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Instead there were positive measures for dealers, such as the reduction of business taxes and VAT reform, but inevitably, the percentage rise in national insurance contributions raised concern.

The rise in employer contributions is unlikely to affect many dealers, but the big auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams, could have done without the increase at a time when profit margins are slim.

These firms will benefit from the reduction of the basic rate of corporation tax from 20p to 19p, as will larger dealers. The proposed reduction in capital gains tax is a welcome prospect, although it is not clear whether this will be restricted to limited companies or will include the majority of dealers.

The tax will be reduced from 35 to 20 per cent on stock held for more than one year, and to 10 per cent after two years.

Postive measures on VAT include the abolition of automatic fines for late payment and an option to make payments on an annual rather than quarterly basis.