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UK might not have room for 'very big tax cuts' in March budget, says Hunt

FILE PHOTO: British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt speaks at the Resolution Foundation

LONDON (Reuters) -British finance minister Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday he did not expect the government to have the same kind of capacity to cut taxes during its upcoming budget in March as it did during the last budget update in November.

Hunt cut payroll taxes and made permanent a tax break for business investment during the autumn budget update in November, but suggested in an interview with ITV he might not be able to deliver cuts on a similar scale for the March 6 spring budget.

"We go through a process ahead of every budget... where you don't actually know the final numbers until a couple of weeks before, and we're still in the middle of that process," Hunt said.

"As things stand at the moment — things can change — it doesn't look like I'll have the kind of room that I had for those very big tax cuts in the autumn," he said.

With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservatives trailing the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls ahead of an election expected later this year, Hunt has hinted repeatedly in recent weeks that he would like to cut taxes further in order to grow the economy.

The government wants to continue cutting taxes where it is affordable, Sunak's spokeswoman said earlier this week.

Hunt stressed on Wednesday, however, that no final decisions on tax cuts had been taken.

"I can absolutely tell you, truthfully no decisions have been made. The prime minister and I are in the very early stages of our discussions on these topics," he told ITV.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday warned Britain's government not to cut taxes due to high levels of public debt and growing demands on services.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)