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March 2022 Monthly

March will be a pivotal month. Three key elements shape the investment climate: geopolitics, easing of Covid pressures in Europe and North America, and…



March will be a pivotal month. Three key elements shape the investment climate: geopolitics, easing of Covid pressures in Europe and North America, and the continued monetary policy response. 

Russia's threat to Ukraine had been simmering for several weeks before the February 11 warning by the US that an attack was imminent.  It became a significant risk-off factor and added to the pressure on equities, while helping support the bond markets.  

While several concessions were offered, there has been no common ground on the key issue of NATO enlargement. Whatever military victory Putin may enjoy, Russia will see more NATO rather than less.  Not only will NATO boost its presence, but it is possible that Sweden (and maybe Finland) joins the military pact.  The risk is that the economic fallout from Russia's military action spurs more inflation and weaker growth.  Most immediately, it has seen the market downgrade the chances of a large rate hike (50 bp) by the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England at their mid-March meetings.    

The virus appears to be receding and social restrictions are being lifted in Europe and North America. Economies are re-opening.  Delivery times are improving, suggesting supply chain disruptions are easing. After a slow start, the G7 economies appear to be strengthening, with the exception of Japan. Japan imposed new social restrictions in late January that ran through mid-February.  The February composite PMI was below the 50 boom/bust level for the second consecutive month. In the UK and France, the service PMI has risen above the manufacturing PMI, another sign of a post-Covid recovery.  

The normalization of monetary policy takes a big step forward in the coming weeks with the first rate hikes by the US and Canada, and the first balance sheet reduction by the Bank of England.  The European Central Bank will update is forward guidance for its asset purchases and is expected to allow for a hike toward the end of the year.  The Bank of Japan's Yield-Curve Control cap on the 10-year bond at 0.25% may be challenged if global yields drag higher in their wake.   The Reserve Bank of Australia continues to push back against expectations of an early hike, which the swaps market says likely happens in July.  

Commodity prices continue to rise.  The CRB Index rose by about 3.5% in February after a 9.8% gain in January.  It has not had a losing week since mid-December.  Adverse weather conditions in South America are helping boost corn and soy prices, which also translates into higher livestock prices.  Oil prices remain near multiyear highs and the April WTI contract has risen by around a quarter this year. The high does not seem to be in place yet, but a nuclear accord with Iran would boost supply. 

US natural gas prices are up about 20% this year, but partly it is a function of the weak finish last year. Still, it is above the 200-day moving average by around 4%.  Europe's benchmark (Netherlands) has risen by almost 40%.  Higher oil and natural gas prices have knock-on effects on food production via fertilizer and pesticides, let alone transportation. We note that the last three recessions in the US were preceded by a doubling of oil prices.  The price of WTI has doubled since the start of last year. 

Emerging markets have been resilient to start the year.  Brazil and Russia raised rate particularly aggressively 2021 and early this year.  Others, including Hungary, Czech, and Chile have done much of their heavy lifting.  The MSCI Emerging Market Equity Index has held in better than the MSCI World Index of developed countries in the first two months of the year (-4.9% vs. -7.8%).  Year-to-date the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index has risen by almost 1%.  Carry and valuation were often cited as the main considerations.  

Bannockburn's GDP-weighted currency index rose about 0.3% in February as the currencies tended to have appreciated against the dollar.  The Chinese yuan (21.8%) and euro (19.1%) have the most weighting after the US dollar (31%) in the index.  They rose by 0.7% and 0.3% respectively. The strongest performer in the index was the Brazilian real (2.1% weighting) with a 3.0% gain, followed by the Australian dollar's (2.0% weighting) 2.25% increase. The weakest by far was the Russian rouble (2.2% weighting), which tumbled 6.75%.  

Dollar:   There is no doubt that the Federal Reserve will launch a new monetary cycle at the mid-March meeting.  At one point, the market had priced in a little more than an 80% chance of a 50 bp move out of the gate. The pushback was mild, but the market understood, and the odds now are near 28%, which may still be high.  The focus is on the updated economic projections and any fresh guidance on the balance sheet.  At issue is terminal target rate in the cycle.  In December, five officials projected the Fed funds target rate in 2024 would be above the long-term rate of 2.5% (all but two Fed officials saw it above 2.0%-2.5%).   The Federal Reserve is getting closer to deciding the parameters of its balance sheet strategy.  It may be a bit early for details, but Chair Powell could confirm a start around midyear.  Meanwhile, the US economy is slowing sharply after the historic inventory contribution that lifted Q4 22 growth to about 7fx%.  The Atlanta Fed's GDP tracker sees Q1 growth at 1.3% while the median forecast in Bloomberg's survey is for 1.6% GDP at an annualized pace. Still, a strong rebound is likely to play out before the more sustained slowdown, we expected, starting in H2.  


Euro:  First it was the divergence of monetary policy that drove the euro to $1.1120 in January.  The euro recovered to almost $1.15 on February 10, the day before the US warned that Russia could invade Ukraine. Then it was actual invasion took the euro to almost $1.1100.  The European Central Bank's leadership opened the door to a rate hike later this year, before the US warning about Russia's deadly intentions, the market began pricing in a hike in June.  This seemed exaggerated at the time.  The ECB has been very clear on the sequence.  Bond buying, under the Asset Purchase Program will end shortly before the first rate hike. To prepare for a possible hike, the ECB needs to adjust its forward guidance on its asset purchases at the March 10 meeting. It will likely reaffirm purchases in Q2, but it may look for an exit shortly thereafter.  The market has pushed the first rate hike back to the end of Q3. Meanwhile, the US-German two-year interest rate differential continues to trend in the US favor.  Consider that at the end of last September, the US premium was a little less than 100 bp. Now it is near 200 bp.  On the eve of the pandemic, it was almost 220 bp, although there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the exchange rate and the interest rate differential, the euro was in a range between $1.10 and nearly $1.1250 in December 2020.   

(February 25 indicative closing prices, previous in parentheses)

Spot: $1.1270 ($1.1150)

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast $1.1300 ($1.1175) 

One-month forward $1.1280 ($1.1160)    One-month implied vol 7.0% (6.0%)    



Japanese Yen:  Unlike most other large economies, Japan continues to experience deflationary pressures as seen by the GDP deflator (-1.3% year-over-year Q4 2021) or the January CPI (excluding fresh food and energy, -0.5% year-over-year).  This, coupled with signs of a weak Q1 has persuaded the market that BOJ is on hold until after Governor Kuroda's term ends in April 2023.  Given the monetary policy divergence and the deterioration of the balance of payments (with rising oil and commodity prices), the yen appears vulnerable.  However, the exchange rate's correlation with the change in the US 10-year yield has slackened, while improving with equities. In other words, its "safe haven" status is outweighing carry considerations.  Still, on balance, we look for the dollar to challenge the January and February high near JPY116.35.  Above those highs, there appears to be little chart-based resistance ahead of the late 2016/early 2017 high around JPY118.60.  


Spot: JPY115.55 (JPY115.25)      

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast JPY115.00 (JPY115.15)     

One-month forward JPY115.50 (JPY115.20)    One-month implied vol 6.3% (6.1%)



British Pound: Sterling was stuck in a $1.35-$1.36 range for most of February.  Intraday violations common but there was only one close outside the range until Russia invaded Ukraine.  It briefly crashed through $1.32 before rebounding.  The UK gets only 5%-6% of its oil and gas from Russia, but foreign direct investment exposure can be substantial for some companies in some sectors.  Consider that BP has a 20% stake in Rosneft.  The Bank of England meets on March 17.  The market has dramatically downgraded the risk of a 50 bp move, which had been rejected in favor a 25 bp move by a 5-4 vote in February.  Before the US warning about a full-scale Russian attack, the swaps market had more than a 60% chance the BOE would deliver a 50 bp hike in March.  Two weeks later the odds have fallen to less than 20%, the lowest since mid-December.  With the base rate at 50 bp, the BOE will stop reinvesting maturing proceeds of its holdings, and GBP28 bln of bond maturing in March that will not be recycled.  The outright selling of assets from its balance sheet can begin when the base rate reaches 1.0% but it is not a trigger as much as a pre-condition.   


Spot: $1.3410 ($1.3400)   

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast $1.3500 ($1.3450) 

One-month forward $1.3405 ($1.3395)   One-month implied vol 7.0% (6.5%)



Canadian Dollar:  Like sterling, the Canadian dollar spent most of February in a clear range.  It broke down on the dramatic wave of risk-aversion on the Russian invasion, but, unlike sterling, it was back into the old range within 24 hours.  The US dollar's range was CAD1.2650-CAD1.2660 on the downside and CAD1.28 on the upside.  It shot up to CAD1.2860 but returned to CAD1.27 the following day.   The Bank of Canada meets on March 2.  The swaps market sees a 75% chance that the Bank of Canada delivers a 50 bp to initiate its tightening cycle.  The market is discounting almost 180 bp of hikes over the next 12 months and peaking between 2.25%-2.50% next year from 25 bp now.  It is the most among the G7 countries.  It is also where the central bank sees the neutral rate.  The Bank of Canada is also expected to signal that it plans on letting the balance sheet shrink passively, not replacing maturing securities shortly.  


Spot: CAD1.2715 (CAD 1.2770) 

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast CAD1.2600 (CAD1.2690)

One-month forward CAD1.2710 (CAD1.2765)    One-month implied vol 6.7% (7.1%) 



Australian Dollar: After falling 2.7% in January, the Australian dollar rebounded by 2.25% in February.  Of the major currencies, only the New Zealand dollar outperformed it and its central bank hiked rates for the third consecutive meeting and announced its balance sheet reduction strategy.  Australia's economy appeared to recover quickly from the Covid-related disruption that pushed the January composite PMI below the 50 boom/bust level (46.7).  It bounced back in February to 55.9, the highest since last June.  Higher commodity prices are delivering a positive terms of trade shock.  The average monthly trade surplus was A$10.2 bln last year compared with an average of nearly A$5.7 bln in 2019. While the Reserve Bank of Australia acknowledges the possibility of rate hike later this year, the market is considerably more aggressive.  The swaps market has discounted around 145 bp in tightening over the next 12 months.  However, in recent weeks, the market has pushed the first hike in Q3 from Q2.  For the last four months, the Australian dollar has mostly traded between $0.7000 and $0.7300.  This range may continue to dominate.   


Spot:  $0.7220 ($0.6990)       

Median Bloomberg One-Month Forecast $0.7200 ($0.7090)     

One-month forward $0.7230 ($0.6995)     One-month implied vol 10.0% (10.4%)   



Mexican Peso:  The peso appreciated by 1.4% in February.  Latam currencies shined. and accounted for four of the top six EM performers, led by the 3% gain in the Brazilian real.  At her first meeting as Governor of the Bank of Mexico, Rodriguez delivered a 50 bp hike. With price pressures still accelerating, she is poised to repeat it at her second meeting on March 24.   It would bring the target rate to 6.5%.  Recall that in the last cycle, Banxico had raised its target to 8.25% before cutting by in August 2019.  It was at 7.25% in January 2020.  The swaps market expects it to peak in early near year in the 8.00%-8.25% area.  The key is inflation, which has been above 7% for three months through January.  The bi-weekly inflation report had it accelerating in mid-February.  Mexican asset markets are underperforming.  Consider, the yield on its 10-year dollar bond is up 100 bp this year.  Brazil's is up half as much. Mexico's equity benchmark is off almost 1.4% this year while the MSCI Latam equity index is up 11.5%.  The dollar set five-month lows in late February slightly below MXN20.16. It peaked in late January near MXN20.9150.  The bulk of the move is probably behind it and the MXN20.00-MXN20.10 area may offer a nearby floor.   


Spot: MXN20.35 (MXN20.80)  

Median Bloomberg One-Month Forecast MXN20.50 (MXN20.78)  

One-month forward MXN20.46 (MXN20.90)     One-month implied vol 11.0% (10.6%)



Chinese Yuan:  Few observers seem to place any importance on Chinese officials claim that it is making the currency move flexible.  The yuan still can only move in a 2% band around the reference rate that the central bank sets daily ostensibly submissions by its banks.  Although it does not appear to intervene directly, it can still have various levers of influence.   The yuan has risen against the dollar for six of the past seven months.  The currency moves are small but have a cumulative effect. In February, the yuan rose by about 0.7% against the dollar.  It was sufficient to lift it to a new four-year high and what appears to be a new record-high against its trade-weighted basket (CFETS).  After cautioning the market against driving the yuan higher and raising the reserve requirement for foreign currency deposits (earned in part from selling the yuan to offshore buyers), the PBOC shifted in February.  It began setting the dollar's reference rate below expectations.  While a couple of large asset managers have reduced their weightings of Chinese bonds as the premium over Treasuries narrows considerably, foreign investors have been buying Chinese stocks outside of the technology and property sectors.  It is difficult to know the extent of the official tolerance of a stronger yuan when monetary and fiscal policy is more stimulative.  The dollar's low from 2017 was around CNY6.24-CNY6.25.  


Spot: CNY6.3175 (CNY6.3615)

Median Bloomberg One-month Forecast CNY6.3800 (CNY6.3895) 

One-month forward CNY6.3300 (CNY6.3820)    One-month implied vol 3.1% (3.1%)




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Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Submitted by Liam Cosgrove




Buried Project Veritas Recording Shows Top Pfizer Scientists Suppressed Concerns Over COVID-19 Boosters, MRNA Tech

Submitted by Liam Cosgrove

Former Project Veritas & O’Keefe Media Group operative and Pfizer formulation analyst scientist Justin Leslie revealed previously unpublished recordings showing Pfizer’s top vaccine researchers discussing major concerns surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. Leslie delivered these recordings to Veritas in late 2021, but they were never published:

Featured in Leslie’s footage is Kanwal Gill, a principal scientist at Pfizer. Gill was weary of MRNA technology given its long research history yet lack of approved commercial products. She called the vaccines “sneaky,” suggesting latent side effects could emerge in time.

Gill goes on to illustrate how the vaccine formulation process was dramatically rushed under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization and adds that profit incentives likely played a role:

"It’s going to affect my heart, and I’m going to die. And nobody’s talking about that."

Leslie recorded another colleague, Pfizer’s pharmaceutical formulation scientist Ramin Darvari, who raised the since-validated concern that repeat booster intake could damage the cardiovascular system:

None of these claims will be shocking to hear in 2024, but it is telling that high-level Pfizer researchers were discussing these topics in private while the company assured the public of “no serious safety concerns” upon the jab’s release:

Vaccine for Children is a Different Formulation

Leslie sent me a little-known FDA-Pfizer conference — a 7-hour Zoom meeting published in tandem with the approval of the vaccine for 5 – 11 year-olds — during which Pfizer’s vice presidents of vaccine research and development, Nicholas Warne and William Gruber, discussed a last-minute change to the vaccine’s “buffer” — from “PBS” to “Tris” — to improve its shelf life. For about 30 seconds of these 7 hours, Gruber acknowledged that the new formula was NOT the one used in clinical trials (emphasis mine):

“The studies were done using the same volume… but contained the PBS buffer. We obviously had extensive consultations with the FDA and it was determined that the clinical studies were not required because, again, the LNP and the MRNA are the same and the behavior — in terms of reactogenicity and efficacy — are expected to be the same.

According to Leslie, the tweaked “buffer” dramatically changed the temperature needed for storage: “Before they changed this last step of the formulation, the formula was to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius. After they changed the last step, we kept them at 2 to 8 degrees celsius,” Leslie told me.

The claims are backed up in the referenced video presentation:

I’m no vaccinologist but an 80-degree temperature delta — and a 5x shelf-life in a warmer climate — seems like a significant change that might warrant clinical trials before commercial release.

Despite this information technically being public, there has been virtually no media scrutiny or even coverage — and in fact, most were told the vaccine for children was the same formula but just a smaller dose — which is perhaps due to a combination of the information being buried within a 7-hour jargon-filled presentation and our media being totally dysfunctional.

Bohemian Grove?

Leslie’s 2-hour long documentary on his experience at both Pfizer and O’Keefe’s companies concludes on an interesting note: James O’Keefe attended an outing at the Bohemian Grove.

Leslie offers this photo of James’ Bohemian Grove “GATE” slip as evidence, left on his work desk atop a copy of his book, “American Muckraker”:

My thoughts on the Bohemian Grove: my good friend’s dad was its general manager for several decades. From what I have gathered through that connection, the Bohemian Grove is not some version of the Illuminati, at least not in the institutional sense.

Do powerful elites hangout there? Absolutely. Do they discuss their plans for the world while hanging out there? I’m sure it has happened. Do they have a weird ritual with a giant owl? Yep, Alex Jones showed that to the world.

My perspective is based on conversations with my friend and my belief that his father is not lying to him. I could be wrong and am open to evidence — like if boxer Ryan Garcia decides to produce evidence regarding his rape claims — and I do find it a bit strange the club would invite O’Keefe who is notorious for covertly filming, but Occam’s razor would lead me to believe the club is — as it was under my friend’s dad — run by boomer conservatives the extent of whose politics include disliking wokeness, immigration, and Biden (common subjects of O’Keefe’s work).

Therefore, I don’t find O’Keefe’s visit to the club indicative that he is some sort of Operation Mockingbird asset as Leslie tries to depict (however Mockingbird is a 100% legitimate conspiracy). I have also met James several times and even came close to joining OMG. While I disagreed with James on the significance of many of his stories — finding some to be overhyped and showy — I never doubted his conviction in them.

As for why Leslie’s story was squashed… all my sources told me it was to avoid jail time for Veritas executives.

Feel free to watch Leslie’s full documentary here and decide for yourself.

Fun fact — Justin Leslie was also the operative behind this mega-viral Project Veritas story where Pfizer’s director of R&D claimed the company was privately mutating COVID-19 behind closed doors:

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/12/2024 - 13:40

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Association of prenatal vitamins and metals with epigenetic aging at birth and in childhood

“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging…



“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging biomarkers across the life course.”

Credit: 2024 Bozack et al.

“[…] our findings support the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment, particularly essential and non-essential metals, affect epigenetic aging biomarkers across the life course.”

BUFFALO, NY- March 12, 2024 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 16, Issue 4, entitled, “Associations of prenatal one-carbon metabolism nutrients and metals with epigenetic aging biomarkers at birth and in childhood in a US cohort.”

Epigenetic gestational age acceleration (EGAA) at birth and epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) in childhood may be biomarkers of the intrauterine environment. In this new study, researchers Anne K. Bozack, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Robert O. Wright, Diane R. Gold, Emily Oken, Marie-France Hivert, and Andres Cardenas from Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Columbia University, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai investigated the extent to which first-trimester folate, B12, 5 essential and 7 non-essential metals in maternal circulation are associated with EGAA and EAA in early life. 

“[…] we hypothesized that OCM [one-carbon metabolism] nutrients and essential metals would be positively associated with EGAA and non-essential metals would be negatively associated with EGAA. We also investigated nonlinear associations and associations with mixtures of micronutrients and metals.”

Bohlin EGAA and Horvath pan-tissue and skin and blood EAA were calculated using DNA methylation measured in cord blood (N=351) and mid-childhood blood (N=326; median age = 7.7 years) in the Project Viva pre-birth cohort. A one standard deviation increase in individual essential metals (copper, manganese, and zinc) was associated with 0.94-1.2 weeks lower Horvath EAA at birth, and patterns of exposures identified by exploratory factor analysis suggested that a common source of essential metals was associated with Horvath EAA. The researchers also observed evidence of nonlinear associations of zinc with Bohlin EGAA, magnesium and lead with Horvath EAA, and cesium with skin and blood EAA at birth. Overall, associations at birth did not persist in mid-childhood; however, arsenic was associated with greater EAA at birth and in childhood. 

“Prenatal metals, including essential metals and arsenic, are associated with epigenetic aging in early life, which might be associated with future health.”


Read the full paper: DOI: 

Corresponding Author: Andres Cardenas

Corresponding Email: 

Keywords: epigenetic age acceleration, metals, folate, B12, prenatal exposures

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About Aging:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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A beginner’s guide to the taxes you’ll hear about this election season

Everything you need to know about income tax, national insurance and more.

Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock

National insurance, income tax, VAT, capital gains tax, inheritance tax… it’s easy to get confused about the many different ways we contribute to the cost of running the country. The budget announcement is the key time each year when the government shares its financial plans with us all, and announces changes that may make a tangible difference to what you pay.

But you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about taxes in the coming months – promises to cut or raise them are an easy win (or lose) for politicians in an election year. We may even get at least one “mini-budget”.

If you’ve recently entered the workforce or the housing market, you may still be wrapping your mind around all of these terms. Here is what you need to know about the different types of taxes and how they affect you.

The UK broadly uses three ways to collect tax:

1. When you earn money

If you are an employee or own a business, taxes are deducted from your salary or profits you make. For most people, this happens in two ways: income tax, and national insurance contributions (or NICs).

If you are self-employed, you will have to pay your taxes via an annual tax return assessment. You might also have to pay taxes this way for interest you earn on savings, dividends (distribution of profits from a company or shares you own) received and most other forms of income not taxed before you get it.

Around two-thirds of taxes collected come from people’s or business’ incomes in the UK.

2. When you spend money

VAT and excise duties are taxes on most goods and services you buy, with some exceptions like books and children’s clothing. About 20% of the total tax collected is VAT.

3. Taxes on wealth and assets

These are mainly taxes on the money you earn if you sell assets (like property or stocks) for more than you bought them for, or when you pass on assets in an inheritance. In the latter case in the UK, the recipient doesn’t pay this, it is the estate paying it out that must cover this if due. These taxes contribute only about 3% to the total tax collected.

You also likely have to pay council tax, which is set by the council you live in based on the value of your house or flat. It is paid by the user of the property, no matter if you own or rent. If you are a full-time student or on some apprenticeship schemes, you may get a deduction or not have to pay council tax at all.

Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

If you get your financial advice on social media, watch out for misinformation

Future graduates will pay more in student loan repayments – and the poorest will be worst affected

Selling on Vinted, Etsy or eBay? Here’s what you need to know about paying tax

Put together, these totalled almost £790 billion in 2022-23, which the government spends on public services such as the NHS, schools and social care. The government collects taxes from all sources and sets its spending plans accordingly, borrowing to make up any difference between the two.

Income tax

The amount of income tax you pay is determined by where your income sits in a series of “bands” set by the government. Almost everyone is entitled to a “personal allowance”, currently £12,570, which you can earn without needing to pay any income tax.

You then pay 20% in tax on each pound of income you earn (across all sources) from £12,570-£50,270. You pay 40% on each extra pound up to £125,140 and 45% over this. If you earn more than £100,000, the personal allowance (amount of untaxed income) starts to decrease.

If you are self-employed, the same rates apply to you. You just don’t have an employer to take this off your salary each month. Instead, you have to make sure you have enough money at the end of the year to pay this directly to the government.

Read more: Taxes aren't just about money – they shape how we think about each other

The government can increase the threshold limits to adjust for inflation. This tries to ensure any wage rise you get in response to higher prices doesn’t lead to you having to pay a higher tax rate. However, the government announced in 2021 that they would freeze these thresholds until 2026 (extended now to 2028), arguing that it would help repay the costs of the pandemic.

Given wages are now rising for many to help with the cost of living crisis, this means many people will pay more income tax this coming year than they did before. This is sometimes referred to as “fiscal drag” – where lower earners are “dragged” into paying higher tax rates, or being taxed on more of their income.

National insurance

National insurance contributions (NICs) are a second “tax” you pay on your income – or to be precise, on your earned income (your salary). You don’t pay this on some forms of income, including savings or dividends, and you also don’t pay it once you reach state retirement age (currently 66).

While Jeremy Hunt, the current chancellor of the exchequer, didn’t adjust income tax meaningfully in this year’s budget, he did announce a cut to NICs. This was a surprise to many, as we had already seen rates fall from 12% to 10% on incomes higher than £242/week in January. It will now fall again to 8% from April.

Read more: Budget 2024: experts explain what it means for taxpayers, businesses, borrowers and the NHS

While this is charged separately to income tax, in reality it all just goes into one pot with other taxes. Some, including the chancellor, say it is time to merge these two deductions and make this simpler for everyone. In his budget speech this year, Hunt said he’d like to see this tax go entirely. He thinks this isn’t fair on those who have to pay it, as it is only charged on some forms of income and on some workers.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for this to happen however, and even if it did, there are huge sums linked to NICs (nearly £180bn last year) so it would almost certainly have to be collected from elsewhere (such as via an increase in income taxes, or a lot more borrowing) to make sure the government could still balance its books.

A young black man sits at a home office desk with his feet up, looking at a mobile phone
Do you know how much tax you pay? Alex from the Rock/Shutterstock

Other taxes

There are likely to be further tweaks to the UK’s tax system soon, perhaps by the current government before the election – and almost certainly if there is a change of government.

Wealth taxes may be in line for a change. In the budget, the chancellor reduced capital gains taxes on sales of assets such as second properties (from 28% to 24%). These types of taxes provide only a limited amount of money to the government, as quite high thresholds apply for inheritance tax (up to £1 million if you are passing on a family home).

There are calls from many quarters though to look again at these types of taxes. Wealth inequality (the differences between total wealth held by the richest compared to the poorest) in the UK is very high (much higher than income inequality) and rising.

But how to do this effectively is a matter of much debate. A recent study suggested a one-off tax on total wealth held over a certain threshold might work. But wealth taxes are challenging to make work in practice, and both main political parties have already said this isn’t an option they are considering currently.

Andy Lymer and his colleagues at the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University currently or have recently received funding for their research work from a variety of funding bodies including the UK's Money and Pension Service, the Aviva Foundation, Fair4All Finance, NEST Insight, the Gambling Commission, Vivid Housing and the ESRC, amongst others.

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