, will also be welcome, as will the extension of 0% benefit in kind rate for electric vehicles for a period of three years, with a cap of €50,000.

The road haulage industry will wonder why the minister is wasting his time on extending the scheme of accelerated capital allowances to encourage investment in gas-propelled vehicles and refuelling equipment. The use of natural gas and biogas as a substitute for diesel — seen as a more environmentally friendly fuel for large vehicles — is considered unattractive due to poor availability of both fuels.

With the strong pre-budget submissions from Ibec, Irish Exporters Association, and Isme calling for a significant shift in emphasis to indigenous industry and particularly the new business start-up sector, the minister did probably sufficient to satisfy the minimum demands of lobbyists.

The Key Employee Engagement Programme, the share-based remuneration scheme to facilitate the use of share-based remuneration by unquoted SME companies to attract key employees, was improved under three separate measures — increasing the ceiling on maximum annual market value of shares that may be awarded to equal the amount of the salary (up from 50%); replacing the three-year limit with a lifetime limit; and increasing the quantum of share options that can be granted under the scheme from €250,000 to €300,000.

Building Brexit resilience was the other major business theme in the budget. There was a raft of extensions to the existing Brexit loan schemes, grant aids for capital investment by SMEs to improve productivity and innovation, with added funds to assist both Bord BIA and Enterprise Ireland to help affected companies. Perhaps the most useful is the Future Growth Loan Scheme, giving loans over 7-10 years to allow businesses to strategically invest in a post-Brexit environment.

- John Whelan is a leading consultant on trade

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