All 15 contributions to the Finance Act 2020 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Mon 27th Apr 2020
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution & 2nd reading & Ways and Means resolution & Programme motion
Tue 19th May 2020
Finance Bill (Ways and Means)
Commons Chamber

Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution
Thu 4th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 1st sitting & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Thu 4th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Second sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 2nd sitting & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Third sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 3rd sitting & Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Fourth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 4th sitting & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 11th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Sixth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 6th sitting & Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 11th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Fifth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 5th sitting & Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Seventh sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 7th sitting & Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Eighth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 8th sitting & Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 18th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Ninth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 9th sitting & Committee Debate: 9th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 18th Jun 2020
Finance Bill (Tenth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 10th sitting & Committee Debate: 10th sitting: House of Commons
Wed 1st Jul 2020
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage: House of Commons & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Report stage
Thu 2nd Jul 2020
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting & Report: 2nd sitting & Report: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Fri 17th Jul 2020
Finance Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & Committee negatived & 2nd reading (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee negatived (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords

Finance Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution
Monday 27th April 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I congratulate the new shadow Chancellor and her shadow Treasury team on their appointments. Six weeks ago, on 11 March, this House assembled to hear my right hon. Friend the Chancellor deliver his Budget speech. How long ago that seems now when every day feels like a decade. A Budget statement is a central part of our democracy; indeed, it is at the very heart of a parliamentary tradition of accountability for taxation that goes back to the 13th century. It is deeply sobering to reflect that that 11 March moment might be the last great parliamentary occasion we have in this Chamber for some time to come.

Truly, we know better now. We live in a disenchanted world, a world of self-isolation, of social distancing, of shielding, of lockdown. In the Treasury and across Government as a whole we have worked around the clock since then to respond to the extraordinary challenges posed by the coronavirus to people’s lives and livelihoods. The same has been true in this Palace of Westminster. I know that I speak for all my colleagues in saying that I have the greatest respect for the work that you, Mr Speaker, and so many others, including parliamentarians across this House, have done to prevent covid-19 from becoming a threat to our democracy itself. I pay special tribute to all the Clerks and staff of this House of Commons and of the Palace of Westminster for working so quickly and creatively to adapt to this new reality and for their skill in drawing on the flexibility and resilience of our uncodified constitution to create a virtual Parliament.

When this Chamber was bombed and destroyed on the night of Saturday 10 May 1941, with the fires raging, the roof fallen in and the Lobbies and corridors gutted, it was decided that the Commons should sit immediately in Church House. Extraordinary measures were undertaken at great speed to transfer proceedings to the new location. The Commons rarely sat on Mondays, so it duly reconvened in the normal way on Tuesday 13 May, but it did so in Church House. There were oral questions to the Secretary of State for War, including on officers’ outfits and the collection of swill and vegetable waste from military units, followed by a full Order Paper of business and, at the end, a short statement from the Prime Minister in which he reported that the old Chamber was damaged beyond immediate repair and that preparations were already under way for a move to a further location, if that should be necessary. Thus the biggest and the worst raid of the blitz resulted in the loss of not one single day—indeed, not one single minute—of sitting time for Parliament. It is a moment of which this country can be intensely proud.

Why so much determination and so much speed? It was so that, as Churchill said:

“hon. Members may be reassured that the work of our Parliamentary institutions will not be interrupted by enemy action”.—[Official Report, 13 May 1941; Vol. 371, c. 1086.]

It was so British democracy should not be thought to have been destroyed amid the burning ruins of the Commons Chamber, and so that the great thread of public scrutiny and parliamentary accountability that gives legitimacy and authority to our Government should not be broken. So it is again today, Mr Speaker. For that, we are, and we will always be, profoundly grateful. I hope that we shall soon return to the close combat of political business, whether that be the intimate interrogation of the Chamber, the camaraderie of the Lobbies or the noise and clamour of a full House packed to the rafters with MPs, press and public looking on, all fully intent on our national political business; the House of Commons as the cockpit of the nation.

Here again, history can be our guide. When the Chamber was rebuilt, special care was taken to make it, as it had been, too small for the number of Members. That was at the specific insistence of Churchill. In his words, the essence of good House of Commons speaking is the “conversational style”. This requires a

“fairly small space, and there should be on great occasions a sense of crowd and urgency…a sense that great matters are being decided, there and then, by the House”.

Not for Churchill the vast, empty hall of Deputies, the amphitheatre, or what he called “Harangues from a rostrum”. Without that collective sense of crowd and urgency and the ever-shifting energy of the House in action, we lose something vital.

Mr Speaker, I ask you this: can we not also gain from this great virtual experiment? Through new forms of questioning and calmer, more dispassionate cross-examination of Government, may we not find glimmers of new possibility amid the present gloom? I believe that we can. The significance of today’s debate lies not just in this Finance Bill, important though it is; it marks a new legislative beginning for Parliament. As we go forward together, I hope that we in this House can restore not merely our old ways, but what was best in them, and use this moment to add, to develop, to reform and to make them better still.

When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor addressed the House on 11 March, he announced a Budget focused on delivering the Government’s manifesto commitments from the general election last year. He did not only that; he also set out and carefully explained the reasons for a very ambitious and wide-ranging set of measures designed to tackle the coronavirus head-on, to buttress our frontline services and to support people, families and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Since then the Government have gone much further still. Indeed, we have announced what we believe to be the most comprehensive and far-reaching economic response to covid-19 in the developed world, and Ministers and public servants across Government have worked to deliver it. Among its many different packages, that response includes a job retention scheme, which guarantees 80% of the wages of furloughed workers, and which has been conceived, developed and launched by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in just a few weeks.

Alongside the job retention scheme is a similarly generous scheme aimed at supporting the self-employed for 80% of taxable trading profits up to £50,000. This covers some 95% of those who are mainly self-employed, including cleaners, taxi drivers, plumbers, musicians, journalists, electricians, childminders and many others. Businesses can also benefit from more than £300 billion-worth of Government-backed loans, numerous tax cuts and grants, with a business rates holiday for the worst-affected sectors of the economy. There has also been a further package of measures aimed at the charitable sector.

These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times. The impact of the coronavirus falls not only on businesses, but directly on the well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, whom the Government are determined to protect. For that reason, the Government have raised by £1,000 the universal credit standard allowance and working tax credit basic element for a year. Almost a billion pounds has been allocated so that the local housing allowance can cover at least 30% of market rent, and the Government have offered vouchers or meals at home for children who would otherwise be eligible for free school meals.

This Bill goes beyond the immediate response to covid-19 by delivering the Government’s manifesto commitment to make the tax system fairer and more proportionate. For example, care leavers who start apprenticeships will pay no income tax on bursary payments that they receive. I am delighted to say to recipients of payments under the Windrush compensation scheme and the troubles permanent disablement payment scheme that those payments will be exempt from income, inheritance and capital gains tax, and inheritance tax will not be collected on Kindertransport fund payments.

Taxes are rarely popular or straightforward, but they are necessary to support our public services. Now, more than ever, the Government have a duty to ensure that the rules are applied correctly. Last month, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced that, in the light of covid-19, the Government will delay the introduction of reforms to the off-payroll working rules in order to give businesses more time to adapt. However, he was clear that the Government remain fully committed to introducing these reforms to ensure that people working like employees but through their own limited companies pay broadly the same tax as individuals who are employed directly. That has not changed, and the Government will introduce an amendment to the Bill in due course to legislate for a new commencement date of 6 April 2021. The Government will use the additional time to commission further external research into the long-term effects of the reforms in the public sector, with the intention that that research will be available before the reforms come into effect in the private sector in April 2021.

Meanwhile, this Bill implements the recommendations of Sir Amyas Morse’s independent review of the loan charge. It will mean that the loan charge no longer applies to loans entered into before 9 December 2010, which is the point at which Sir Amyas found that the law put beyond doubt the fact that disguised remuneration schemes were a form of tax avoidance. The Bill also brings forward legislation to repay taxpayers who voluntarily settled for years that are no longer in scope, while those still able to pay will be able to spread their loan balance over three tax years to suit their finances.

The Budget also included changes to help businesses to prosper for years to come. This Bill will implement the Government’s manifesto commitment to increase the research and development expenditure credit rates from 12% to 13% in order to help drive growth and productivity across the UK, and to continue to support this country’s proud history of innovation. It also raises the structures and buildings allowance rate from 2% to 3%, which should help to stimulate long-term capital investment in the United Kingdom by strengthening the business case for investment in shops, factories and agricultural buildings. Those changes apply nationwide, underlining the fact that, even in these times of uncertainty, the Government are seeking to level up investment and opportunity right across the whole United Kingdom.

The Government have made successive cuts to the rate of corporation tax since 2010 and we now have the lowest headline rate in the G20. That has helped to create a corporate tax system that supports British businesses, boosts economic growth and strengthens the UK’s pull for inward investment.

However, the extra benefits of lowering corporation tax rates still further must be balanced against other objectives, such as funding the NHS and the public services on which we all rely. That is why the Chancellor announced that the Government will not cut the corporation tax rate further this year, but instead will maintain it at 19%, in line with their manifesto commitment.

Likewise, while the Government are committed to encouraging entrepreneurial activity, the evidence indicates that entrepreneurs’ relief in its current form is neither effective in stimulating new business growth nor good value for money. By reducing the lifetime limit from £10 million to £1 million, we are returning the relief to its original purpose while continuing to promote and reward enterprise.

Finally, following an extensive period of consultation, the Bill will implement the digital services tax. Digital businesses providing search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces derive significant value from their UK users, but current international corporate tax rules mean that that value is not reflected in the level of UK tax they pay. Setting a tax on revenues from those digital services at a rate of 2% will make the system fairer and should raise up to £2 billion over the next five years, but the Government’s ultimate goal is to secure a long-term global solution. We are working with international partners through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to agree a way forward.

Covid-19 is the most pressing challenge for the country—and, indeed, the world—at the moment, but it is by no means the only one. Notwithstanding our intense focus on tackling the pandemic, the Government have not lost sight of longer-term public concerns, notably the need for the UK to move to a greener and more sustainable economy in the years ahead. Now that we have left the European Union and as we prepare to leave the EU emissions trading system, this Bill introduces legislation for both a charging power to create a UK emissions trading system, and a carbon emissions tax.

This twin-track approach is designed to ensure that, whatever the circumstances, the UK will have an effective carbon pricing regime in place. In the Budget, the Chancellor also revealed key elements of the plastic packaging tax, which should significantly increase the use of recycled materials in packaging. This Bill allows preparatory spending ahead of its introduction.

The Bill will also encourage the uptake of zero-emission vehicles by removing them from the vehicle excise duty expensive car supplement, which will mean that employers and employees pay no tax on zero-emission company cars in 2020-21. The United Kingdom has led the world in introducing legally binding carbon emissions reduction targets; these measures underline once again how serious the Government are about meeting those targets.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it quite clear that we will do what it takes to support our public services and key workers as they respond to this pandemic, and to safeguard jobs and businesses so that our economy can bounce back as quickly as possible. Yet we must also look to the future. The advent of a virtual Parliament is a chance to chart new territory, and this Bill is a first step on that journey.

The Bill also redeems the manifesto promises of the last election. It points the way to a fairer tax system and a greener and more sustainable future. With the support of Members from across the House, and as we look beyond lockdown, it gives us all an opportunity to cement the United Kingdom’s place as one of the most innovative, exciting and enterprising nations in the world. For all those reasons, I commend this Bill to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Anneliese Dodds, who is asked to speak for no more than 15 minutes.

--- Later in debate ---
John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen)
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It is a privilege to close this debate on behalf of the Government. This is my first opportunity to congratulate the newly appointed shadow Treasury team and to welcome the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) to the Dispatch Box. I also welcome the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds)—I spent a lot of time with her in Committee debating Brexit matters before Christmas—to her role and welcome the constructive tone that she took in opening this debate.

In last month’s Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor initiated a coherent, co-ordinated and comprehensive economic response to the challenges of covid-19. As the shocking impact of the virus around the globe has become more apparent, the Chancellor has announced further unprecedented packages of support, doing so most recently this afternoon, with the new bounce-back loan scheme and refinements to make the CBIL scheme more accessible—points that I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) will welcome, given what they said in their speeches. Such measures may not be to the taste of true free marketeers such as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), or even my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), but when they and my hon. Friends the Members for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) and for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley) welcome them, we know that such measures must be necessary.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) was among those who argued that we should invest in public services to protect frontline services—and we are. The Government have allocated more than £14 billion from the covid response fund to go towards public services, including the NHS and local authorities.

I recognise that some sectors of our economy are experiencing enormous disruption. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) highlighted the challenges faced by the aviation sector, which is of course eligible for the coronavirus jobs retention scheme, under which the Government will pay up to 80% of staff wages up to £2,500 a month. We have offered support to households, too, by increasing the universal credit allowance by £1,000; providing meals or vouchers for eligible home-schooled children in place of free school meals; and making nearly £1 billion extra available for local housing allowance.

I acknowledge that the task is by no means complete. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) eloquently argued, our wellbeing and our economy are not in competition. The Government will do whatever it takes to safeguard people’s health and livelihoods as the situation develops. We will continue to back NHS workers and those who support them on the frontline—for example, by exempting from vehicle excise duty medical courier vehicles that transport medical products and by reforming the tapered allowance so that doctors can spend more time treating patients without facing a higher tax burden.

As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire reminded us with his reference to the 93-year wait for a bypass in his constituency, the Bill also delivers on commitments made to the British people at the general election in December. It is vital that these measures are not delayed. The Bill furthers the Government’s ambition to unleash the potential of our economy by increasing the credit rate for research and development expenditure credit and for the structures and buildings allowance—measures welcomed by my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti), for Stourbridge (Suzanne Webb) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates).

The digital services tax will improve the fairness and sustainability of our tax system by ensuring that digital businesses that access the UK market make a fair contribution to the Exchequer. It is anticipated to collect £2 billion in revenue. I welcome the support expressed from all parts of the House for the concept of a digital services tax, and thank the Chair of the Treasury Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), for his remarks on the subject. I acknowledge the work that he did on the matter while in government. I also note his reference to the need for better data on the loans scheme; the Government will address that and his letter will be responded to shortly.

The Bill reduces the tax burden on some of the most vulnerable and deserving members of our society, including the Windrush generation and victims of the troubles, for whom compensation will no longer be subject to income, inheritance or capital gains taxes. Kindertransport payments made by the German Government will no longer be subject to inheritance tax either.

This Bill helps in the Government’s efforts to move towards a greener and more sustainable economy, as mentioned by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), and confirms that the CO2 emissions figures for vehicle excise duty will be based on the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure for all new registered cars from 1 April 2020. In addition, zero-emission cars will no longer be subjected to the VED expensive car supplement. These measures will help to ensure that, as our economy develops and grows, it does not jeopardise our environment. I know that many of these measures will attract widespread support across the House. I thank Opposition Members for the constructive and collegiate approach that they have taken over the past few weeks. In that spirit, let me address some of the valuable points raised further in today’s debate.

The shadow Chancellor raised a number of important issues, including tax avoidance, which was also raised by the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar). This is a priority for the Government, and in last month’s Budget the Chancellor announced further measures, including legislation to strengthen HMRC’s existing anti-avoidance powers. The Government also plan to issue a call for evidence on the next steps to reduce or end the use of disguised remuneration schemes.

The shadow Chancellor also touched on the subject of entrepreneurs’ relief, a point echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose). Most of the cost of this relief previously came from those making gains over £1 million. With such extreme gains now ineligible for this relief, we can ensure that the support is targeted where it was intended: at small businesses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) raised the prospect of a unified income tax and national insurance regime. The Government are indeed committed to a tax system that is simple and easy to use, which is why we created the Office of Tax Simplification in 2010 and put it on a permanent statutory basis in 2016. We have implemented more than half of the 400 recommendations that the OTS has made to date.

Tonight, this House once again has the opportunity to come together in the national interest. This Bill gives us the tools we need to mitigate the worst effects of the virus today, but it also lays the foundations that will allow our economy to return to strength in the months and years ahead. This is a Bill that will ensure that we truly have a 21st-century tax system: one that is not only competitive but fair and sustainable—a Bill that will help to deliver our commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050, positioning the United Kingdom at the forefront of clean and sustainable future growth; a Bill that will help Britain to bounce back, levelling up investment and opportunity and putting in place the pro-enterprise policies that will ensure that this country remains one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, a point made very eloquently in an informed speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne).

Through the action that the Government have taken, and with the support of the whole House, we will defeat this virus. We have heard speeches from the Shetlands to Central Devon, and from many constituencies in between. Everyone is committed to ensuring that the Government do everything they can to relieve the distress that our nation is now enduring. We will shepherd our country safely through this period of uncertainty and disruption. The United Kingdom will emerge from this crisis stronger, more resilient and more united than before. For all these reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I, too, would like to associate myself with the comments of the shadow Minister in thanking all those who have made today’s proceedings work so smoothly. Thank you very much.

Finance Bill (Ways and Means)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Notices of Amendments as at 18 May 2020 - (19 May 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision taking effect in a future year may be made amending Chapters 8 and 10 of Part 2 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003.

This ways and means motion enables the Government to amend the current Finance Bill in order to implement reforms to the existing off-payroll working rules. We are presenting it separately because we wanted to extend the date at which it comes into force by one year to April 2021 in recognition of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The off-payroll working rules have been in place for 20 years. They are designed to ensure that people working like employees but through their own companies pay broadly the same income tax and national insurance contributions as people who are directly employed.

In April 2017, the Government reformed the way in which the rules operate in the public sector by transferring the responsibility for determining whether the rules apply from individual contractors to the public bodies that engage them. Unfortunately, in the private sector, non-compliance with these rules remains widespread, and it is forecast to cost the Exchequer over £1.3 billion a year by 2023-24 if not addressed. This is not a sustainable position. It costs the taxpayer a great deal of revenue that is needed for our public services, it perpetuates an unfairness between individuals working in the same way but paying different levels of tax, and it prolongs the disparity with the public sector, where the rules have been in place now for three years.

At Budget 2018, the Government announced that the reform would be extended to medium and large-sized organisations in the private and voluntary sectors, but it would not apply to engagements with the 1.5 million smallest businesses. It is important to be clear that this is not a new tax. The off-payroll working rules have been on the statute book since 2000. This reform is focused on improving on improving compliance with the rules that are already in place.

Let me turn to the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) the hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden. I understand that it will not be moved today, but it is important to be clear about the Government’s position on it. To help businesses and individuals deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus, on 17 March the Government announced that the reform to the off-payroll working rules would be delayed by one year from 6 April 2020 until 6 April 2021. The amendment would delay the introduction of reform by a further two years to April 2023, but it is hard to see any genuine rationale for this further delay.

The current measure was first introduced at Budget 2018. Since then, the Government have carried out two consultations on the detail of the reform. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has worked extensively to support businesses in preparing for the change. Draft legislation and guidance has been published. There was a further review earlier this year that resulted in several additional improvements. By delaying until 2021, the Government have already ensured that businesses and contractors will not need to make final preparations for this reform until next year. There is therefore no need for further delay. Moreover, such a delay would have very significant drawbacks. It would not address the intrinsic unfairness of taxing two people differently for the same work, it would extend the disparity between the private and public sectors, and it would come at a significant fiscal cost that other taxpayers up and down the country would have to make up.

I turn now to the substance of the measure. I want to address a number of further concerns that have been pressed by colleagues, including, in particular, my hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller), for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) and for Watford (Dean Russell). The first of these is that organisations will no longer engage with personal service companies as a result of this reform, reducing the number of contracts available in the labour market. It is important to recognise that the Government are fully aware of the importance of the flexibility for individuals and businesses to agree working arrangements that suit their needs. We know that that has been one of the pillars of the success of the UK labour market in recent years.

In 2017, soon after the implementation of the public sector off-payroll working reform, the Government commissioned independent research to assess its effect on the labour market. It found that the Government and independent researchers had not seen any evidence of an overall change in the demand for the services and skills of contractors.

Some organisations have clearly decided to change the balance of their employees and their contractors. That can be for many reasons—for example, where that better suits the evolving business model of that organisation—but many organisations will still choose to engage contractors using personal service companies where that is appropriate to their business.

Nevertheless, the Government remain keen to ensure the long-term flexibility and success of the labour market. We will therefore use the additional time given by this one-year delay to commission further independent and robust research into the long-term effects of the 2017 reform on the public sector. We want that research to be available before the reform comes into effect in other sectors in April 2021, and I can tell the House that the Government will give careful consideration to the results of that further research and thereafter will continue to monitor the effect of the reform on the labour markets of those sectors, including by commissioning independent research six months after this private and voluntary sector reform has taken effect.

Secondly, colleagues have concerns that organisations might take a blanket approach to status determinations, categorising all engagements as employment, regardless of the facts. The Government have been very clear that determinations must be based on an individual’s contractual terms and actual working arrangements. Many businesses and public sector organisations have described processes that they have put in place to ensure that determinations are correct, based on the actual working practices of the individuals concerned. There is a vigorous contractor lobby, which has also shown itself willing and able to highlight cases where it feels that the rules are not being followed. The reforms themselves include a client-led status disagreement process, where contractors can lodge a complaint if they disagree with how they have been categorised.

Thirdly, HMRC is continuing to help businesses to get their employment status determinations right by ensuring that they have access to a wide programme of education and support. The independent research that we are announcing post-implementation next year will also evaluate from an external perspective whether decisions are being made properly.

Finally, HMRC has committed to a light-touch approach to penalties in the first year of the reform and has stated in terms that the reform will not result in new compliance checks being opened into previous tax years unless there is reason to suppose or suspect fraud or criminal behaviour, and the same is true for penalties for inaccuracies.

The Government very much value the important role that contractors play in the labour market and want businesses to be able to design their workforces in a way that makes sense for them. That should not mean, however, that contractors pay less tax than employees where their engagement meets the test of an employment relationship. The legislation is designed to remedy that unfairness and to support the tax base needed to fund our public services, and I commend it to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I now call Dan Carden, shadow Minister, who is asked to speak for no more than five minutes.

--- Later in debate ---
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all Members who have contributed to this brief but very lively debate. I thank the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) and the Labour party for their support for this measure and their agreement not merely to the substance of the proposal but to the need for a delay. I think that is absolutely right. They should be congratulated on their bipartisan approach to this important public issue. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Taylor review, which was picked up by several other Members. The Government whole- heartedly agree: the Taylor review made 53 recommendations, the vast majority of which we accepted, and several have already been put in place.

I covered the question of a delay in my speech. I encourage all Members who would like a further delay to reflect on the points that I made about the intrinsic unfairness of taxing two people differently for the same work, the disparity that it would continue between the private and public sectors, and the significant fiscal cost that would be involved in doing so.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) spoke of a review. She should be perfectly clear that I have at no point discussed a further review. We had a review earlier this year, contrary to what the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) said. It was a perfectly good-faith discharge of a commitment made during the general election. It involved a wide range of parties discussing how the reforms could be effectively implemented, and several important changes were made as a result of it. Of course, it followed two processes of consultation, draft legislation and a full pre-legislative history.

We are not talking about a further review. We are talking about two pieces of research. The first, later in the year to come before April 2021, will look at the long-term effects on the public sector. It is entirely appropriate to look at the public sector reform, because that is the major case in which the reform has been put in place, and it has led to a significant improvement in the fiscal position relative to those involved and that is all to the good from the taxpayer standpoint. The second piece of research, which I mentioned earlier, will come at the end, after the reform has been introduced. It will be an early take on the effects on the private sector in the first six to 12 months of its introduction.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) raised the issue of whether we could not go further. The Government have gone much, much further. We have essentially had three Budgets already this year, given the astonishing measures that have been taken by the Treasury and across Government to support businesses, people and families during the coronavirus crisis. This resolution and the Finance Bill are designed to bring into law the Budget that we had in March, and that is what they do.

Finally, I remind the House that the measure will not merely improve the fairness and equity of the system, but allow us to fund our public services better—the services on which all of us, across parties and across the country, deeply rely.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I announced to the House earlier this afternoon the provisional determination that a remote Division would not take place on the Question now before the House. That is also Mr Speaker’s final determination.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision taking effect in a future year may be made amending Chapters 8 and 10 of Part 2 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003.

Finance Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 4th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 4 June 2020 - (4 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 5, in clause 2, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

“(2) The Government must lay before Parliament a review of the impact of the rates of income tax for 2020-21 within six months of Royal Assent, which must consider the following issues—

(a) the effect on taxation revenue of maintaining income tax rates for 2020-2021; and

(b) the effect of income tax rates for 2020-2021 on annual income for the following:

(i) Households below average income, and

(ii) High-net worth individuals as defined by HMRC.”

This amendment would require the Government to assess the impact of the income tax rates in the Bill on tax revenues and on households and individuals of different income levels.

Clauses 2 to 4 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh. I welcome all colleagues and thank them very much for their commitment to this important Bill and this important process. Ms McDonagh, you and our colleagues will be aware that we are scheduled to have seven sets of sittings to give every aspect of the Bill thorough examination. It will be a pleasure to serve on this Bill Committee with colleagues under your chairmanship. It is my first Bill as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I hope it will not be my last.

Let me begin by speaking to clauses 1 to 4, which legislate for income tax—the main default and savings rates of income tax, and the starting rate for savings for 2020-21. I shall also speak to amendment 5 to clause 2, tabled by the Labour party.

Clause 1 legislates for the income tax charge for this year, 2020-21. Income tax, as the Committee knows, is one of the most important streams of revenue for the Government, raising more than £190 billion in 2018-19. The clause is put into legislation annually in the Finance Bill. It is essential, because it allows income tax to be collected, so that it can fund the vital public services on which we all rely.

Clauses 2 and 3 set the main default and savings rates of income tax for 2020-21. These clauses, too, are put into legislation annually in the Finance Bill. Clause 2 ensures that for England and Northern Ireland, the main rates of income tax continue to be 20% for the basic rate, 40% for the higher rate and 45% for the additional rate. Clause 3 sets the basic, higher and additional rates of default and savings rates of income tax at 20%, 40% and 45% respectively for the whole of the UK.

I want to consider Labour’s amendment 5 to clause 2, which is in the name of the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South. It would require the Government to review the impact of 2020-21 income tax rates on tax revenues, and both on households with below average incomes, and on high net worth individuals, as defined by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. As the Committee will be aware, the Government already publish comprehensive assessments of income tax rates. In our judgment, the proposed additional review is therefore not necessary.

On revenue impacts, the Office for Budget Responsibility publishes tax revenue forecasts at every fiscal event, and did so most recently at Budget 2020. The Government’s tax information and impact note published in October 2018 provides a clear explanation of the tax impact on the Exchequer and the economy of maintaining the personal allowance and higher rate threshold for 2020-21. On distributional impacts, the Government publish a distributional analysis of the cumulative impact of Government policy at each fiscal event, and did so most recently at Budget 2020. HMRC’s annual income tax liabilities statistics publication provides breakdowns of the number of income tax payers and income tax liabilities across multiple characteristics, including by income source and by tax band. All those publications are in the public domain on gov.uk. Amendment 5 would do little to provide meaningful additional analysis that goes beyond the Government’s existing comprehensive publications, and I ask the Committee to reject it if it is brought to a vote.

Clause 4 maintains the starting rate limit for savings income at its current level of £5,000 for the 2020-21 tax year. As members of the Committee will be aware, the starting rate for savings applies to the taxable savings income of individuals with low earned incomes. The Government made significant changes to the starting rate for savings in 2015, lowering the rate from 10% to 0%, and also extended the band to which the rate applies from £2,880 to £5,000. The changes made by clause 4 will maintain the starting rate limit for savings at its current level of £5,000 for the 2020-21 tax year. The limit is being maintained at that level to reflect the significant reforms made to support savers over the last few years. That support is provided by the Government across the UK, for those at all stages of life and at all income levels. As a result of the support, about 95% of savers pay no tax at all on their savings income.

The decision in 2015 to increase the starting rate for savings by more than 75% has done much to support savers on low incomes. Since then, savers have been further supported by the introduction of the personal savings allowance, which offers up to £1,000 of tax-free savings income for basic rate taxpayers. This will remove an estimated 18 million taxpayers from paying tax on their savings income in 2020-21. In April 2017, the annual ISA—individual savings account—allowance was increased by the largest ever amount, to £20,000.

As a result of the combination of the personal savings allowance and the starting rate for savings, some savers can receive up to £6,000 of savings income outside an ISA completely tax-free. Most savers will of course also benefit from the tax-free personal allowance, which is set at £12,500.

The Government also support our nation’s youngest savers. To encourage those with children and grandchildren to save, the junior ISA and child trust fund allowance increased by more than double, to £9,000, from April 2020. Child trust funds will start to mature from September of this year, and the increase will provide an opportunity to boost the amount that children will have when their accounts mature.

Finally, I should mention the support that the Government offer those on the lowest incomes who wish to save through the Help to Save scheme. Help to Save provides savers with a 50% bonus on their savings—a perfect example of what the Government’s commitment to levelling up opportunity across the whole country can offer. I encourage Committee members to do what they can to promote the scheme to their constituents.

The Government remain committed to supporting savers of all incomes at all stages of life. Recent reforms, coupled with a significant increase in the starting rate limit in 2015, mean that the taxation arrangements for savings income are very generous. Around 95% of people with savings income, as I have mentioned, will continue to pay no tax on that income next year. The Government therefore do not believe that a further increase in the starting rate for savings is appropriate at this time.

Clauses 1 to 3 ensure that the Government can collect income tax, and set the main default and savings rates for the tax year 2020-21. Clause 4 maintains the starting rate for savings income at its current level of £5,000 for this tax year. I commend the clauses to the Committee, and ask it to reject amendment 5.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, and to welcome other Members to the Committee. I thank the Clerk and all the team in the Public Bill Office for the support that they have provided in recent weeks and will continue to provide as we debate the Bill. Circumstances have been very challenging for staff who have adapted to working remotely. I am grateful for all the discussions and advice that they have been able to offer us. I also extend, via the Minister, our thanks to all the officials in the Treasury who have been working very hard to respond to the crisis that we face. I want to put on the record our thanks for their work, which is often not recognised. Our country’s response to the crisis depends on the work that they undertake on behalf of us all.

I am sure we all accept the importance and necessity of scrutinising the Bill. However, the Opposition find it regrettable that it was not possible to find an alternative arrangement for the Committee stage of the Bill. We hope that the House can resolve the wider issues around protecting those who have shielding responsibilities and making sure that we can all be kept safe at this time. Our proceedings obviously place a great deal of pressure on the staff who are vital to the House’s functioning. Again, I reiterate my thanks to them. We will want to consider certain aspects of the Bill in much greater detail over the coming weeks. I can assure the Minister that we appreciate the pressure that officials are under in responding to the crisis, and that we intend to be responsible in our approach, and will remain focused on our key priorities in the Bill.

Our amendment 5 would require the Government to assess the impact of income taxes in the Bill on tax revenues, and on households and individuals of different income levels. The Government like to tell us that we live in unprecedented times, which is of course true. As such, we need greater scrutiny of policies that may need to be revised in what is clearly becoming an unprecedented economic downturn. The Resolution Foundation estimates that GDP will contract between 10% and 24% owing to the outbreak of covid-19: an economic shock of a kind that has not been seen since the 18th century. Very much is at stake. It is crucial that the Government assess the means by which they generate revenue, given the huge demands facing our public services and economy.

First, we need to know how much revenue we are generating from maintaining income tax rates, in order to determine whether it is enough to meet the demands on our economy and the pressures on public services, as well as the Chancellor’s income support packages. Secondly, we need to better understand its distributional income. Over the past 10 years we have seen large cuts to working age benefits against reductions in direct tax, including a large rise in the tax-free personal allowance. Unsurprisingly, the winners in all this have not been low-income households. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the poor have been disproportionately hit by tax and benefit changes since the Conservatives came to power 10 years ago. The worst-off 10% of households have lost 11% of their income since 2010. When we factor in households with children, that rises to 20%. In contrast, the highest-earning 10% of the population have seen their incomes fall by only 2% in the same period.

In its 2020 Budget analysis, the Resolution Foundation makes it clear that nothing has been done to offset the considerable welfare cuts made by previous Chancellors since 2015. Households in the second net income decile, for example, will eventually be £2,900 a year worse off on average, thanks to the tax and benefit changes announced since 2015, and £900 of that is yet to come; it will result from welfare policies that are still being rolled out. These cuts mean that the incomes of the poorest families have fallen over the last two years, and there is a real risk that child poverty rates will reach record highs by 2024.

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Division 1

Ayes: 5


Labour: 5

Noes: 10


Conservative: 10

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will speak to the amendment and the clause. I would also like to touch on some of the themes raised by the Opposition Front Bench team and by the Scottish National Party, because those important issues need a proper interrogation.

Clause 5 sets the corporation tax main rate for this financial year beginning on 1 April 2020. Clause 6 sets the corporation tax main rate and the annual power to charge corporation tax for the financial year beginning on 1 April 2021. The Government support a competitive corporate tax system that allows UK businesses to flourish, boosts the economy and supports further inward investment in the country. For that reason, the Government have made successive cuts to the headline rate of corporation tax, with the main rate falling from 28% in 2010 to its current rate of 19% in April 2017.

At Spring Budget 2016, the Government announced that they were going to cut the rate further to 17% in April 2020 and legislated to deliver that in the Finance Act 2016. It is important that cuts to the corporation tax rate, and the benefits that they can provide to business growth and investment, are balanced against wider objectives. The Government’s commitment to sustainability in public finances reflects that.

With that balance in mind, the Government announced at the Budget that the corporation tax main rate would remain at 19% in April 2020, rather than being reduced to 17%, and clauses 5 and 6 legislate for that change in rate for this tax year and the next. At the Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that that would raise about £33 billion in additional tax receipts across the forecast period. That will enable the Government to further support the vital public services on which we all rely, including the NHS.

The Government remain committed to supporting investment in innovation through the business tax system. While the corporation tax main rate remains at 19%, the UK continues to offer the lowest headline rate of corporation tax in the G20. The Government also announced a series of generous capital release for business at the Budget, which are being legislated for in the Bill, including an increase in the R&D expenditure credit from 12% to 13% and an increase in the rate of relief for business investment in non-residential structures and buildings from 2% to 3%. The Government have also provided an unprecedented package of support for businesses in response to covid-19, as has been recognised.

Before I turn to amendment 6, I will pick up some of the helpful and interesting themes that the Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople have raised. The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South thanked Treasury officials and the hon. Member for Glasgow Central thanked the Clerks. I echo those thanks. I am sure that they would also join me in thanking the officials at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, who have done an astonishing job in the last few months, especially in response to covid-19.

The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South said that her key priority will be a focus on accountability with an emphasis on responsibility. The hon. Member for Ilford North highlighted that the Labour party is pro-business in a more generous and inclusive sense than had perhaps been understood by regarding business as merely a source of revenue to support public services, which I welcome. I encourage the scrutiny, which I think increases the authority of the power that is being scrutinised, so it is a good thing in general. I welcome them both to what is an evidently responsible and highly competent shadow Front-Bench team.

I have a couple of further points. In relation to equity, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee know that many of those distribution analyses do not include the full welfare and benefit changes but focus on tax changes, which is one reason why it is hard to model them. It is important to be aware, however, that spending on public services was significantly increased in the spending round last summer. On the tax side, something like 29% of income tax is paid by the top 1% of earners.

On the question raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central about the status of women and equalities, which is an issue extremely near the hearts of Government Ministers—[Interruption.] I am delighted to hear the Exchequer Secretary behind me, fresh from her triumph in the urgent question, echo that. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee know that 15.8 million women are in work at the moment, which is a record high that I am delighted about. The wages of the lowest earners have risen by 11% more than inflation over the four years from 2015 to 2019. The poorest 60% of households receive more in public spending than they pay in tax, and the lowest income decile will get more than £4 in benefits and public services for every £1 they pay in tax. It is important to see that those norms of equity and fairness that the Opposition rightly highlight are reflected in policy and shared by Government.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When Ministers are considering these issues in response to the pandemic, may I ask that they look at evidence as it emerges? While the Opposition welcome and have supported the creation of, for example, the furlough scheme, our concern is that we know women are more likely to be furloughed than men and women risk losing their jobs in bigger numbers during the crisis. I welcome the Minister’s comments about understanding the impact on the economy and within different groups, but I urge him to consider this issue as a Treasury priority.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that as we work through this crisis and, as we all hope, come out the other side, there will need to be a more detailed understanding of the implications in data terms, how it has affected different groups and its distributional impacts. We have well-established procedures within existing frameworks, as she will know.

The question was touched on more generally by the hon. Member for Ilford North in relation to corporation tax, but we have a whole procedure of making updates to Parliament and a procedure for forecasting that is now independent, thanks to the decision taken in 2010 to create the Office for Budget Responsibility. That includes a fiscal sustainability report on the overall benefit of measures, which goes to his question about corporation tax revenues. Needless to say, the Government’s support for the NHS is not contingent on the revenues from corporation tax; it goes much deeper than that.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central raised many of these issues. She touched on a question in relation to the Scottish tax system. Of course, it is for the Scottish Government to review the effects of their decisions on income tax and the benefits for which they are responsible. At the same time, they can review their own progress on equality and inequality.

Turning to the hon. Member for Ilford North, I noted with support his inclusive approach towards business. That is very important. He asked about the impact of maintaining the tax rate at 19%. I have indicated that that is estimated to raise several tens of billions over the course of the spending round. What the effect of covid-19 will be on that we do not know, but, as I say, we have processes for evaluating and forecasting on that basis.

Amendment 6 would require the Government to conduct a review of current corporation tax rates, including the effect on tax revenue and the impact of the corporation tax rate structure on businesses of different sizes within six months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. As I have mentioned, the OBR-certified Exchequer impact for this measure was published in table 2.1 of the Budget Red Book.

We recognise that the economic disruption created by the pandemic will have an effect on the tax revenue forecast at Budget. That will be monitored and changes will be made through the OBR principle and process to the forecast and reflected at the next Budget. HMRC also publishes corporation tax statistics annually, alongside a report that includes a breakdown of the amount and proportion of total corporation tax receipts paid by businesses at different levels of profitability. Therefore, the Government already publish the information called for in the amendment and the separate review legislated for in amendment 6 is, in our judgment, not necessary. I ask the Committee to reject amendment 6 and move separately that clauses 5 and 6 stand part of the Bill.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Corporate taxation is not within the power of the Scottish Parliament. We have to live with the decisions that Westminster makes on this, but I am glad the Government have realised the error their ways in originally aiming to cut corporation tax. Given the money that would have been lost to the economy, that is wise.

The Minister mentioned the impact on women in work. Findings from various women’s organisations suggest that coronavirus will have an impact on women’s employment, and that employment will not recover unless there is significant investment in childcare to redress that as we come out of this crisis. If we were to take evidence from groups such as the Women’s Budget Group, we would have a lot more detailed evidence on the impact of the proposed measures on women. I encourage him to look at that evidence and engage with the Women’s Budget Group to consider how better we can have evidence brought from groups who have expertise in this area. Such groups have pointed out that women are more likely to be furloughed and more likely to lose their jobs. As the furlough scheme is wound up, they will face unemployment sooner than they would have anticipated as employers look at the scheme and say, “I can’t afford to pay these wages. I’m just going to sack my staff.” None of that necessarily relates to the amendment on corporation tax, but I want to make sure those points are on the record.

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Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I respond briefly, Ms McDonagh? The hon. Lady talks about the Government recognising the error of their ways, but there is a misunderstanding encoded in that view. The Government’s goal had always been to set out a direction of travel because forward guidance has economic value in guiding private investment decisions, but of course all tax rates are constantly kept under review by the Treasury. As has been recognised and discussed in Committee, many considerations go into the decisions on what rate to charge, so I do not think it is fair to describe it as she has done.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We may well return to this issue in later stages of the Bill, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7

Determining the appropriate percentage for a car: tax year 2020-21 onwards

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 8 and 9 stand part.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. Clauses 7 to 9 make changes to set company car tax—CCT—appropriate percentages that favour zero and ultra-low emission cars until April 2023. As confirmed at Budget, these rates will be extended until April 2025. The clause also confirms that that the CO2 emissions figure for the purposes of the CCT will be based on the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure—WLTP—for all new cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020.

CCT is a benefit in kind for employer-provided cars that are available for private use. Although part of the income system, the appropriate percentages that determine the rate of tax paid by individuals are based on CO2 emissions. There are currently around 900,000 company car drivers in the UK, and the benefit raises approximately £2.3 billion per annum. In July 2019, the Government announced that, for CCT, new cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020 will report CO2 emissions using the WLTP, which is an improved emissions testing regime that aims to reduce the 40% gap that exists between current emissions reporting and real world driving. The Government announced that to smooth the transition to the WLTP, for cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020, CCT rates will be reduced by 2 percentage points in 2020-21 before returning to planned rates over the following two years.

To support decarbonisation, the Government also announced that all zero-emission company cars would attract a reduced CCT rate of 0% in 2020-21 and 1% in 2021-22, before returning to the planned 2% rate in 2022-23. To give certainty to company car drivers, leasing companies and manufacturers, the recent Budget announced the extension of 2022-23 rates for an additional two years until April 2025.

The changes made by clauses 7 to 9 will confirm that all new cars provided to employees and available for private use that are first registered on or after 6 April 2020 will be taxed according to the CO2 emissions figure measured under the WLTP. It is also clarified that cars first registered before 6 April 2020 will continue to be taxed on the basis of the CO2 emissions figure measured under the new European driving cycle—NEDC—procedure.

The clauses also introduce reductions in the appropriate percentages for 2020-21 and 2021-22 for zero-emission cars and all cars registered on or after 6 April 2020. In addition, they make a number of minor technical amendments—for example, by clarifying that where the electric range figure is converted from kilometres to miles, the value should be rounded up to the nearest whole mile.

I urge that the clauses stand part of the Bill. The changes they introduce will aid decarbonisation by confirming the introduction of the WLTP and beneficial CCT rates for ultra-low and zero-emission cars. They will also provide welcome certainty to company car drivers, leasing companies and manufacturers on the future taxation of company cars until April 2025.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As this is our first exchange across a chamber, may I say how much I look forward to working with the Exchequer Secretary—and occasionally giving her the runaround—during our time together in these roles?

Let me begin with an overall observation, which is that this Parliament has declared a climate emergency. The country understands the extent to which irreversible, catastrophic climate breakdown is an existential threat to life on Earth and means serious disruption to our way of life. Actually, given the disruption that the pandemic is inflicting on all of us at the moment, lots of people are reflecting on the serious longer term disruption were we to allow such a catastrophic climate breakdown to take place. But here we are with this Finance Bill, dealing with one of the few areas in which the Bill tries to make any progress at all towards tackling the climate emergency by talking about car tax percentages. This is entirely reasonable and entirely straightforward, but it falls way short of meeting the challenge facing our country.

When Greta Thunberg addressed parliamentarians here in our own Parliament, she said:

“Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

I am pretty sure that when Greta Thunberg talked about foundational measures, she did not have car tax at the forefront of her mind. Yet here we are with a Bill that, as we have already heard from the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, falls way short of meeting the challenge.

It is disappointing because the Treasury has a crucial role to play in promoting efforts to tackle destructive climate change. This ought to be a national mission for our country. As one of the largest financial centres in the world economy, the UK has a clear responsibility to provide international leadership through the greening of our financial system. But we also know that the tentacles of the Treasury reach into every Department and can compel all sorts of behavioural change, can incentivise and disincentivise all sorts of policy change, right across the breadth of Government. I would like to see Her Majesty’s Treasury showing far stronger leadership in that regard.

It is also the case that through taxation, either tax incentives or disincentives, created through punitive tax measures, we can effect behavioural change across the country. I therefore hope that the scope and ambit and the ambition of future Finance Bills live up to the challenge.

If Ministers are not persuaded by the exhortations of Greta Thunberg, perhaps they will tune in to the interview given by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales just this morning. As someone who has been committed for decades to tackling climate change and to supporting biodiversity and the natural environment, he too makes a compelling case. I hope Ministers will take that on board.

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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is indeed not terribly much to oppose here, but this is about the ambition of the Government to make a change, to make something different out of this Bill and to do something different. I draw the attention of Government Members to what Norway has done to increase the use of electric vehicles, so that 42% of its cars are now electric vehicles. The Norwegians did that with incentives such as no annual road tax for electric vehicles, company car tax reduction to 40% on electric vehicles, changes to purchase and import taxes, and an exemption from 25% VAT on purchase. They had an ambitious programme, and they needed the infrastructure, but they took those actions and they saw a dramatic change in the number of electric vehicles as a result.

I encourage the Government to look at what can be done. If cars are to be around for some time to come, how can we make them better? In many parts of Scotland, for example, people need a car to get around In large parts of rural Scotland it would be impossible to do anything other than have a car, but if we can make those cars electric vehicles, providing the plug-in infrastructure for them and the tax incentives to reduce their cost, we could make that change achievable. I ask the Government to be more ambitious.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank both hon. Members for the points that they have made and the good questions they asked. I reiterate that tackling climate change and improving the environment are top priorities of the Government. The UK is a world leader on climate change. The reason why we are doing this is to address several things at once.

Let us remind ourselves what the WLTP is. It is designed to ensure that we are reflecting real world driving conditions more accurately by including a longer test time. The aim is to reduce the 40% gap between lab tests and real world driving. We have put many other levers in place to address the broader issue of climate change.

I accept the point about complexity—I recognise the need to ensure that this does not have an overall impact on the consumer. One of the reasons why we are phasing it in this way is to better protect the automotive sector. I thank both Members for the points they made.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Apprenticeship bursaries paid to persons leaving local authority care

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 10 exempts care leavers’ apprenticeship bursary payments from income tax. This Bill contains areas on which there will be disagreements across the Committee, and areas that the Opposition Front-Bench team has noted that it wants to prioritise in scrutinising the Government, but there are other clauses that are essentially technical in nature on which I doubt there is any serious disagreement about their importance or intent. This, I suggest, is one of those clauses.

Young people who are in care or have left care who choose to start an apprenticeship receive a £1,000 bursary to help them to make the transition to the workplace for their practical studies. The extra financial support is for those aged 16 to 24 and living in England. Payments such as the care leavers’ apprenticeship bursary would normally be subject to income tax, as such payments relate to employment. Changes made by clause 10 mean that bursary payments made to care leavers who start an apprenticeship are exempt from income tax.

The changes affirm the Government’s commitment to support care leavers and ensure that those in receipt of the bursary can benefit by the full amount. The clause ensures that care leavers starting an apprenticeship will benefit from 100% of the bursary value. It is the right thing to do and I commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Financial Secretary is right that he will not get much by way of argument from us. The bursary is obviously a laudable policy designed to support people in our society who lived in care as children and who far too often face serious disadvantages in terms of educational outcomes, employment opportunities and life chances.

It is a source of deep regret to me, as the son of a parent who spent time in care—care leavers are a big part of my family—that we have not done more as a country to narrow the attainment and opportunity gap for care leavers. Of course it is right that individuals who are in or have left local authority care who subsequently join an apprenticeship scheme should not be subject to income tax and national insurance contributions. We will certainly not oppose a clause designed to give effect to that.

I have some questions for the Financial Secretary about how the Bill deals with that, as much out of curiosity as anything else. There is an existing exemption in section 776 of the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005 for income from scholarships, which includes bursaries held by an individual in full-time education. Section 776 could have been amended to include the bursary payment, instead of introducing a new section to the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003. I would be grateful if he could clarify why the Government have chosen to enact the provision by amending legislation in that way, rather than using section 776 of the 2005 Act.

I understand that it is the Government’s view that the bursary is employment income rather than other income, but other bursaries are classed as other income, and care leavers could be entitled to bursaries outside an apprenticeship. I would be grateful if the Minister explained why the Government consider this bursary to be employment income. If it is employment income, legislation will be required to exempt the payment from national insurance contributions; if it is not, additional legislation might not be needed. Some understanding of that, for our interest and the interest of all those who follow proceedings such as these closely, would be welcome.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, I am not looking to oppose the clause. The aim is laudable, but I want to highlight a couple of things about apprenticeships. Coronavirus could significantly affect the number of apprenticeships that will be available to young people this year and perhaps even into next year as well. What do the Government intend to do to make sure that those opportunities are not lost to a generation of young people who are leaving school as well as leaving care?

As you will appreciate, Ms McDonagh, if those young people do not have the opportunities that they should, the impact on them will be devastating—as it will be on society as a whole if their skills and talents do not go into the workplace. I implore Ministers to look carefully at that, to make sure that they do not miss those young people, and that those concerns are high on their agenda. Apprenticeships can be transformational for young people. They can give them new opportunities and a chance to do something that they would never have anticipated through their family background or their ambitions growing up. It is vital to protect them in the months ahead.

I would also highlight the fact that the minimum wage rate for apprenticeships remains staggeringly low. The Government should look carefully at apprentices more generally. The bursary in the clause is fine and laudable, but apprenticeships for all young people need to be properly remunerated. Some of those young people will have families themselves and will be unable to take up those opportunities if they cannot afford to put food on the table because the apprenticeship rate is so low.

Not all young people live with their families, as the bursary recognises; but all young people who want them should have access to apprenticeships. I urge the Government to reconsider minimum wage rates more generally. There should be a living wage for everyone, but apprenticeship rates in particular are incredibly low in this country and they need to be addressed urgently so that all young people who want to can take up those places.

The Government could also look at the work done in the care review in Scotland. We appreciate that not all the things that could have been done to help young people have been done. The care review took an in-depth look at that. I urge the Minister to look at that and at what more can be done to support young carers in society.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Those were two useful, helpful contributions from the Opposition. The broad answer to the technical question raised by the hon. Member for Ilford North is that this is a cleaner and more direct way of addressing the problem; but I should be delighted to write to him and set out the reasoning in more detail.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of other exemptions. As he will be aware, we are absolutely amenable to considering these things on a case-by-case basis, and if there are others that he thinks deserve further consideration, he is again welcome to write to me and we will give that a review.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central raised a point about apprenticeship opportunities more widely, and she is absolutely right. The Government have already been leaning into the issue of apprenticeships, as she will know, through the levy. There is much more work to be done in this area, and it is well understood, certainly from the Prime Minister down, that the response to the coronavirus may well cause the Government to want to look at the whole area in more detail.

I cannot pass from this topic without drawing the hon. Lady’s attention to a personal interest that I have, which is the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering, in Hereford. That is the new university we are setting up precisely to integrate the academic and the vocational in a way that gives scope for very high value-added learning, using apprenticeships but also actual project work, in a way that is integrated into the engineering curriculum in many ways.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Tax treatment of certain Scottish social security benefits

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I had hoped that we might be able to debate clauses 11 and 12 together, because in some respects they sit better together, but let me pick up clause 11 in its own right and we can then take clause 12 separately. The clause confirms that three new specifically Scottish social security benefits are not subject to income tax. The income tax treatment of social security benefits is legislated for in part 10 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003. That Act provides certainty on existing benefits and needs to be updated when new benefits are introduced.

The Scottish Government are introducing three new benefit payments: the job start payment, disability assistance for children and young people, and the Scottish child payment. The tax treatment of those benefits is governed by the fiscal framework agreement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, which sets out that any new benefits introduced by the Scottish Government will not be deemed to be income for tax purposes unless they top up or replace benefits deemed to be taxable already. The UK Government currently choose to clarify the treatment agreed in the fiscal framework through Finance Bill legislation, which is why we have the clause before us today.

The changes made by the clause ensure that these three new benefits are not liable to income tax, in line with the fiscal framework agreement between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. The clause is straightforward, clarifying and confirming the tax treatment of several welfare payments and introducing a new power to ensure that a simpler process may be used to effect future changes as may be needed. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister made reference to the discussions we will have on clause 12, but the Opposition do not object to the principle behind this clause, which appears straightforward and to achieve its aim.

--- Later in debate ---
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, which she is quite right to make—the Library analysis is really important. I am moving the amendments to point out just how complex the system is that there is of course a cost to having and administrating such a system. People have difficulty navigating that system, because it makes it more difficult to claim what they are entitled to, particularly if they are moving from one benefit to another. Although I appreciate the points that she has made and understand why she made them, these are probing amendments to see what the point is and what the Government are doing to make an ongoing assessment of the logic of that complexity, for which there is a cost and a difficulty. Although I in no way deny the cost—I know the amendments have no prospect of being passed by the Committee—I would like the Government to consider carefully the impact of that complexity on individuals, and whether they can simplify the system, which is ludicrously complicated.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank colleagues for their contributions. As they have recognised, the amendments are very technical in nature. I will keep my remarks brief because, if we can, I would like to discuss clause 13 before we break, which will leave us a clear run at the afternoon. Clause 12 introduces a power that commits the Government to clarifying tax exempt status for future new social security benefits introduced by the UK Government or devolved Administrations using a statutory instrument. That power has a more general applicability and creates an additional flexibility that will be of value to Government in making changes to address needs more rapidly than at the moment.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central tabled her amendments in an interrogatory—or probing—spirit, for which I thank her. My response has been very well articulated by the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South. Scottish benefits are treated in line with the fiscal framework and, under that framework, which exists between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, only new benefits that top up or replace an existing taxable benefit will be liable to tax. That is an established principle of taxation exactly to avoid the perverse incentives that might otherwise be created.

In addition to the questions raised by the shadow Minister about cost and equity, it is worth mentioning that the effect of entertaining the amendments would be to undermine the fiscal framework agreement and that longstanding principle of taxation. I ask the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, in a rhetorical spirit, whether she really means to overturn the fiscal framework that was hammered out over a number of years between those two sides. If she does, is it her intention to throw out other settled agreements between the Scottish Government and the UK Government within that framework? I suggest that that is not her intent and, because the meaning and purpose of the clause is clear, I commend it to the Committee and invite her to withdraw the amendment.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am indeed content to withdraw the amendment, but the point stands that there is an inconsistency within the system, in which a war widow’s pension is not taxable but a widow’s pension is. There are huge inconsistencies about which I have questions. The Minister is being mischievous when he suggests that I would want to undermine the fiscal framework, but he knows fine well that I long for the day when the fiscal framework is not necessary because Scotland is an independent country that makes for ourselves the full range of decisions about what is best for our people. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Finance Bill (Second sitting)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 4th June 2020

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Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 4 June 2020 - (4 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good afternoon, colleagues. Consideration of the Finance Bill recommences. I remind everyone that Hansard reporters would be grateful if hon. Members could email electronic copies of their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. If everyone could remember to do that, that would greatly assist those recording the proceedings. We now return to line-by-line consideration of the Bill.

Clause 13

Voluntary office-holders: payments in respect of expenses

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What a delight it is to see you in the Chair, Mr Rosindell. As I touched on earlier, this is one of those clauses that I do not think elicits any spirit of contention on the different sides of the room.

Clause 13 creates a statutory income tax exemption for payments and reimbursements of reasonable private expenses incurred by voluntary office holders in carrying out the duties of their offices. Individuals undertaking voluntary work for an organisation such as a charity or local benevolent society are not generally classed as office holders or employees, so the payment or reimbursement of any reasonable expenses incurred by those individuals when doing the work of that organisation is not liable for tax. However, in some circumstances, an individual who does unpaid work for an organisation may also be an office holder. That is because they are appointed to a role that exists regardless of who occupies the position at any one time. They are referred to as a “voluntary office holder” in tax legislation. People in that position include, for example, magistrates and special constables.

An office holder, including a voluntary office holder, is chargeable to tax on any earnings from their position and subject to the tax rules for expenses and deductions on the same basis as employees. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ long-standing practice is that no tax arises on private expenses paid or reimbursed to voluntary office holders so long as they receive no reward for carrying out the duties of their office and any payments or expenses do no more than meet the expenses incurred. That treats voluntary office holders in the same way as volunteers in relation to expenses paid or reimbursed by their organisation, but the treatment is at the moment only concessionary.

This measure therefore places the current concessionary treatment on a statutory tax footing. That ensures that reasonable out-of-pocket private expenses paid or reimbursed to voluntary office holders in relation to their duties of office remain tax-exempt. The exemption recognises the role of voluntary office holders and the services that they provide. It ensures that the tax treatment of their private expenses continues to be comparable to that of volunteers, and it provides certainty by placing that treatment on a statutory footing.

Those who hold voluntary offices often—in fact, almost invariably—give valuable service in our communities. It is right that we legislate to provide certainty for people in such roles and bring the tax treatment of their expenses in line with that for others who volunteer their time. This is a simple and sensible technical change, and I therefore urge that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Rosindell, and I welcome you to the Chair.

Opposition Members have no issue with the intention behind clause 13. It is right that the tax treatment of those carrying out valuable work on a voluntary basis is put on a statutory footing so that it is the same for all voluntary office holders, across the board.

Of course, most individuals who do unpaid voluntary work for an organisation are not office holders or employees, and I would like to take this opportunity, at this time, to express my gratitude for the amazing work that volunteers are doing right across our country in responding to the crisis we are experiencing. The work they are doing includes running food banks. Amazing volunteers in my constituency are providing that kind of support to vulnerable people and, frankly, to too many families. I yearn for the day when they will be able to be redeployed in other areas of activity because the support provided by the Government—the state—is adequate for all families to put food on the table. Many other volunteers at this time have been delivering meals or supporting people with prescriptions. There is a whole range of help and support being provided, which just demonstrates how important a role volunteers play in our society. That is of course no substitute for the necessary action we expect from Government, which has sadly been too lacking in recent years, and after a decade of big changes. That has meant that volunteers have filled the gap that should be filled by the state itself.

As for the scope of the clause, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has identified some technical issues, and I hope the Minister will be able to respond to some points about them. The first is about the lack of a definition of a volunteer office holder in this legislation and the fact that that may lead to some confusion as to whether charitable or other unpaid trustees would be regarded as office holders for the purpose of this exemption. The Minister was right to point to office holders such as special constables and magistrates—and perhaps those who are office holders in community amateur sports associations—but I would be grateful if he could clarify the scope of the clause.

The second concern that the Chartered Institute of Taxation has identified is whether this legislation will achieve its intended purpose, given that the clause covers expenses incurred in carrying out the duties of the office, but not explicitly those expenses that enable such duties to be carried out—for example, childcare costs. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify the position and put on record that such costs would be tax-exempt for voluntary office holders under the legislation.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. These are two technical issues that she is right to cover. The position of Revenue and Customs, and of the Government, is that there is adequate clarity about the scope of the clause. It passes into law only a considerable body of accumulated practice in dealing with expenses of the kind that we have described. As I have mentioned, commissioners have discretionary powers—those collection management powers—to manage these taxes and duties, and are able to exercise those powers in particular circumstances. So if there is a concern that, somehow, the scope of the clause is inadequately defined, there remains extra statutory power for the commissioners to exercise those collection management powers in so far as they wish.

The hon. Lady is also absolutely right to raise the secondary issue of what counts as an allowable expense. The answer is that a definition of reasonableness exists in general in people’s minds and in law—of course, it reflects the facts of a case and is context-dependent. The core idea is that the payment or reimbursement should do no more than meet the actual expenditure that has been incurred by volunteers.

To give an example, someone may be volunteering for a charity, perhaps as a treasurer, which is an office holder, and doing most of their work from home. If the charity offers them a small weekly payment to cover the additional cost of using their home, that is a reasonable expense. To take a different example, if someone is volunteering as a magistrate at their local magistrates court for one day a week and seeks reimbursement for their childcare costs for the week, even if the court agrees to that, the full week will not be considered a reasonable reimbursement for private expenses, because it does not relate to the actual expenditure that has been incurred.

I can clarify, to that extent, the point the hon. Lady made. I think that tracks relatively clearly our normal intuitions about working, as well as working practice elsewhere in the voluntary sector. With that said, I would like to move that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14

Loan charge not to apply to loans or quasi-loans made before 9 December 2010

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is the first of seven clauses— clauses 14 to 20—that bear on the loan charge. I do not need to tell any Member of the House of Commons that the loan charge has elicited a degree of controversy in some quarters. It might be helpful if I remind the Committee of the nature of the loan charge and what it actually is.

The clause amends the date from which disguised remuneration loans are subject to the loan charge specifically from 6 April 1999 to 9 December 2010. That has the effect of removing loans entered into before 9 December 2010 from the scope of the loan charge.

Disguised remuneration, as it is described, is a form of abusive tax avoidance, where individuals seek to avoid paying income tax and national insurance contributions by receiving payment through a loan that is itself never repaid—a remuneration practice that costs the Exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds a year. In many cases, the loans are paid over and above a smaller payment that goes through the pay-as-you-earn system, and the payment is made, perhaps on a monthly basis, in the form of an accumulation of a loan. The loan never, in my experience, has interest charged to it. The expectation is that it will never be repaid. It is typically administered through an offshore vehicle, which highlights how contrived this approach is to the avoidance of tax.

The loan charge was designed to combat that form of tax avoidance. It was introduced as a new measure in 2017. In September 2019, the Chancellor commissioned Sir Amyas Morse to conduct an independent review into whether the loan charge was an appropriate policy response to the use of such disguised remuneration schemes. Sir Amyas had full control over the review’s management and recommendations. He received evidence from a very wide range of individuals affected. He spoke to interest groups, Members of Parliament, tax specialists, legal experts and many other stakeholders.

Sir Amyas’s report, which is 76 pages in length, is a thorough and exacting review document, which painstakingly worked through the issues and recommended notable changes to the policy, including substantial carve-outs regarding who was affected. The Government accepted all but one of Sir Amyas’s recommendations, and more than 30,000 people will benefit from the changes. This clause, along with others in the Bill, make changes to bring about those recommendations in so far as they require statutory change. Work is under way by the Government to implement the recommendations that do not require legislation.

Sir Amyas’s careful and considered report examined the question of the date from which the loan charge should apply. He concluded that the law regarding the tax treatment of disguised remuneration loan schemes was clear from 9 December 2010, when draft legislation was published setting out that income provided through schemes using third parties, such as loan schemes, would be subject to income tax and national insurance.

Clause 14 amends the date from which disguised remuneration loans can be subject to the loan charge and removes those loans entered into before 9 December 2010 from the scope of the loan charge. The clause, along with clauses 15 to 20, legislates for several recommendations from the independent review on the loan charge. It takes about 11,000 people out of the loan charge entirely, and it reduces the tax charge of around 21,000 individuals. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

--- Later in debate ---
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) wrote to the then Treasury Minister, the right hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), seeking assurances that evidence would be provided to parliamentary hearings. This goes to my earlier point that we need evidence, and that we need to be able to interrogate and ask questions of that evidence. Somebody sending a briefing is useful, but being able to have some back and forth with people who know more about this than we perhaps do would allow us to make the right decisions. Evidence from the likes of the all-party parliamentary loan charge group or other experts in the field might have been incredibly useful to the Committee.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Members for Ilford North and for Glasgow Central for their speeches. The hon. Member for Ilford North started by setting out the principles of, as it were, a Labour approach to tax avoidance and evasion, and described how, in the Labour view of things, tax avoiders were in fact guilty of robbery, which I thought was a very big claim. Robbery is not a word I would ever use in this context, but there is a serious problem of avoidance and evasion, and—as I will come on to, and as the hon. Member for Glasgow Central mentioned—there is a serious problem with the promotion or enabling of tax avoidance and evasion schemes.

I thank the hon. Member for Ilford North for his comments in support of Revenue and Customs, with which I fully concur, as I am sure does everyone in this Committee and the more than 10 million people who now have their livelihoods or jobs supported by schemes that HMRC has put in place in a very short period. He also rightly praised Sir Amyas Morse, saying that the Labour party accepted the Morse review as a piece of work. He is absolutely right about that. Sir Amyas, on his retirement, elicited unimpeachable measures of approval and statements of support from across the House.

Where I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong is on the question of retrospection. He will be aware that the loan charge is a new charge and is therefore not retrospective legislation. The common understanding of retrospection is that it somehow changes the law as it was at the time when people operated, but the whole point is that, as Sir Amyas found, from at least 9 December 2009, the law was as indicated. One can dispute the period before that, and HMRC retains the ability in the case of certain years to pursue people for tax due before that period. But the review made clear—this is very important—that Sir Amyas Morse accepted the principle of the loan charge. The review made significant changes to the application of a principle that Sir Amyas accepted.

We are bound to return to these themes later on in our discussions, but it is worth touching on them now. The hon. Member for Ilford North raised the provision that the Government did not accept in the Morse review, which was the idea that arrears in tax should be written off after 10 years. The reasons that the Government did not accept that were twofold. The first was that it would have had the effect of treating people who had engaged in these disguised remuneration schemes and benefited from this approach more favourably than other people who might be in arrears in tax with the Revenue, which the Government felt was not appropriate.

The second reason was that the Revenue and Customs has highly effective time-to-pay arrangements, which have been further extended in the case of the loan charge, to allow people on lower incomes an additional seven years of time to pay as a minimum. Those arrangements are very flexibly and intelligently administered by the Revenue and Customs, and they are already being utilised by people in significant numbers before the coronavirus pandemic and undoubtedly as a result of it. There is no need for a statutory change, and such a change would have had the effect of treating scheme users more favourably than others.

The hon. Member for Ilford North raised the all-party parliamentary loan charge group and the Loan Charge Action Group, which has been very vigorous on social media and elsewhere. Colleagues’ input is always valuable, but we should take this one with a little pinch of salt, because it is the product of an enormous amount of concerted political lobbying of an extremely intense kind on Members who are members of that group. In that sense, it does not exercise what I would consider the kind of independent judgment that we would want an all-party parliamentary group to exercise.

The contrast is with the Morse review itself, which was an admirably independent-minded piece of work. It by no means took a Government line in any of its recommendations and showed itself all the more valuable for that. It was itself a comprehensive response to the concerns that had been raised. If people have concerns about, for example, the choice that Sir Amyas made to locate the point of cut-off for the application of the loan charge to 9 December 2009, they have merely to read the relevant chapter, which is an extremely thorough and careful reconstruction of the legal process and the enforcement process up to and after that date.

I am struck by the fact that many of the themes that came through in the Morse review were picked up by a rather important recent case which related to the loan charge—Zeeman and Murphy v. HMRC—in which the judge said:

“This is not a tax on fictitious income or benefits, but on genuine remuneration received for work done or services rendered, paid in the form of a loan. The recipients of the money have had the advantage of its use for some time…over many years.”

That is true. The judge went on to say that

“it was well within the generous margin of appreciation for Parliament to decide that it would tackle the matter in the way that it did, and impose a present tax liability in respect of money whose use, tax-free, had been enjoyed by the recipient over a number of years.”

I do not want to comment on that, because I do not think that proceedings in a law court should be commented on by Members of Parliament, but I draw it to the Committee’s attention.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Election for loan charge to be split over three tax years

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 15, page 9, line 8, at end insert—

‘(11) The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may by regulations provide that sub-paragraph (7)(a) applies to a specified class of persons as if the reference to 1 October 2020 were to such later date as is specified.

(12) In sub-paragraph (11) “specified” means specified in the regulations.’.

This amendment will allow HMRC to extend the deadline for making an election to split the loan charge over three years for particular classes of person liable to the loan charge by virtue of Schedule 11 to the Finance (No.2) Act 2017.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 2 and 3.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause allows taxpayers to make an election to spread their outstanding disguised remuneration loan balance evenly across three tax years. The effect is to give to taxpayers greater flexibility on when the outstanding loan balance is subject to tax. In some circumstances, that will mean that the loan balance is subject to lower rates of tax than if taxed only in the 2018-19 tax year.

As I described, the Government accepted all but one of Sir Amyas Morse’s recommendations, which included that taxpayers should be able to choose not to stack their outstanding loan balances into a single year. In deciding to allow individuals to elect to spread the loan charge over three years, the Government balanced the aim of reducing the number of people affected by higher marginal rates of tax against the administrative burden on individuals, employers and HMRC.

The Government wanted to ensure that people have a choice about whether to make an election. Some taxpayers may prefer to settle their loan charge liability in one year, providing certainty for them going forward. For many individuals, however, the option to spread the loan charge balance over a three-year period will allow for the amounts to be repaid over a longer time than otherwise required, and potentially with a tax advantage, had they paid the loans in the years received

Part 1 of schedule 1 provides consequential amendments to schedules 11 and 12 to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 to give effect to clause 14 of the Bill. The changes amend further references to the date of 6 April 1999 to remove references to approved fixed-term loans, which related only to loans made before 9 December 2010 and so are no longer affected by the loan charge—they have essentially been taken out of scope. Those consequential amendments are necessary to give effect to the legislative changes introduced following the recommendations by the independent review into the loan charge.

Part 2 of schedule 1 makes the consequential amendments to the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 necessary to give effect to clause 15 of the Bill, which allows an individual to make an election to spread their loan charge balance over three consecutive years: specifically, the years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21. Furthermore, part 2 sets out consequential amendments to the Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001— S.I. 2001, No. 1004—to ensure that the liability to national insurance contributions can also be spread over three years. Part 2 also introduces amendments to ITEPA to ensure that where a person dies before 5 April 2019, the schedule 11 loan charge will not apply.

Government amendments 1 and 2 to clause 15, and Government amendment 3 to clause 17, seek to achieve the same aim of giving Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs the flexibility to defer the dates set out in those clauses. Clause 15 deals with the date by which an election must be made by an individual subject to the loan charge where that person wishes to split their tax liability over three years. Clause 17 deals with the date by which an individual subject to the loan charge must submit a complete and accurate 2018-19 self-assessment tax return and pay the balance of their 2018-19 tax liabilities if they are to avoid paying interest.

Recognising the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the potential ability of some loan charge taxpayers to finalise their affairs in time to meet those dates, as raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, the Government think it prudent to enable HMRC to defer those dates for particular classes of loan charge taxpayers, should that prove necessary. Accordingly, the amendments will enable HMRC by laying regulations to defer the dates for a specific class of loan charge taxpayers. For many individuals, clause 15 will reduce the amount they need to pay. It will also reduce the administrative burden on individuals, employers and HM Revenue and Customs.

--- Later in debate ---
Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Financial Secretary has outlined, these relatively straightforward Government amendments allow for flexibility in making the election to spread the loan charge possible. I have some questions for the Minister about that, but I also want to raise several issues about his earlier remarks, which are relevant to this clause and the Government’s amendments, as well as some of the other issues that we will consider this afternoon.

First, in relation to the all-party parliamentary loan charge group, of course we are aware that the secretariat is the Loan Charge Action Group and that it contains lots of people who are subject to action by HMRC and have a direct personal interest in changing the law and affecting the course of Government policy. The Minister has done a real disservice to Members on both sides of the House, however, by suggesting that the all-party parliamentary group is not independent and does not exercise independent judgment.

It is common practice in this place for external organisations to provide the secretariat for all-party parliamentary groups, but if it were the case that any of those secretariats, whose work is funded to support the work of parliamentarians, were in any way directing the work of Parliament or of Members, that would be an issue for the Committee on Standards. No Member should be exercising their voice or their vote because of outside financial pressure or well-funded lobby groups. We are always expected to exercise our independent judgment.

The co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group are the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), with whom the Minister previously served in Government, albeit he was a yellow Tory, rather than a blue one; my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), who I would never suggest was anything other than independent, otherwise I would feel the physical force of her independence around the back of my ear; and the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who is widely respected on the Conservative Benches and was respected across the House as a Minister. The group also has widespread support from more than 200 MPs on both sides of the House, including the former leader of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). It is important to distinguish between that and the lobby group, which is perfectly entitled to its views, and is not always wrong, by the way.

That brings me to my second point. The Minister would have more of a leg to stand on in robustly criticising the all-party parliamentary group or the Loan Charge Action Group if they had not found the Government banged to rights. I did not labour the point during our previous exchange, but it is embarrassing for the Government and HMRC to have been landed with a report such as the report by Sir Amyas. We were told several times by Ministers at the Dispatch Box, and by HMRC in Select Committee hearings, that, “There is nothing to see here. There is no problem. HMRC is exercising its functions and discharging its responsibilities appropriately.” Yet, through Sir Amyas’s report, we have found that that was not the case.

We are now having to legislate for changes, and the Government are making changes that do not require changes to primary legislation, because the Government and HMRC were found not to have their affairs properly in order in relation to the application of the loan charge and the way the policy has panned out. The Government ought to be a bit more humble about some of those issues.

On the Government amendments, the Chartered Institute of Taxation thinks that the 30 September 2020 deadline for making an election to spread the loan charge should be amended. It considers that an extended deadline of 31 January 2021, which is the normal deadline for amending 2019 self-assessment tax returns, should apply. We are all aware of the impact of the current covid-19 pandemic, and the chartered institute recently pointed out that some taxpayers will require additional time in some cases because the records and documents that taxpayers need to access are not currently or readily available to them. With businesses in lockdown, it might not even be possible for them to access offices, particularly shared offices, even if they wish to do so. Will the Minister address that point, and might the Government consider a change along the lines requested by the chartered institute at a later stage? Also, why is it not possible to revoke an election to spread the loan charge or to be able to amend the election up until 30 September 2020 by submitting an amended return? Will the Minister address that point, too?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for Ilford North for his remarks. To be clear, I am not suggesting for a second that the APPG’s members are in any sense dependent. Let me put that on the record. There is no impeachment or attempt of any such kind from me in relation to individual Members of Parliament. I was making a different point, which is that the APPG itself has come under an enormous body of concentrated and often extremely forceful pressure from people affected by the measure. There is therefore a contrast between their position and the position of Sir Amyas Morse, who is able to take a view that is independent in the sense that it is not aggressively constrained by one side or the other, but with the capacity to make a decision based on expert guidance and advice.

On whether the Government are always right, I would not suggest that for a second. We commissioned the review because the Government recognised that there was widespread public concern. Far from seeking to ignore that or brush it under the carpet, they retained a very high quality person and fully supported an independent process, thoroughly influenced and infused with both consultation and expert advice, to address the concerns. They were also suitably humble in accepting all but one of the recommendations, with the exception that I have indicated. It is absolutely not the case that it has been the view of the Government that any party to the dispute has a monopoly on correctness or rightness, and certainly the Government do not see themselves in those terms.

On the core thrust of the policy, Sir Amyas was clear. He accepted the principle of the policy and the validity of the loan charge as an approach to the concern about disguised remuneration, which takes enormous amounts of money out of the potential support of our public services. It is important to recognise that that was his position.

The hon. Member for Ilford North mentioned the Chartered Institute of Taxation and its call for an extended deadline. The deadline at the moment is the end of September and there is a period still to run before that. We understand the concern and of course we continue to reflect on the position, but that is the deadline and there is no overwhelming case at the moment for moving it. Therefore, it is important to give certainty to people who are in this position that that is the deadline for the submission of information and settlement of the loan charge. There can be no movement on that front, and it is important to be clear about what the status is at the moment. With that said, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment made: 2, in clause 15, page 10, line 14, at end insert—

‘(3F) The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may by regulations provide that sub-paragraph (3B)(a) applies to a specified class of persons as if the reference to 1 October 2020 were to such later date as is specified.

(3G) In sub-paragraph (3F) “specified” means specified in the regulations.’ (Jesse Norman.)

This amendment will allow HMRC to extend the deadline for making an election to split the loan charge over three years for particular classes of person liable to the loan charge by virtue of Schedule 12 to the Finance (No.2) Act 2017.

Clause 15, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 16

Loan charge reduced where underlying liability disclosed but unenforceable

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause implements recommendations 3, 4 and 5 of Sir Amyas Morse’s independent review. It sets out that the loan charge will not apply to loans outstanding at 5 April 2019 and made in the tax year 2015-16 or earlier, whwwen the avoidance scheme was disclosed to HM Revenue and Customs, and HMRC had not taken action by 6 April 2019 to protect the year, for example, by opening an inquiry. The clause sets out how a reasonable disclosure is made, when a loan charge reduction applies and how that reduction is calculated. It also sets out what is meant by a qualifying tax year and a qualifying tax return.

Reasonable disclosure is defined as a disclosure made in either an income tax self-assessment return or a corporation tax self-assessment return, where a person is chargeable to tax on employment income, or an income tax self-assessment return where a person is chargeable to tax on trading income. The term “return” includes any accompanying accounts, statements or documents. Reasonable disclosure may be made in one or more returns of the same type relating to qualifying tax years either by an individual or, in the case of employment income, an employer. That builds on HMRC’s existing compliance approach.

A qualifying tax year is the tax year 2015-16 or earlier, or for corporation tax accounting periods commencing before 6 April 2016. Information must be included to identify the loan, the person the loan was made to, if not the taxpayer, the arrangements the loan was made under and other information to make it clear that the loan should be chargeable to income tax. In the case of employment income, this does not include the declaration that a loan was taxed as a benefit of a “cheap loan” where the benefit declared is the loan paid at a reduced interest rate, or indeed a zero interest rate.

The clause does not apply where there was no reasonable disclosure made for years 2015-16 and earlier, nor does it apply for 2016-17 onwards, regardless of whether a reasonable disclosure has been made or HMRC has taken steps to recover the tax. The clause thus ensures that the Government can implement three of Sir Amyas Morse’s recommendations from his independent review of the loan charge. I commend it to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is not much for me to add to what the Financial Secretary set out. Will he confirm that HMRC will be able to adopt a practical approach to interpreting what is a reasonable disclosure? For example, in some cases a taxpayer will not have had to file a self-assessment tax return for a tax year, but their employer or their business will have disclosed the loans and so on in a return of their own, in which case we consider that that would be an adequate disclosure by the taxpayer. Is that the Minister’s understanding? It was pointed out to us by the Chartered Institute of Taxation that

“amendments to paragraphs 1B…of Schedule 11 to F(No.2)A 2017 included in the Finance Bill legislation, as compared to the original draft legislation, appears to permit disclosures in tax returns other than the taxpayer’s to be taken into account.”

I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed whether that is indeed the case.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The principle is as laid out in the legislation and it should be recognised as wider than might originally have been contemplated, as concerns were raised during the consultation process on the draft legislation about the definition of reasonable disclosure, and the Government responded to those. The definition of reasonable disclosure in the legislation introduced in the Finance Bill has thus been widened to include disclosure in either an income tax self-assessment return or a corporation tax self-assessment return. The effect of that is to enable disclosure by either an individual or an employer to meet the definition of reasonable disclosure.

Disclosure can be made in more than one tax return of the same type and, as I have said, a tax return includes any accompanying accounts, statements or documents and has therefore been widely specified. How that is to apply in a specific context is, of course, a limitlessly varied matter, and limitless ingenuity will doubtless be deployed in showing that it can be applied to whatever the circumstances are, but that is the standard that the legislation lays down.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Relief from interest on tax payable by a person subject to the loan charge

Amendment made: 3, in clause 17, page 13, line 36, at end insert—

“(5) The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may by regulations provide that this section applies to a specified class of persons as if—

(a) the references in this section to the end of September 2020 were to such later time as is specified, and

(b) the reference in subsection (3)(b) to 1 October 2020 were to such later date as is specified.

(6) In subsection (5) “specified” means specified in the regulations.”—(Jesse Norman.)

This amendment will allow HMRC to extend, for particular classes of person subject to the loan charge, the period within which liability to income tax and capital gains tax for the tax year 2018-19 may be discharged without incurring interest on those liabilities.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 17 makes a technical amendment to remove the charge of late payment interest for customers and taxpayers who are liable to the loan charge for the period 1 February 2020 to 30 September 2020 on any self-assessment liability. The effect of that is that taxpayers will not be disadvantaged by the extension to the deadline given to them to submit their 2018-19 self-assessment return and to pay the tax due. Late payment interest will accrue from 1 February 2020, if this revised deadline of 30 September 2020 is not met.

The clause also provides that no late payment interest will be due on payments on account for 2019-20, where the payments are made by 31 January 2021 or are included in a payment arrangement by that date. Again, if the payment deadline of 31 January 2021 is not met or there is no payment arrangement in place by that date, the changes will not apply. Interest would then accrue from the statutory due dates for the relevant payments on account, which are 1 February 2020 and 1 August 2020.

While the clause will operate prospectively for the vast majority of affected payments, it will have limited but, I should emphasise, wholly positive retrospective application. There are cases where the Government are minded or have to act retrospectively, in part to do justice, and this is one of those. Any affected payments made before the date this Bill receives Royal Assent will be included, so that taxpayers who made their returns and payments before Royal Assent are no worse off than others who make their returns and payments later, but before the extended deadline.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister outlined, the measure is a technical one, so I do not have much to say about it, except to say as I did on clause 15 that I wonder whether he could outline, particularly for people who follow our proceedings closely, the reason for setting the deadline for filing the 2019 self-assessment return as 19 September 2021. The same issues that I raised previously may present themselves to taxpayers in the light of the lockdown measures that are currently in effect.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I must say that I am not quite sure I understand the question, but what has happened so far is that the loan charge deadline has been extended to 30 September this year. The clause allows relief from interest payable by those who are subject to the loan charge in that context; but if the hon. Gentleman would like to clarify his question I will try to answer it.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is simply the case that some people who may need to access relevant documentation to provide to the tax authorities might struggle to do so in light of the lockdown measures that are in place. So, just as I raised in the previous discussion on clause 15, I am asking what flexibility can be made available. That is what I am getting at.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand. I think the hon. Gentleman said the date is 19 September 2021, and that is what threw me, because I do not think that that date applies to the issue that he has raised. As I have described, Revenue and Customs is, in the middle of the covid pandemic, exercising an extraordinarily careful sensitivity to personal circumstances. If there are personal circumstances that, because of the coronavirus, may have made it impossible to make a payment of the kind in question, I have no doubt that Revenue and Customs will take account of that in its consideration, before reaching a judgment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

Minor amendments relating to the loan charge

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, this is a minor and technical measure that makes minor legislative adjustments to implement changes to the loan charge, including changing the date by which loan charge information must be provided to HMRC from 1 October 2019 to 1 October 2020.

When the loan charge was introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 there was a legal requirement that those who had an outstanding disguised remuneration liability on 5 April 2019 would be required to submit information on their disguised remuneration loans before 1 October 2019 through an e-form. When the Government accepted Sir Amyas’s recommendation that there should be an option to spread the loan charge balance over three tax years, through an election, it was decided that the best way to do this was via an online form. The Government also used this opportunity to encourage those who had not already submitted information on their disguised remuneration loans to do so, by changing the statutory date from 1 October 2019 to 1 October 2020. I should say that clause 18 also corrects a minor drafting error in the original legislation.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It would take a wit beyond my imagination to find something interesting to say about this provision, so I shall resume my place.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Repaying sums paid to HMRC under agreements relating to certain loans etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 20 stand part.

New clause 7—Loan charge: report on effect of the scheme

‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must commission a review, to be carried out by an independent panel, of the impact in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the scheme established under sections 19 and 20 and lay the report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on—

(a) business investment,

(b) employment,

(c) productivity, and

(d) company solvency.

(3) A review under this section must consider the fairness with which HMRC has implemented the policy, including whether HMRC has provided reasonable flexibility around repayment plans with the aim of avoiding business failures and individual bankruptcies.

In this section “parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.’

This new clause would require a review of the impact of the scheme to be established under Clauses 19 and 20.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It must be a tedious amendment indeed that has not excited the imagination or genius of the hon. Member for Ilford North, so I am grateful to him for clarifying that.

Clauses 19 to 20 implement recommendation 6 of Sir Amyas Morse’s independent review, ensuring that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs can refund the elements of settlements that were made since 2016, paid to settle unprotected years either before 9 December 2010 or between 9 December 2010 and the start of the 2016-17 tax year, where the taxpayer had made a reasonable disclosure of their scheme usage in their tax return.



Clause 19 requires HMRC to set up a scheme under which it may refund qualifying amounts of certain voluntary payments. Such refunds can be made only where the qualifying amount was paid under a settlement agreement made with HMRC on or after 16 March 2016 and before Budget day on the 11 March 2020. Additionally, the qualifying amount must have been paid in relation to a loan made before 9 December 2010 where HMRC did not have power to recover the amount due at the time the agreement was made, or it must have been paid in relation to a loan made after 9 December 2010 and before 6 April 2016 where a reasonable disclosure of the use of the loan scheme was made to HMRC at a time when HMRC had the power to recover the amount due, but did not take any action.

Clause 20 sets out the details that may be contained in the refund scheme. This may include who is eligible to apply for a refund, how an application should be made and the factors that will be taken into account by HMRC in calculating the refund due.

I now move to new clause 7, an SNP new clause, which would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to commission an independent review of the impacts of the repayment scheme established under sections 19 and 20, and to lay the report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act. Of course, it is very important that we should consider the impact of all tax policy on individuals and, in this case, of the repayment scheme on the approximately 2,000 taxpayers, including companies, the self-employed and employees, who may be entitled to claim a refund under the scheme.

Although that is the case, the Government do not think there is any cause to undertake an additional report. The Government have already accepted Sir Amyas Morse’s recommendation in his independent, thorough and expert report that the Government should report to Parliament on all aspects of our implementation of the loan charge changes before the end of 2020. This was recommendation 14 of the independent review into the loan charge. It was accepted by the Government at the time, and it already adequately fulfils the requirement put forward in new clause 7. For that reason, I commend clauses 19 and 20 to the Committee, but I ask that the Committee reject new clause 7 if it is put to a vote.

--- Later in debate ---
This situation just gets messier and messier, but it seems that some of those people, who are now locked into doing what they think is the right thing for HMRC, are being chased to repay their loans by debt collectors. I would be interested to know what representations the Treasury has had on that issue and whether the Government are planning further action on it.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his thorough and wide-ranging remarks. He is right that it is a kind of principle of tax policy in a way, or the typical reaction of an individual, and one wishes that the general instinct shared by 98% or 99% of the tax-paying population that he articulated well —namely, that if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is too good to be true—was shared by the whole of the population. However, for different reasons, that is not the case. The hon. Gentleman is right to articulate the principle that if it looks too good to be true, it is, and I thank him for doing so. I also thank him and his colleagues for the nuanced interrogation they have given this policy, but not diverging from us on its core thrust.

I want to make it clear that I am not remotely downplaying, undervaluing or minimising the personal feelings of people, or the impact or hardship that they have experienced as a result of this situation. Clearly, there have been cases that have been felt across the House and raised by different MPs, and Revenue and Customs understands that as well. It has made it very clear that it will not force people to sell their main home; that it will not, except in the most unusual circumstances, put people into bankruptcy; and that it will exercise, by adhering to a series of principles, a judicious approach to people’s settlement processes. That includes a principle that no more than half of someone’s disposable income should go to settle a tax dispute, so that families have not only their non-disposable income but at least half of their disposable income to support themselves.

Those principles also include, as I have indicated, a set of basic time periods to make a settlement—of five years in the case of someone earning under £50,000 a year, and of seven years in the case of someone earning under £30,000 a year—and that is part of the practice of Revenue and Customs, and a well-embedded principle.

Furthermore, if people have concerns that they are being badly handled in this process—this also relates to the point that the hon. Gentleman made about an independent review—they can appeal to tax commissioners for, as it were, an investigation and review. Of course, they also have the ability to go to their MP, and Members are very effective in raising tax-related issues on behalf of their constituents.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the point about MPs intervening on constituents’ issues, I would challenge the question around disposable income. A constituent of mine had been asked to pay money back, and the definition that HMRC gave of his disposable income was incredibly tight compared with the definition of it that he had, which included his finding difficulty in giving his children money for school meals. That seemed to be treated as part of his disposable income. His children have to eat; that is not disposable income as such. I ask the Minister to be very careful about how that is described and how HMRC acts on those kinds of things, because it takes a very strict line on disposable income.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course, the approach taken needs to have foundational principles aligned to it, and those can be questioned in specific contexts and by the mechanisms that I have described.

The distributional impact of the way the loan charge disguised remuneration population breaks down has been put into the public domain and analysed by HM Revenue and Customs. For example, a relatively small number of people work in caring professions, contrary to the impression that colleagues may have been given. That is the context in which the final recommendation by Sir Amyas Morse, which is that these debts should be written off after 10 years, has been rejected by the Government. It is a recognition of Sir Amyas’s expertise and independence that 19 of his recommendations were accepted, and the Government have given a full account of the reason why they have rejected the 20th.

In line with Sir Amyas’s recommendations on voluntary restitution, HMRC will refund voluntary restitution already paid for years now out of scope of the loan charge, but will not refund settlements for the underlying tax liability where HMRC had protected its position. That is so that the treatment remains in line with the existing legal framework for HMRC to recover tax. Sir Amyas also recommended that for disguised remuneration loans taken out on or after 9 December 2010, HMRC should only refund voluntary restitution where the scheme user had reasonably disclosed their scheme use. We have discussed that already at some length.

Regarding some of the impact of the different pressures that may be on taxpayers, HMRC will not as a matter of course meet professional costs incurred by taxpayers in reaching their original settlement or claiming refunds, but it may meet professional costs where they have been incurred as a direct result of a mistake or an unreasonable delay in its own dealings with a taxpayer’s affairs. That was not the position when HMRC was applying legislation in place at the time.

Refunding fees to those who have used avoidance schemes would send the thoroughly troubling message that taxpayers who had not used those schemes might not do as well as those who had, which is not one that this House should be particularly encouraging. Of course, if a taxpayer feels they have grounds for making a complaint, the usual mechanisms are available for them to do so.

In his recommendation 14, Sir Amyas called for the Government to report to Parliament on all aspects of their implementation of the loan charge changes,

“before the end of 2020”.

We will do that. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for laying out her concerns in that regard in this debate, and I will ensure that the officials understand and reflect on them when they start to frame this report.

As per Sir Amyas’s recommendations, the report will draw on input from the HMRC customer experience committee. It is very important to realise that the committee includes not only the non-executive directors of Revenue and Customs, but highly experienced independent people in positions of authority and expertise who are specifically customer experience experts in the private sector. The effect of the committee is to support but also challenge the HMRC executive on customer experience-related issues, and to help the Department deliver on its strategic objectives. In other words, part of its point is to ensure that HMRC treats taxpayers with a proper degree of courtesy and service levels, but in no sense becomes oppressive to them.

Let me pick up another important point, which I meant to mention earlier but have not yet: the very strong approach that HMRC is taking on promoters and enablers of tax avoidance. Certainly since I have been Financial Secretary to the Treasury, we have significantly enhanced the already substantial work being done in that area. That includes work that builds collaboration across Government, including with bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority or the Insolvency Service. It involves proactive communications to help taxpayers to steer clear of avoidance.

HMRC has launched a consultation on ways to combat the promotion and enabling of tax avoidance; colleagues from different parties are welcome to make contributions to that if they wish. The areas it is looking at include tackling promoters and their supply chains, looking at the economics of tax avoidance, disrupting business models and improving compliance and enforcement in other ways. I would like the Committee to understand that HMRC is in no sense minimising the importance of going after promoters and enablers where it can—subject to law, and with new powers if it should be so decided after the process of consultation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Finance Bill (Third sitting)

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good morning. I remind Members that tea and coffee are not permitted in Committee meetings. Please would all Members ensure that mobile phones are turned off and switched to silent mode during Committee meetings?

The selection list for today’s sitting is available in this Committee Room and written evidence received since the last sitting of the Committee, on Thursday, has been circulated by email to all members of the Committee.

The Hansard reporters would be most grateful if Members emailed any electronic copies of their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. Members should be aware that at 11 o’clock I will invite the Committee to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of George Floyd.

Clause 21

Annual allowance: tapered reduction

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much indeed, Mr Rosindell; it is a delight to see you in the Chair.

I start by saying that we are at the point in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” where we are about to enter the slough of despond, and I apologise to all colleagues that the slough is a rather extended period of technical amendments. I can promise them that in due course we will enter the place of deliverance, although possibly not for some time.

Clause 21 raises both pensions tapered annual allowance thresholds by £90,000 each and also lowers the minimum annual allowance to £4,000. The Government provide tax relief on pension contributions. To give some background, in 2017-18 income tax and employer national insurance contributions relief cost £54 billion, of which 60% went to higher and additional-rate taxpayers.

The Government therefore impose limits on pensions tax relief. One of these limits—the tapered annual allowance—has affected some senior clinicians in the national health service and also some individuals in other public service workforces. This measure is the outcome of the Government’s manifesto commitment to carry out a review of the impact of the tapered annual allowance on the NHS. That review built on another review of the effect on public service delivery more widely, which was announced last August. Roundtable discussions with public service stakeholders, including representatives of the health professions, were held as part of these reviews. These reviews concluded at the Budget on 11 March.

In the last tax year, in recognition of the impact that the tapered annual allowance was having on some doctors, NHS England announced a special arrangement, for 2019-20 only, in which doctors in England could use that arrangement to ensure that they would not be worse off as a result of taking on extra shifts. As health is a devolved matter, that special arrangement applied only to England, but we are aware that the Welsh and Scottish Governments also put similar arrangements in place during 2019-20 for NHS staff.

Raising the two thresholds at which the tapered annual allowance applies by £90,000 each is the quickest and most effective way to solve this issue for senior doctors and other clinicians. It delivers a tax solution, which has been the British Medical Association’s primary request, and it comes into effect from 6 April, which is the beginning of the current tax year.

The changes made by clause 21 mean that no one with income below £200,000 will now be caught by the tapered annual allowance. The annual allowance will only begin to taper down for individuals who also have total income, including pension accrual, above £240,000. We estimate that this will take up to 96% of GPs and up to 98% of NHS consultants outside the scope of the tapered tax allowance, based on NHS earnings alone.

As this is a tax change, these measures will apply both to clinical and non-clinical staff across the whole UK, and they will apply in the same way to all workforces. These measures will also apply equally across public and private sector registered pension schemes. However, to ensure that the very highest earners pay their fair share of pension tax, the minimum level to which the annual allowance can taper down is reducing from £10,000 to £4,000 from the beginning of this tax year. This will affect only those with a total income, including pension accrual, of over £300,000. These measures will cost over £2 billion over the next five years.

The changes demonstrate that the Government are committed to ensuring that hard-working NHS staff do not find themselves reducing their work commitments as a result of the interaction of their pay, their pension and the tapered annual allowance tax regime. This meets the Government’s commitment to allow doctors to spend as much time as possible treating patients, and supports vital public services while ensuring that the very highest earners pay their fair share of tax. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Chair this morning, Mr Rosindell.

The Opposition welcome the Government’s efforts to resolve the issue. Hon. Members will know that the primary function of introducing the tapered reduction of the annual allowance in 2016 was to prevent tax avoidance in the private sector, but whatever the original intention of the tapered annual allowance threshold, its impact was not properly considered. The result has been damaging to our NHS: as the Financial Secretary says, it has led to a situation in which senior practitioners have refused to undertake extra shifts because of the tax impact, and in many cases have taken early retirement.

According to a British Medical Association survey, just under a third of doctors have reduced the number of hours they spend caring for patients because of actual or potential pension taxation changes, while 37% of those who have not yet reduced them plan to do so in the next year. That is perhaps unsurprising considering the nature of the tapered annual allowance: as the BMA sets out, it creates a tax cliff edge whereby doctors effectively pay to work. Although the Treasury and HMRC have repeatedly stated that tapering affects only people with earnings over £150,000, in defined benefit schemes it has created a tax cliff at the income threshold of £110,000, which means that those in defined benefit schemes may face additional tax charges of up to £13,500 if they exceed the tax threshold income by just £1, while some could face effective tax charges greater than 100%.

Of course, we should recognise that that is not the only factor contributing to the real problem of staff retention in the NHS. Aside from the impact of coronavirus, hospitals and A&Es have been overstretched for years, increasing numbers of people are waiting too long for operations, and key performance targets are being missed month after month. We also face a chronic lack of family doctors; as the Nuffield Trust has highlighted, we have seen the first sustained drop in GP numbers in 50 years, which adds to the pressures on remaining staff. The problem is particularly acute in certain parts of the country: in Sunderland and the wider north-east, we can see the same picture at a much bigger level, where we face a real challenge to recruit and retain family doctors.

The doctors I speak to are always striving to do the best they possibly can in challenging circumstances, but we must acknowledge that the stress they have been placed under, due to the underfunding and neglect of our NHS by this Government, has made the situation even worse. The pension situation that many have faced since 2016 has no doubt proved to be the final straw, as doctors have opted not to take shifts, or to retire early. As we have seen, that is complicating efforts to retain such important NHS staff.

The situation would be unsustainable even if we were not facing the impact of coronavirus, but the additional pressures on doctors, many of whom will have taken on extra shifts, make resolving the issue more pressing than ever. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to those NHS staff who have put themselves on the frontline, in harm’s way, to do all they can in the national interest at this very difficult time for our country.

It is important to note that the problem is not exclusive to staff within the NHS; the annual allowance is a problem in other defined benefit schemes, including for the armed forces. As the Forces Pension Society states,

“in 2018 almost 4,000 serving military personnel, including those in non-commissioned ranks, received notification that they might have exceeded their annual allowance limit and for many a significant tax charge followed—well ahead of receiving any of the future benefit on which the tax is levied.”

The society argues that

“unless action is taken, there is a real risk to retention and operational effectiveness”—

a concern also highlighted by the Ministry of Defence.

We all owe it to those in our public services and our armed forces, who do so much to care for us, protect us and keep our country safe, to make sure that they are treated fairly and can plan effectively for their pension and later life. It is clear that that has not happened as a result of the changes implemented by the Government in 2016. The proposed measure does at least promise to address the issue in part and in the short term and the BMA has stated that the vast majority of doctors are now removed from the effect of the taper. However, there are still concerns, and I hope the Minister will be able to respond to them.

The proposed tax change would take effect only from 6 April 2020; as the Minister will know, the additional pressures created by covid-19 began before that point. As the Chartered Institute of Taxation has identified, that means that doctors who took on extra shifts during this period face the risk of being hit by higher tax bills later. What consideration has been given to the issue of medical staff who have made extra efforts during this crisis, but before 6 April 2020? Has any analysis been undertaken of the scale of the problem and will any measures be necessary to address it?

Given that the purpose of the clause is to reduce and reverse the trends with doctors not taking shifts and retiring early, I would also welcome confirmation from the Minister that the Government intend to monitor the impact of the clause on an ongoing basis, to ensure that it is having its intended effect.

We have concerns more broadly because, as the Minister said, the proposed change would benefit all high earners, not just NHS staff and those in our armed forces that the clause ostensibly targets. Monitoring the effect on taxation revenue will also be critical, because the Opposition want to see fairness right across the system. Although the measure seems to address the issue in the short term, the Minister will be aware of the wider concerns about whether the tapered annual allowance is appropriate in general.

The Office of Tax Simplification has suggested removing the annual allowance from defined benefit pension schemes, and that move was supported by the BMA. As it said in its response to the 2020 Budget, although it welcomed the Government’s proposal in part, problems remained, given that many doctors with incomes far below the new threshold will face tax bills as a result of exceeding the standard annual allowance, which remains at £40,000. That can happen simply following a modest rise in pensionable pay—for example, when receiving a pay increment, taking on a leadership role or being recognised for clinical excellence. The BMA has added that there is no change to the lifetime allowance and many doctors will still need to consider taking early retirement.

The Minister will no doubt be aware that the former Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann, has similarly warned that just raising the threshold of earnings at which the tapered annual allowance starts will certainly not solve the underlying problem. She has called for fundamental reform to provide those in defined benefit schemes with greater certainty into the future. The Opposition support that call for broader consideration of the issue.

All that brings us to wider considerations around pension tax relief and whether the system as it operates works as well as it could. The Chartered Institute of Taxation, among others, has said that a review of how tax relief applies to pension savings should be considered, given that the solution that the Government have presented here has only been achieved at significant cost to the Exchequer and to the benefit of many higher-earning people, beyond our medical and armed forces staff. Will the Government consider such a review and think more widely about creating a simpler, fairer and more sustainable pensions system?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks and for welcoming these measures. She expresses what I know will be the universal sentiment in this Committee: a sense of profound gratitude to the NHS for the astonishing way in which it and all the public services around them have responded to the crisis posed by coronavirus. I certainly echo that.

The hon. Lady talked about underfunding of the NHS. I really do not recognise that at all: the NHS has been very well funded, with continuous above-inflation funding settlements. In relation to coronavirus alone, public services have received over £16 billion, the NHS central among them. However, that only underlines the point that extraordinary work was being done by the NHS before, and it throws into greater relief how flexibly, energetically and effectively it has responded to the coronavirus pandemic. I think that shows the inner resilience of the organisation.

The hon. Lady asked about people somehow being deterred from taking extra shifts in the NHS. She will be aware that NHS England put in place its own measures for last year, and we understand that parallel measures were implemented in Scotland and Wales.

The effect of the change, which begins in April, is to give a sufficiently generous increase in the annual allowance thresholds so that up to 96% of GPs and up to 98% of senior medical staff will be out of scope of the tapered annual allowance as regards their NHS earnings. It is interesting to note that, as the hon. Lady rightly acknowledges, that has been widely recognised by the key institutions. The BMA said:

“The vast majority of doctors are now removed from the effect of the taper and will no longer be in a situation where they are ‘paying to go to work’”

as they see it. NHS Employers said:

“Employers across the NHS will welcome this significant step in reforming pensions taxation.”

That is all to the good.

The hon. Lady asked whether we will monitor the clause’s impact. The Treasury will of course monitor it as we do the effects of taxation across the piece. This reform will retain a certain political currency and therefore, I think, support and enthusiasm across the Committee. She also asked about fairness across public services. She will be aware that one of the benefits of a tax reform is that it offers fair treatment across those public services, irrespective of how people work.

The question of whether the allowance taper should be removed has been scouted by some. Of course, unless it was replaced by some other approach, it would have the effect of there being no corresponding reduction in the capacity to add pensions relief. The absence of a taper would therefore create precisely the cliff edge that the hon. Lady warned against.

The hon. Lady mentioned the idea of a review. She will be aware that the Treasury had a review only a short number of years ago, which was inconclusive. We continue to reflect on this complex and difficult area of taxation and will do so as we ponder the future fiscal effects. With that in mind, I hope the Committee will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

Entrepreneurs’ relief

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

New clause 8—Review of changes to entrepreneurs’ relief—

‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact on investment in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the changes made to entrepreneur’s relief by section 22 and Schedule 2 of this Act and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on—

(a) business investment,

(b) employment, and

(c) productivity.

(3) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.’.

This new clause would require a review of the impact on investment of the changes made to entrepreneurs’ relief.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause and schedule 22 rename entrepreneurs’ relief as “business asset disposal relief” and reduce the lifetime limit for gains eligible for relief so that from 11 March 2020 the relief can be claimed on gains of up to £1 million. The purpose of renaming the relief is simply to reflect its function and purpose more accurately.

The relief offers a reduced rate of 10% capital gains tax on disposal of eligible business assets. Evidence shows that for some people—indeed, quite a few people—the relief has been a tax planning tool, helping some of the richest people in society to pay less tax rather than discharging its purpose of incentivising entrepreneurship and enterprising business activity. Last year, three quarters of the relief’s cost was for claims made by just 6,000 people disposing of assets with gains of over £1 million. The reform ensures that the Government can more sustainably support small businesspeople with up to £100,000 capital gains tax relief available over their lifetime.

The clause also makes special provisions for disposals entered into before 11 March 2020—that is to say, Budget day—that have not yet been completed. The provisions ensure that such people can still use the previous lifetime limit, but only where the disposal has not been artificially structured for the purpose of securing a tax advantage. It is therefore an anti-forestalling rule, with the rules ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of tax.

The previous lifetime limit of £10 million was an unsustainable degree of support for those less in need of it, and, as I have said, did not discharge the purpose of supporting entrepreneurship as it should have done. The new £1 million lifetime limit is far more sustainable and better targets the people who it was intended should benefit from the relief.

--- Later in debate ---
Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is my first experience of a Finance Bill Committee—indeed, I think it is the first time we have met, Mr Rosindell, and I look forward to serving under your chairmanship. Dare I say that our new clause is constructive? That is the manner I am starting in. I would like the Government to change their stance a bit and look at the wider picture.

Before the Budget, it was well known to all of us in the public sphere that the Government were considering entirely scrapping entrepreneurs’ relief. We read a number of comments in the press and the public domain about Conservative Back Benchers being unhappy with that move because they felt it would stifle investment. Ultimately, the Chancellor did not scrap entrepreneurs’ relief but simply took it back to the level it was at when the Labour party introduced it in 2008, reducing it from £10 million to £1 million. We need to know what the Government’s long-term direction of travel is. We cannot be driven by a rebellion on the Government Back Benches. If the Government do not feel that entrepreneurs’ relief is beneficial, they should make that clear.

The Minister said that the Government have conducted a review, and indeed they have, but it was an internal review; as far as I am aware, it is not in the public domain. They are more than welcome to put it into the public domain, or they could agree to our new clause. The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South talked about what we are could achieve. It is important that we have that review so that we all know where entrepreneurs’ relief is going to be in the coming years.

As I say, this is a constructive suggestion. It is based not just on our interpretation of the situation, but on the evidence. The IFS believes that entrepreneurs’ relief is poorly targeted; the FSB, on the other hand, is broadly supportive; and the Chartered Institute of Taxation believes that a public consultation on objectives and efficacy is necessary. There is a broad range of views about this policy, so the time has come for the Government to undertake a review in the public domain so that we all understand the direction of travel and know where they seek to go. Hopefully, that will inform us all a bit more about the position. As I say, this is a constructive suggestion, and I hope the Government will change their stance.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Members for Houghton and Sunderland South and for Aberdeen South very much for their comments. They raise a number of important points.

It is certainly true that this relief has attracted widespread criticism from different interested and expert bodies; the hon. Lady is absolutely right to point that out. It is important to note that the Government have tried to strike a balance. An outright abolition might have had the effect of penalising a lot of entrepreneurial activity, undertaken in good faith up to the level that has been determined. That would have been, in the Government’s view, an overreaction to the situation. Therefore, we have tried to strike a balance by trying to keep the vast majority of entrepreneurial activity that is protected in place while cutting back on aspects that are ineffective or regressive.

It is interesting, as has been noted by Opposition Members, that alongside widespread concern there has also been notable recognition of the importance of that aspect of the relief that I have highlighted from the Federation of Small Businesses. I note that the national chairman described this as a

“sensible compromise on Entrepreneurs’ Relief”,

in which

“everyday entrepreneurs will be pleased to hear the Chancellor say that he has listened to FSB”.

--- Later in debate ---
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We continue to stride boldly through the slough of despond. Here we come to the reform of the capital gains tax private residence relief ancillary reliefs. The clause makes changes to capital gains tax private residence relief where individuals have more than one residence, reducing the final period exemption from 18 months to nine months and reforming lettings relief so that that relief only applies where the owner shares occupancy with a tenant.

The clause also makes several other minor changes to make the private residence relief rules fairer. The Government are committed to keeping family homes out of capital gains tax, and private residence relief will still be available for the entire time a property is lived in. However, ancillary reliefs mean that in some circumstances people can accrue relief on two or more properties simultaneously. The reforms make private residence relief fairer by better targeting relief at owner-occupiers.

The final period exemption currently relieves the last 18 months of ownership of a main residence or former main residence from capital gains tax. This provides relief as people go through the process of selling their home, but it allows people to accrue relief on two properties simultaneously. From April 2020, the exemption will be reduced to nine months. The 36-month exemption for those who are disabled or are in a care home will remain.

Lettings relief is available when a property that was someone’s previous main residence is wholly or partly let out. This can extend the benefit of relief by up to £40,000 for an individual and £80,000 for a couple, while they are also accruing relief on their current main residence. In order to better target the relief at owner-occupiers, from April 2020 lettings relief will only be available in cases of shared occupancy. The armed forces future accommodation model is also a source of concern. We want to be sure that the clause will extend the benefit of employer-provided accommodation relief to those service personnel who live in privately rented accommodation under that new model.

The Government are also legislating on two extra existing statutory concessions. The first applies when an individual has more than one residence, but only one has any real capital value. This concession extends the time period for nominating the individual’s main residence. The second allows 24 months of relief where, for specific reasons, a person is unable to occupy a new home for use as their main residence. There is also a change to ensure that, when spouses or civil partners agree to transfer shares in a residential property between themselves, the receiving spouse or civil partner will inherit the transferring spouse’s past use of the property, no matter the use of the property at the time of transfer. This prevents unfair outcomes arising in certain cases.

The Government are committed to keeping family homes out of capital gains tax, through private residence relief. However, the current availability of lettings relief, and the 18-month final period exemption, can mean that people accrue relief on two or more properties simultaneously. These reforms address those concerns and make private residence relief fairer, by better targeting it at owner-occupiers. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The objectives behind the clause seem well intentioned, but the Minister will no doubt be aware of the severe impact of covid-19 on the housing market, as referenced by many stakeholders—a point which I should be grateful if he would address. According to the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the evidential basis for the reduction in the final period exemption was based on an average selling time—before the current pandemic—of approximately four and a half months, and it is concerned that this evidence base may be undermined by the effects of covid-19.

The Minister will be aware of his Government’s own advice, which lasted until 13 May, that physical viewings of homes were not permitted, and as such, that the home-buying process would take longer, with people advised to delay moving into a new house. While there is updated advice, there are still clearly restrictions that will slow down the process of buying a new home, and wider practical difficulties in this area when it comes to estate agents, banks processing payments and the wider conveyancing system.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation referred to research by Zoopla, conducted between 12 and 19 May, which found that 41% of would-be home movers across Britain had put their property plans on hold in light of market uncertainty, loss of income and lower confidence in their future finances, with property inquiries reported to be more than 50% down on pre-lockdown levels. Given that ongoing uncertainty, it is increasingly likely that it may take longer than nine months for some of those affected by this provision to sell their property, given the deterrent impact of covid-19 and the lockdown on potential buyers, as well as all the practical difficulties for buyers, which I am sure we appreciate. That could leave sellers with an unexpected tax liability when a property takes longer than nine months to sell. Many stakeholders consulted on this legislation believe that the fairest way to resolve the issue is to defer the introduction of the final period exemption, so as not to burden some sellers with an unprecedented tax liability.

In their consultation with stakeholders from July 2019, the Government responded to worries about the nine-month period exemption being too short by saying that

“a 9 month final period exemption strikes the right balance between being long enough to provide relief whilst they go through the process of selling their home, but not so long that they are able to accrue large amounts of relief on two properties simultaneously, or on homes that are no longer used as their main residence.”

I will not seek to blame the Government for not predicting at that point the impact of a global pandemic, but we are living through some very difficult times. Has any further consideration been given to the timing of the measures contained in the clause? Given the pressures on the housing market, does he still regard them as appropriate and realistic? Is the Treasury considering the impact more broadly?

Putting the coronavirus aside, concerns have been raised that the clause runs in contradiction to the parliamentary convention on retrospective taxation, whereby retrospection is permissible only when dealing with unacceptable avoidance schemes. The clause is about changing long-standing reliefs rather than countering avoidance, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has highlighted that the clause is retrospective. It also argues that it would be simpler for taxpayers if the measures were delayed until the start of the next tax year. I am sure the Minister has given consideration to that point, and I am keen to hear his views on the topic.

Another point raised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation is that the new rules must be well communicated. Their introduction coincides with the new 30-day time limit running from the date of completion to the reporting and payment of capital gains tax, meaning that there is now much less time to establish capital gains tax liability. What are the Government doing to communicate such changes, so that they are well understood?

The changes as a whole are projected to raise £50 million for the Government in this tax year and £120 million next year. Given the current situation in the housing market, I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s views on whether any change has been made to any projections in this area. It is vital that the Government can raise funding for our vital public services, but in the grand scheme of things, those seem like relatively modest sums. Although I want to ensure that our public services have the funding they need to get through this crisis, I am sure the Government would not seek to disadvantage those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a very difficult situation owing to the pandemic.

Those are the only comments that I seek to offer on the clause. I shall be grateful for a response from the Minister.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. She raises the question of retrospectivity. We do not regard the changes as retrospective. Capital gains tax is due only when a disposal is made, and taxpayers have 18 months’ notice of the changes. They have therefore had plenty of time to rearrange their affairs—for example, by selling property under the old rules if they had wished to do so. It is important to remember that any private residence relief accrued from periods when the property was lived in as a main home is retained.

I am glad that the hon. Lady does not blame the Government for failing to predict the pandemic. That would be a very widespread source of blame; few people across the world could be exculpated from that. She also raised the question of the effect of covid-19. It is worth saying that, as she highlights, the nine-month exemption is based on evidence that the average selling time was four and a half months, and the suggestion is therefore that nine months is not long enough. I note her point and will take it away with me from this sitting; I thank her for that. It still leaves the average significantly short of nine months. It is worth pointing out that, if people are taken over that level, they will still likely pay very little, if any, capital gains tax, because the annual exempt amount, which has just been increased to £12,300, keeps small gains out of CGT. If someone was running over by a month, it would have to be an enormous gain in order to breach the annual limit.

As I said, there are no changes to the wider 36-month exemption that is available to disabled people and to those in care homes. The Government think the CGT allowance provides an additional safeguard in case there are circumstances in which people might inadvertently run over time.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 23 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 24

Corporate capital losses

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

That schedule 3 be the Third schedule to the Bill.

Clause 25 stand part.

New clause 9—Review of changes to capital allowances

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effect of the changes to chargeable gains with respect to corporate capital losses in section 24 and Schedule 3 of this Act in each part of the United Kingdom and each region of England and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within two months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the changes on—

(a) business investment

(b) employment, and

(c) productivity.

(3) A review under this section must consider the effects in the current and each of the subsequent four financial years.

(4) The review must also estimate the effects on the changes in the event of each of the following—

(a) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period without a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement,

(b) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated agreement, and remains in the single market and customs union, or

(c) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement, and does not remain in the single market and customs union.

(5) The review must also estimate the effects on the changes if the UK signs a free trade agreement with the United States.

(6) In this section—

‘parts of the United Kingdom’ means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and ‘regions of England’ has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause requires a review of the impact on investment, employment and productivity of the changes to capital allowance over time; in the event of a free trade agreement with the USA; and in the event of leaving the EU without a trade agreement, with an agreement to retain single market and customs union membership, or with a trade agreement that does not include single market and customs union membership.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are 50 minutes in and making very good progress, so thank you for your leadership from the Chair, Mr Rosindell.

Clauses 24 and 25 and schedule 3 make changes to UK corporation tax loss relief rules to introduce the corporate capital loss restriction that was announced at Budget 2018. At that Budget, the Government announced changes to the treatment of capital losses for corporation tax purposes. Currently, if an asset is sold at a loss, that capital loss can be carried forward and offset against up to 100% of the capital gains in future periods. In order to ensure that large companies pay corporation tax when they make significant capital gains, the Government will restrict the use of companies’ historical capital losses to 50% of the amount of annual capital gains from 1 April 2020. This policy builds on previous reforms to corporation tax loss relief, and brings the treatment of capital losses into line with the treatment of income losses.

The changes made by clause 24 will apply a 50% reduction to the amount of carried-forward capital losses that a company can set against chargeable gains that arise in a later accounting period. Various other changes that are required to deliver or support that loss restriction are also included. They include provisions to ensure that the restriction is proportionate for companies entering into liquidation, and that it operates effectively for companies in sectors that are subject to unique tax regimes, such as oil and gas, life insurance and real estate investment trusts.

This loss restriction will raise approximately £765 million in additional revenue over the next five years. An annual allowance of £5 million will apply across both income and capital losses to ensure that small and medium-sized companies are not affected. We estimate that less than 1% of companies will have to pay additional tax as a result of these changes. The change made by clause 25 is to amend the quarterly instalment payment treatment for certain companies with no source of chargeable income, which have a short accounting period resulting from a chargeable gain accruing.

New clause 9, tabled by the SNP, requires a review of the effect of the change to chargeable gains introduced by clause 24 and schedule 3 within two months of the Bill’s receiving Royal Assent. The review would focus on the effects of changes on business investment, employment and productivity across different regions of the UK, as well as the effects of various scenarios following the end of the EU transition period, and under circumstances in which the UK signs a free trade agreement with the United States.

The Government’s view is that such a review is not necessary. We set out detailed information on the Exchequer macroeconomic and business impacts in 2018, when this policy was first announced, and provided a further update at Budget 2020. Those estimates, which have been certified by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, confirm that the changes made by the clause are not expected to have any significant macroeconomic impacts. The changes will affect very few companies—about 200 every year, which are likely to be dispersed across the UK. That estimate is not expected to change in any of the EU transitional free trade agreement scenarios set out in the amendment. A further review of the clause would not provide any additional useful information.

This restriction is a proportionate way of ensuring that large companies pay some tax when making substantial capital gains. The review that the new clause would legislate is unnecessary. I therefore urge the Committee to reject new clause 9, and I commend the clauses and the schedule to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to be here again on such a fine day in the Committee Room, going through some of the more technical elements of the Finance Bill.

We have heard from the Financial Secretary why clause 24 and schedule 3 appear in the Bill. As Members can see for themselves, part 1 of schedule 3—paragraphs 1 to 38—deals with changes required to introduce the corporate capital loss restriction; part 2—paragraphs 39 to 41—introduces changes in the treatment of allowable losses for companies without a source of chargeable income and makes other required minor amendments; and part 3—paragraphs 42 to 46—contains commencement and anti-forestalling provisions for the CCLR.

All in all, schedule 3 comes to 18 pages. I am sure that the Treasury deems them essential, or they would not be in the Bill, but it does seem to run somewhat contrary to the Government’s stated aim of simplifying the tax system. In case anyone wanted to reach for the explanatory notes for some salvation and solace, even they extend to 10 pages. I do wonder whether it was really necessary, with such a lengthy schedule and explanatory notes, to go into such detail; I guess my question to the Financial Secretary is whether anything can be done to simplify it. As I said, the Government’s stated aim is to simplify taxes—they even created the Office of Tax Simplification —but the OTS’s job is made much more difficult if, while it is trying to simplify the existing tax code, we are adding reams and reams of clauses to it.

The measure set out in clause 24 and schedule 3 is expected to raise significant revenues in corporation tax from large corporations. That is not something that I will complain about too much—in fact, I am not complaining at all—but a common concern among respondents to the Government consultation was about the timing in relation to our exit from the European Union and in the context of concerns about the impact on UK competitiveness. Although we do not oppose what the Government seek to do, it is important that they address those concerns up front—not least so that when people reply to Government consultations, they know that someone is reading and listening, and that the Government will at least address their concerns even if they do not share them.

Turning to clause 25, I am sure the Financial Secretary will recall that the London Society of Chartered Accountants wrote to the Chancellor on 19 April, copying him in, to raise issues about several clauses of the Bill. Paragraph 13 of that letter states:

“We note that this proposes that a company that would otherwise be ‘very large’ would be ‘large’ in the context of the regulations requiring payment of corporation tax in instalments if it is chargeable only because of a chargeable gain on disposal of an asset, but only for APs beginning on or after 11 March 2020. It is obviously aimed at non-resident companies that only come within corporation tax as a result of their new exposure to corporation tax on disposals of UK land and interests in entities that are ‘UK land-rich’. A single such disposal would result in the due date being on that one day that the company disposed of the property, so this is a welcome change for any but the largest organisations. However, it is unfortunate that this is not to apply to events before 11 March 2020, where companies have had to rely on a concession by HMRC. In such circumstances, HMRC propose that tax should be paid within 3 months and 14 days after contracts are exchanged unconditionally.”

It would be good if the Financial Secretary addressed those concerns in his reply.

We have already heard the Financial Secretary’s account of why he thinks the review required by new clause 9—tabled by our colleagues in the SNP, led here by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central—is not necessary. The proposed review of changes to capital allowances

“must consider the effects of the changes on…business investment…employment, and…productivity…The review must also estimate the effects on the changes in the event of each of the following…the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period without a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement…the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated agreement and remains in the single market or customs union”—

I will not hold my breath on that one—

“or…the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement, and does not remain in the single market and customs union.”

I understand why the Financial Secretary may not consider such a review necessary in the context of changes to capital allowances, but I would say two things in response. First, clear, widely available and readily understood analysis of the wider context and the wider pressures on the economy, covering issues such as business investment, employment and productivity is absolutely essential. Secondly, the headlines are obviously dominated by the coronavirus and, more recently, by events in the United States, with the murder of George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter movement protests we have seen on the streets of the UK. However, in the background, as we know, there is the ongoing issue of Brexit, which has almost been forgotten in the national conversation, but which remains one of the single biggest challenges facing our country. The Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union is hearing from Michel Barnier this week.

Whether Brexit is viewed by Members of the House as an opportunity or a threat, or perhaps a combination of the two, I do not think anyone would dispute that unravelling ourselves from the most sophisticated political and economic alliance in the history of the world is simple or straightforward, or without consequences. We have reached a settled position—to be clear, the official Opposition recognise that settled position—with a referendum and two general elections that have given the Government a mandate to implement the referendum. The question of whether Brexit takes place has been settled by those three democratic events; the question now is how it happens. At the same time, we are in the middle of a global pandemic that, as well as being a public health crisis, threatens to be an economic crisis. We are already in a recession, and the choices the Government make in the coming days, weeks and months, along with the choices they have already made, will shape and determine whether the recession is as short and shallow as we would hope.

I do have a concern when I listen to statements made by Ministers—not so much Treasury Ministers, but certainly Ministers in other parts of the Government, including the Prime Minister and the people around him—that the economic issues and priorities of the country are playing second order to political considerations. That is a terrible mistake. I hope that the Government will take a more stable and orderly approach—if I may borrow a phrase from our former Prime Minister—to some of these choices and issues, and that the Treasury flexes its muscles at all points in conversations with other Departments about the considerations that must be made about our future relationship with the European Union and, indeed, about free trade agreements with other countries, including the United States.

The Financial Secretary may not have a great deal of sympathy for the case made for a review in the context of changes to capital allowances, but I am glad we are having this conversation, because debate in this place is moving too often away from some of the really serious economic challenges that are presenting themselves. We cannot wish those challenges away; we need to make active, sensible and wise choices to ensure that our country emerges from this period of our history with a stronger economy and with greater and more widely shared prosperity than we have today. I hope that that cause is shared by Members right across the House.

Finally on new clause 9, the reason why we table such amendments and new clauses calling for reviews is that that is one of the few ways in which Opposition parties can debate issues on the Finance Bill. In recent years, it seems Ministers—to their shame, actually—have been too frightened and cowardly to allow Finance Bills to be subject to amendments in the way they were traditionally. We no longer have the same freedom and flexibility to propose practical, concrete changes that we might like to see, which strengthen democratic and political debate in Parliament, with Oppositions not just criticising Government, but laying down alternatives so that we can debate their merits versus the Government’s approach. So, instead, we call for reviews.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I call the Minister to respond.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would not have dreamt of not responding to the concerns raised by Members of the Opposition, and I am grateful to you, Mr Rosindell, for allowing me to do so.

The hon. Member for Ilford North mentioned the simplification of the tax system and asked whether the measures before us could be regarded as a simplification. He is absolutely right that simplification of the tax system is a highly desirable thing. In this case, without getting too far removed from political business, it seems there is a parallel to some of the work done by Thomas Kuhn on how science proceeds, where he distinguishes between times in which normal science proceeds, as it were, in a normal fashion and times when there is a paradigm shift and everything changes. Often, the effect of a paradigm shift is to create a moment of radical simplification to a system that was becoming overly complex in its theoretical analysis before. That was the effect of Copernicus on the Ptolemaic system, and of Newton on pre-Newtonian physics. There may well come a case, as in the past, where this Government or their successor decide on a radical tax simplification, but while we are in the world of existing tax, that is not the world we are talking about.

The hon. Gentleman should be pleased to know that these measures have been regarded within the profession as the model of how to achieve effective tax legislation— that is not always the case with Government legislation. There is a nice quote in the Tax Journal for 5 December 2018:

“The corporate capital loss restriction is a good example of how to produce effective legislation. The consultation will enable draft legislation to be produced for publication in December 2019. This will be subject to technical consultation ahead of its inclusion in the Finance Bill 2020. This allows time for the profession to work with HMRC to iron out the inevitable teething troubles.”

That is right. As I have identified, there were essentially two periods of consultation: one on policy design and, in due course, more technical consultation on draft legislation. That work is what is reflected in this piece of legislation. I hope I have reassured the hon. Gentleman on that front.

The hon. Gentleman raised a question about competitiveness. He will know that the components of competitiveness are many and various. It is not immediately obvious why the treatment of capital for capital losses should have any huge or certainly immediate competitive effect. We are talking, lest it be forgotten, about a measure that is likely to have an effect on some 200 companies. Some of them may be large, but this is a very small proportion of the overall corporate world in which we live. It is also worth saying that, even after this change, the system that remains is significantly more generous in some crucial respects than the system in many other countries that are our notional international competitors.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of whether the Government are disallowing adequate challenge to the Bill. I would say that one man’s meat is another man’s poison, one woman’s meat is another woman’s poison and so on. The effect of having this structure to the Bill is that, as we grind through these clauses—I apologise to colleagues if it is a grind—and give them the detailed consideration that this Parliament would expect with its history of scrutinising tax, that is now being done under a system in which non-charging measures are covered by individual resolutions. That is an increase in clarity and, I think, very much to be welcomed.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South talked vigorously about what he sees as the democratic views of the people of Scotland. May I remind him of a few facts? Scotland had a referendum in 2014 in which, I am pleased to say, a substantial majority was in favour of remaining part of the Union. In so doing, Scots reflected the wisdom of arguably one of Scotland’s greatest thinkers, Adam Smith, when he said that the Union with England was a measure from which infinite good had derived to Scotland. How right Smith was. Of course, it would overturn the settled convention that referendums take place once in a generation, and, to that extent, it would be a denial of the democratic basis of referendums, to have another in a shorter time period.

May I also remind the hon. Gentleman that it was extraordinarily lucky in many ways that the Scots were, as I trust they will always be, wise enough to see their future within the Union, because when crisis struck, and the oil and gas industry were completely clobbered and the oil price fell, that would have cut an enormous hole in the GDP of an independent Scotland, which disastrous economic outcome was avoided by Scotland’s ability to work with and benefit from its position within the Union? The same will be true under coronavirus, given the different exposures that the Scottish economy has to sectors affected by the economic downturn.

--- Later in debate ---
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a very small and technical measure that widens the scope of capital gains tax relief in respect of loans to traders, so that from 24 January 2019 it applies to loans made to traders located anywhere in the world and not just in the United Kingdom.

Relief for loans to traders is available where a loan is made to a UK company, sole trader or partnership, for the purposes of a continuing trade, profession or vocation, or for the setting up of trade, but then the loan subsequently becomes irrecoverable. The relief allows a person to write off the loss against chargeable gains.

The UK has now left the EU and has agreed to follow its rules for the duration of the transition period. On 24 January 2019, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion, arguing that the existing legislation for relief of loans to traders contravened the free movement of capital principle. The Government accepted that the legislation, as drafted, was too narrow, and agreed to introduce legislation to expand the rules and to comply with that principle.

The change made by clause 26 widens the relief, so that it applies to qualifying loans made to businesses worldwide and not just in the UK. The proposed changes are not expected to have any significant impact on the Exchequer, due to the small number of people making these loans. Loans of the type covered by this relief are often risky, making them unattractive to many investors. Widening the geographical scope of the relief will not make such loans less risky, but it will give UK-based investors a remedy should an overseas investment be lost. Draft legislation setting out this change was published during the summer and no comments were received.

The Government consider that this legislation is appropriate for supporting overseas investment opportunities for UK-based investors and for meeting our residual obligations to the European Union. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Earlier, the Financial Secretary described our proceedings as “a grind for some”. How could it possibly be a grind when we were treated to such a fascinating history lesson as the one he gave at the end of the debate on the last group? However, I am not sure that invoking the economic lessons of Adam Smith will be enough to persuade the hon. Member for Aberdeen South of the case for the Union. Indeed, I am not sure that it would persuade me of the case for the Union. I will return to reading the books by our esteemed former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and I will leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) to lead the charge in making the case for the Union. That might be more persuasive to the people of Scotland than the history lesson given to us by the Financial Secretary.

We are all learning new things this morning. In fact, the hon. Member for Aberdeen South has learned that, in this place, the words “and finally” are generally a statement of intent rather than a binding commitment. I am sure that on many occasions I have used the words “and finally” more often than once.

The Financial Secretary described clause 26 as very small and technical, and I suppose that is true to an extent. As we have heard, relief for loans to traders is a capital gains tax relief; it gives relief where a loan is made to a UK company, sole trader or partnership for the purposes of an ongoing trade, profession or vocation or the setting up of trade, and the loan subsequently becomes irrecoverable. To qualify for the relief, the loan must be to a borrower who is resident in the UK and who uses the money wholly for the purposes of a trade, profession or vocation or to set up trade, as long as they start trading. Relief is due only if there is no reasonable prospect of the loan ever being repaid.

Who can argue with any of that? The clause is technical and straightforward, and the Financial Secretary has made the case for it. Only towards the end of his speech did we hear that the purpose of the clause—please shut your ears, Mr Rosindell—is to extend the relief to borrowers outside the UK, which will ensure that the relief complies with article 63 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, and with the rules on the free movement of capital.

I thought we might have a bit of fun dwelling on that for a moment, because we are locked in negotiations on our exit from the European Union. I am sure it was not meant to be sneaky—Ministers would never be sneaky—but at the end of the Financial Secretary’s speech on the clause, he briefly mentioned that it was about bringing ourselves into alignment with European Union law. It is curious that we are trying to negotiate our exit from the European Union at the same time that we are passing domestic law to bring ourselves into alignment. The Government have begun their fourth round of trade negotiations with the European Union; the process is far from complete. With the Government’s self-imposed December deadline looming, it appears there is nothing that the Government are not willing to sacrifice for their ambition to get Brexit done.

In the light of that, I am curious about whether the Government intend for the alignment to be permanent, or whether it will be a measure from which they wish to diverge in the future. I wonder what other rules we are planning to align with at the same time as we are planning divergence, and I wonder how the Government are weighing up the case for alignment and the case for divergence. The clause is designed to align the UK with EU trade regulations and EU laws, which reveals an uncomfortable reality at the heart of the Government’s strategy: no matter how much they might claim that Brexit means Brexit and that we can shirk our obligations, we know that the continuing harmonisation of laws and rules will continue within the European Union, and that, over the course of our future relationship with the European Union and with any future trade agreement with any third party, there will always be compromise, choices, trade-offs, harmonisation, agreement to abide by the same rules, and a mechanism for dispute regulation.

I certainly do not wish to re-fight the battles of the past. As I have already said, we accept that this question is settled. We have left the European Union. The only question now is about our future relationship. However, in the same way that the Government have recognised, through the clause, that we have obligations to meet, and that doing so is in the interests of businesses here in the UK—as a principle, it does not apply only to businesses, but in this case we are talking about the capital gains tax relief that will benefit different types of businesses—it is important that we acknowledge that, in our future relationship, there may well be instances in which it is in our national interest to align with the European Union, or to persuade the European Union to align with us.

Going back to my previous remarks, it seems to me that there has been far too much dogma in the debate, and far too much emphasis on demonstrating, in a robust and visible way, that we have left, almost as though divergence is a point of principle and a good in and of itself. There may be opportunities and occasions on which my Opposition colleagues and I might see divergence from a particular approach taken by the European Union as an opportunity presented by Brexit, and there may be occasions, particularly in the context of debating our domestic tax affairs and economic policies, in which opportunities might present themselves, and we might propose courses of action that otherwise might not have been possible as members of the European Union. However, there will be occasions when alignment with the European Union and its approach is in our national interest, and the Government should be brave enough to say so.

I think that most people in this country, whether they voted leave or remain, would accept that there are lots of occasions when a deep partnership with the European Union would be in our interest. Indeed, reflecting on the conversations that we had during the referendum and since, it seems to me that one of the least concerns that people had about the European Union was the notion that we had an economic partnership. My constituency split pretty much down the middle on Brexit, so I have the opportunity to speak to people who voted leave and remain all the time, which I find insightful, instructive and enriching. I find that, when people reflect back on our membership of the European Union, one of their least concerns was about the economic relationship and the notion that it was a free-trade bloc and a trading partnership. In fact, one complaint that I got from lots of leave voters who were voting leave because of concerns about sovereignty is that it had become too much of a political project and not so much an economic one.

I hope that, as the Government scope out their policies, and as the Treasury seeks to influence other Departments and to restore some sense of reality and grounding in some of the economic considerations of our future relationship, people right across Government bear that in mind, and that we do not end up cutting off our nose to spite our face. This country already had a number of underlying structural problems with our economy that we needed to address—slow growth over the last decade, weak productivity and the extent to which our country is divided, not only in the economic gap between the wealthiest and poorest but in the regional, place-based economic inequalities across our country.

There are lots of issues for us to deal with, but I fear that our job is being made even harder by the covid-19 crisis and its obvious impact, and I fear that the job of tackling those problems will be made harder still if we make unwise decisions about our future relationship based on political and ideological dogma, rather than on the economic considerations. I hope that message will be taken back to the Treasury.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am keenly aware of the 11 o’clock minute’s silence, and I wish to respect that, so I will keep my remarks short. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my consideration of the EU in my speech was probably 40% to 45%, rather than a concluding thought. I am glad he recognises that opportunities will emerge after we have left the EU, and I am sure he is right that there will be cases in which we should wish to align with it on a sovereign basis.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. At 11 o’clock, I will suspend the sitting for a minute’s silence. The bell will ring at that point. I propose we do not proceed with any further discussions until after the minute’s silence. Please be upstanding.

Finance Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 9 June 2020 - (9 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a delight to see you in the Chair this afternoon, Ms McDonagh.

Clause 27 increases the rate of relief for businesses investing in research in development and supports the Government’s ambition to drive up R&D investment across the economy to 2.4% of GDP. R&D tax credits are a key element of that support for innovation and growth. To assist businesses further, the Government will increase the rate of the R&D expenditure credit from 12% to 13%. In the interests of disclosure, I should mention that my wife, Kate Bingham, is the chair of the vaccines taskforce and is engaged in the R&D sector.

Investment in R&D is vital for increasing productivity and promoting growth. There are two schemes for claiming R&D task credits: the research and development expenditure credit—RDEC—and the small and medium-sized enterprise scheme. Businesses can benefit from R&D tax relief regardless of whether they make a profit in that year. As R&D is often risky or pays back years after the investment, this is a well-targeted and much-valued incentive. In 2016-17, the Government provided over £2.2 billion to businesses through RDEC, supporting almost £25 billion-worth of R&D activity.

The changes made by clause 27 will provide an additional £1 billion of support over the next five years. Increasing the RDEC rate will make the UK even more competitive for R&D investment and drive growth across all the UK’s regions. I believe that the changes made by the Bill will give innovative businesses additional support and encourage further investment in R&D. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Welcome back to the Chair, Ms McDonagh.

The Financial Secretary has outlined the impact that clause 27 will have on the generosity of RDEC by increasing it from 12% to 13%. The Opposition certainly have no qualms about that; it is estimated to benefit approximately 7,000 businesses, which is to be welcomed, and the incentives that he outlined are laudable. If I may, however, I will raise a couple of concerns.

The Financial Secretary mentioned the RDEC provision and the SME R&D scheme. As other stakeholders have said, it is disappointing that while the RDEC rate of credit is being increased from 12% to 13%, we are not seeing an increase in the generosity of the SME R&D scheme. Will the Minister address that in his reply? I think it is a big missed opportunity: SMEs are an important part of our economy, and their R&D potential should not be overlooked. That is why there is a provision specifically for them, after all, so it is disappointing that they seem to have been overlooked.

While we are debating clause 27, I will make a few points about research and innovation more generally. The UK is a global centre of excellence in R&I, but we should be even more ambitious, and the Treasury ought to be driving ambition in that respect. The latest figures from the Library put the UK’s research and development spending at 1.7% of GDP—behind the USA, France and Germany. While I absolutely acknowledge that the Government intend to be more ambitious and increase the percentage of GDP spend on R&D, I do not think that there is any room for complacency, so it is disappointing that they have overlooked the SME dimension.

We have to ensure that any uplift in innovation investment also ensures value for money, and that we are more ruthless about returns for the taxpayer and our economy. It is the research that costs money and the development that brings in the financial and, crucially, industrial payback.

As I said only on Monday to a group of university leaders, we have world-class universities in this country. I am very proud of the UK’s higher education sector and the contribution it makes. I hope that the plight of our universities is well understood by the Treasury and that, as the Chancellor is considering what more needs to be done to support different sectors of our economy through the crisis, he will look very carefully at what is happening in our higher education sector. It is the result not just of luck but of strong leadership from our universities that we have a world-class higher education sector in the UK, and we want it to go on being world-class. That applies not only to the teaching and the reputation of universities as a destination for students and academics, but to the world-class research output of our universities.

We still need to do much more as a country to bridge the so-called valley of death—to take academic ideas on to commercial success. It is a constant source of frustration to me, and I think more broadly, that our universities are places of outstanding research and innovation that is then capitalised on elsewhere. We end up paying double: we pay for the research up front and then we pay to buy back the benefits of that research, which has often been applied and commercialised by others.

Industrial researchers know that the cost of scale-up and commercialisation is an order of magnitude more than the cost of fundamental research, and they allocate their resources accordingly. The public sector in the UK has that ratio almost entirely reversed, spending 10 times more on research than on scale-up and development. While I absolutely celebrate and champion the research base of our universities and the importance of research and scientific discovery, and the arts and humanities as public goods in and of themselves, it is disappointing that the UK taxpayer often find themselves a benevolent funder of research for the world, hamstrung by a funding regime that has insufficient capacity to absorb and commercialise UK-funded research in the UK. I believe there is an opportunity for the Government to think about what more they can do to ensure that future growth in the science and innovation budget is targeted on development as well as research, ensuring that research carried out in the UK is commercialised in the UK, and that the economic benefits are captured in the UK.

We can also do much more around our research and technology organisations, which are an under-utilised and undervalued part of our science and innovation base. Funding development rather than research, using RTOs, would also support the Government’s objectives, which I believe are shared cross-party, of levelling up and investing in those parts of the UK that too often in the past have felt overlooked or left behind. By ensuring that funding is targeted at development as well as research, we can ensure that a greater proportion of funding goes towards some of our industrial heartlands, particularly in the north of England, where many RTOs are located, rather than continuing to concentrate funding in the so-called golden triangle of universities in the south of England.

I hope that the Financial Secretary will take those points on board, and that when he has the opportunity to do so, with the Treasury, he will focus R&D investment appropriately. It would be particularly helpful if, this afternoon, he enabled us to understand why the Government have overlooked the importance of SMEs when thinking about our research and development tax incentives.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his thoughtful comments and questions. Let me discuss the SME scheme first. It is worth reminding the Committee that the SME scheme is extremely generous as it stands. It has a 230%—2.3 times—corporation tax deduction on R&D spend and a 14.5% payable credit where losses are made; some £2.2 billion of support was claimed through the SME scheme in 2016-17. It is also true that some SMEs claim RDEC, and will therefore benefit from the increase of the expenditure credit we are discussing. In 2016-17, just under 3,500 small and medium-sized enterprises claimed a little over £200 million in support through RDEC.

I understand why the hon. Gentleman says we need more ambition, but it is important to realise that the increase now under way represents the largest increase in support for R&D for 40 years across all Governments, Labour, Conservative and coalition. It is an enormous investment that increases public investment in science, innovation and technology to £22 billion by 2024-5, so there is no absence of ambition from the present plans. Of course, it is always important to balance that ambition against cost-effectiveness and value for money.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the situation of universities in the context of covid-19. I understand that point: I used to teach at University College London and at Birkbeck, and have been associated with several universities in my life. It is also true that an enormous body of work remains to be done within universities, which may in turn be stimulated by the present situation to address the third point he made, which is the importance of the “D” in R&D—improving commercialisation and development. That is often the part of the picture that is missing, and it is hard for Government to create the development side on their own; we need active, vigorous, energetic partners. When one looks at other countries that have been highly effective at the development side of R&D, one finds in many cases that it has been not just corporate-led, but led and supported by universities as well. The hon. Gentleman’s points are therefore well made.

I remind the Committee that the ambition of this measure has been recognised by the Confederation of British Industry, which noted that these were

“powerful incentives to get businesses investing”.

It has also been specifically supported by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which has recognised that despite the difficult circumstances in which the Budget was delivered, there is a commitment to this sector and this kind of investment. With that in mind, I recommend that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28

Structures and buildings allowances: rate of relief

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 29 stand part.

That schedule 4 be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

New clause 10—Structures and buildings allowances: review

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact on investment in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the changes made by section 29 and Schedule 4 of this Act and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on—

(a) business investment,

(b) employment,

(c) productivity, and

(d) energy efficiency.

(3) In this section—

‘parts of the United Kingdom’ means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

‘regions of England’ has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a review of the impact on investment of the changes made to structures and buildings allowances in Schedule 4.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 28 makes changes that increase the rate of relief provided by the structures and buildings allowance. It is interesting that this allowance was also singled out by the CBI when referring to the economic incentives for investment that the Government provided in the Budget. From 1 and 6 April, for those businesses chargeable to income tax and corporation tax respectively, the rate of SBA will increase from 2% to 3% per annum. Clause 29 and schedule 4 ensure that SBA operates as intended through six minor and miscellaneous amendments.

The Government remain committed to incentivising businesses to invest in capital assets that will drive and support future prosperity. By increasing the SBA rate from 2% to 3%, we are levelling up the international competitiveness of the UK’s capital allowance regime. With a corporation tax rate of 19%, this country already boasts the lowest headline rate in the G20. Increasing the SBA rate helps us to go further, thereby reinforcing the UK’s attractiveness as a place to invest and do business, and addressing concerns about competitiveness—indeed, more than addressing them—that have already been raised in this Committee.

--- Later in debate ---
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the two hon. Gentlemen for their questions and comments on the clause. The hon. Member for Ilford North raises the question of what he calls tinkering, and I of course recognise the concern. I think it is fair to say that Governments of all kinds were given a masterclass in the dangers of tinkering by the Labour Government that was in power between 1997 and 2010. I will not bore the Chamber by rehearsing the highlights, but some would give anyone cause for concern. It is an inveterate potential risk, and the difficulty, in this case as in others, is in trying to balance the desire not to make change with the positive good that can be made by a particular change.

In the case of the SBA, on which there has been considerable discussion with stakeholders in different ways, the effect of increasing the generosity of the relief is that a business investing in a £10 million building will be able to deduct an extra £100,000 a year. That is not a trivial amount of money; any such business would surely welcome that amount. That illustrates the difficulty with a general worry about that tinkering. It is noticeable that, again, this has received a lot of support.

I mentioned the CBI. The National Farmers Union says that the increase will

“deliver more effective tax relief for farm buildings.”

Interestingly, it also goes to the point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South, by saying that this change

“will go some way to supporting farms investing in modern, efficient infrastructure which could help to improve productivity and deliver our net zero ambition.”

That is a worthwhile and a good thing.

There are a variety of amendments in the clause. The difficulty is that these are minor but necessary technical changes to ensure that the SBA legislation is fair and equitable. As the hon. Member for Ilford North said, there is a general problem with forestalling on much new tax legislation. In the case of this measure, it is inevitable that, when there is change in a complex environment, different consequential changes will occasionally have to be made in order to improve the functioning of the legislation, to ensure that it works as anticipated. That is what these changes do.

We have already discussed the amendment of the law and I pointed out that, in some respects, proceeding directly with an income tax resolution has the effect of increasing overall transparency. It does not constrain debate in any degree. If the Labour party or any other party wishes to come forward and say that it wishes, on balance, to have SBA at 2%, 4% or 10%, it is fully entitled to say that in Committee now. That can then be evaluated and used to interrogate the position of the Government, and when we come to vote on it, the Government and colleagues can consider what an alternative might look like when they consider how to vote. That debate is not constrained—formal processes of amendment are not the same thing as the possibility of debating.

The hon. Member for Ilford North mentions his desire to avoid the dry and technical subject matter found in a Finance Bill Committee. He has chosen the wrong Bill about which to have that worry, because this is a dry and technical subject, and it is of its nature that it is like that and will always be like that. The idea that, before these procedures were in place, Finance Bills had wildly exciting and disco-like sessions in which Members of Parliament were able to propose exotic new ideas and debate was thereby enlivened is, I think, quite far from the mark.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South raised a question about energy efficiency. He is aware that a vast array of measures have been put in place that are designed to bolster and improve the way in which we use energy. In due course, the Government will come forward with our own plans for net zero, which will do more in that regard. I think he called—or if he did not, he came close to it—for VAT to be, as it were, nationalised within Scotland. However, as I pointed out to the hon. Member for Glasgow North, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman really wishes to overturn the fiscal framework that has been so carefully agreed over such a significant period and so much consultation between the then Government and the Scottish Government. If he really wishes to overturn the fiscal framework by demanding new powers, let him do so, but of course that upsets a much larger potential apple cart. On that basis, I commend clause 28 and urge the Committee to reject new clause 10.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 30

Intangible fixed assets: pre-FA 2002 assets etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Almost as if it had been perfectly choreographed to illustrate the underlying nature of a Public Bill Committee on a Finance Bill, clause 30 concerns corporation tax intangible fixed assets relief for pre-Finance Act 2002 assets, thereby supporting UK investment in intangible assets.

Intangible assets include intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents and design rights. The intangible fixed assets regime provides tax relief to companies for the cost of acquiring intangible assets. Relief is given either as the cost is written off in a company’s accounts or at a fixed rate. Not all intangible fixed assets are in the regime; there is a restriction, known as the pre-FA 2002 rule, that excludes certain older assets so that relief for the cost of such pre-FA 2002 assets is usually deferred until they are sold and the capital gains rules apply. This deferral, along with the administrative cost to companies in identifying whether an asset is within the regime, reduces the UK’s attractiveness, compared with other jurisdictions, as a location in which to hold intangible assets.

The changes made by clause 30 will make it more attractive for businesses to develop, manage and exploit intellectual property in the UK. They will simplify the taxation of such assets by bringing all intangible assets into the single regime where they are acquired on or after 1 July 2020. The clause will amend the commencement rules in part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2009, which prior to 1 July 2020 would have prevented pre-FA 2002 assets acquired by a company from a related party from coming into the regime. Intangible assets held by a company that is not within the charge to corporation tax as at 1 July 2020 will all be brought within the intangibles regime without distinction, should that company subsequently come into charge. The tax treatment for pre-FA 2002 assets already within the charge to corporation tax prior to 1 July 2020 will be preserved to protect those companies that already benefit from the existing rules.

There are further rules to apply the restriction to transactions that stop short of an outright acquisition of a pre-FA 2002 asset, but that nevertheless transfer its substance and value to a related party, such as in the form of a licence or some other new asset. The costs that can initially be relieved on such an acquisition will be restricted by reference to the market value of the asset; the company will not obtain full relief for the cost until it disposes of the asset. There are further rules to prevent arrangements between related parties that are intended to sidestep this restriction by creating or transferring what are notionally new assets instead of pre-FA 2002 assets.

The most immediate impact of this measure is likely to be on international businesses importing valuable intangible assets to the UK from overseas. These businesses will no longer have to perform the complex task of identifying excluded pre-FA 2002 assets, and will instead receive tax relief on all the assets that they acquire. Domestic companies, however, will also stand to benefit over the longer term from the reduced administrative burdens brought about by this measure. An estimated 1,000 companies a year acquire pre-FA 2002 assets. There will now be less need to distinguish between these pre-FA 2002 intangible assets and new intangible assets when companies enter into transactions involving such assets.

The clause enhances the availability of UK tax relief for the costs of acquiring intangible assets. It brings those acquired assets into a single tax code. That reduces the effects of an arbitrary distinction between older and newer intangible assets, and in so doing increases the attractiveness of the UK to innovative, IP-intensive businesses. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Financial Secretary said that Finance Bills cannot be exciting and fun, but I am riveted by this particular clause—I have been looking forward to it all afternoon. I rise not to take umbrage at what the Financial Secretary said but to give voice to the concerns expressed by the London Society of Chartered Accountants and to ask the Minister to address those concerns.

As the society has acknowledged, this change will benefit many taxpayers. However, there will also be taxpayers who have capital losses or non-trading deficits and would have anticipated using them against any gain on pre-2002 intangible assets. There will be taxpayers who, having been through the transition to the new rules in 2002, are now quite happily running the two regimes side by side. For them, a compulsory change to the system would be more disruptive than maintaining the status quo, and as a result they might be disadvantaged. I wondered whether the Minister, speaking directly to that point, could clarify how those taxpayers will be impacted.

By way of slight digression, Ms McDonagh, and in response to the point that the Financial Secretary made during our discussion of the previous clause, I should say that I do not remember the Labour Government doing a great deal of tinkering between 1997 and 2007.

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Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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The word that the Financial Secretary was looking for was “transformation”.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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That was an unexpected intervention from the Chair, Ms McDonagh, but no less welcome for that. I thank the hon. Member for Ilford North for his question. He slightly galloped through the particular concern, and I am afraid I did not fully catch it.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is absolutely fine. What I will do is ask the hon. Gentleman to give me the letter; I will write to him separately with a response that addresses the detail of the concern.

I can say to the hon. Gentleman that we do not believe that companies will be worse off because of these changes, which will not affect IP already held by any company. If a company does dispose of its IP, it will be taxed on the same basis as it would have been before the changes. The company will still be able to make use of reliefs that they may have been expecting to use. Any tax change can have an impact in some particular cases, of course, but overall we do not expect companies to be worse off. I am very happy to take up and respond to the specific question that the hon. Gentleman raised, but I will do that outside this Committee Room, if I may.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31

Non-UK resident companies carrying on UK property businesses etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 5 be the Fifth schedule to the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is another kaleidoscopically exciting measure alongside some of those that have already got the hon. Member for Ilford North so excited. I am happy to be able to titillate him further by discussing further changes to the non-UK-resident companies that carry on UK property businesses. Clause 31 and schedule five make amendments to legislation that provides that non-UK-resident companies carrying on a UK property business will be charged corporation tax from 6 April 2020.

In the Finance Act 2019, the Government legislated to bring non-resident companies that carry on a UK property business or who received other income from UK land within the charge to corporation tax from 6 April 2020. Until then, they are within the charge to income tax.

These changes make four minor amendments to the legislation that took effect in April 2020. They maintain the treatment of non-trading interest income of non-resident companies. They provide relief for interest expenses paid prior to the commencement of the non-resident companies’ UK property business—a UK resident company can already obtain relief for this type of expense. The time limits for making certain elections in respect of derivative contracts will only start to run for a non-resident company from 6 April 2020. Finally, for all companies, there is an exception from the obligation to notify chargeability to corporation tax if the taxable incomes have an amount on account of tax withheld from it. The changes clarify that the amount withheld on account of tax must meet the tax due on that income before the exception can apply.

These changes will ensure that there is a smooth transition for non-UK-resident company landlords from the income tax regime into the corporation tax regime. I therefore commend the clause and schedule to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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As the Financial Secretary has outlined, the clause and schedule make minor amendments that have arisen as a consequence of the provision made by schedules 1 and 5 to the Finance Act 2019. There is not much for me to add, as it is very much a consequential and technical adjustment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clause 32

Surcharge on banking companies: transferred-in losses

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now enter the lush hinterlands of the banking surcharge regime. Clause 32 makes changes to the regime that ensures that the surcharge operates as intended when it was introduced.

The Government believe that even as reliefs are provided to support the economy in response to the coronavirus, the tax rules should continue to operate fairly and consistently for all businesses within their scope. Previously, the Government have legislated so that banks make a fair tax contribution, which reflects the risks they pose to the UK economy. That is why the Government introduced the bank levy in 2011—a tax on banks and building societies’ balance sheet equity and liabilities. It is also why banks have been subject to additional taxes above and beyond general business taxation ever since then.

In 2015, the Government made changes to the bank tax regime to ensure the sustainability of the tax base. They introduced the new bank levy rate, but offset that with the introduction of a new 8% surcharge on banks’ profits over £25 million, on top of corporation tax. The surcharge applies to corporation tax profits of banking companies within a banking group.

For corporation tax purposes, companies are able to make a number of adjustments when arriving at their profits. That might include transferring losses from one group company to another or carrying forward losses to the next accounting period. However, to ensure that banks are paying tax on all their banking profits, some of these are disallowed when arriving at the profits subject to the surcharge.

One such disallowed adjustment is for capital losses that are transferred from a non-banking company to a banking company and set against the capital gains of that banking company. That transfer should be disregarded when calculating the surcharge profit for the banking company. Currently, where these capital losses are carried forward to a future accounting period, that transfer is disregarded.

However, under the legislation as it stands, such transferred-in capital losses are not disregarded when they are set against the capital gains of the banking company in the same accounting period. That could, counter to the original intention, mean banks using losses from non-banking companies in their group to reduce their surcharge profits. That cannot be right, and the changes that we are making in the Finance Bill will ensure that it cannot happen. The changes made by clause 32 will stop surcharge profits being reduced by all capital losses transferred in from non-banking companies, whenever they are utilised against capital gains.

The changes made by clause 32 will ensure that the surcharge operates in the way that was intended when it was introduced. They will ensure that banks cannot reduce their profits subject to surcharge by using losses from non-banking companies in their groups. Above all, they will ensure that banks pay the additional tax on all their banking profits.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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We welcome clause 32 and the Financial Secretary’s explanation of why the measure is necessary. It is important to emphasise, particularly for those in the banks who pay close attention to proceedings in Parliament, a couple of points that they should bear in mind, even a decade on from the financial crisis.

Across the House, we recognise and welcome—certainly this is true of Her Majesty’s official Opposition—the fact that the UK is a global financial centre and that the financial services industry is an asset to our country. It generates jobs and employment, and provides the oil to grease the wheels of the economy. We can see now, in response to the present crisis, the importance of getting finance to where it is needed.

Whether we are talking about business or personal customers, business loans and lending, mortgages, pensions, savings or bank accounts, people in their day-to-day lives understand the importance of a strong financial services industry. Across the House we recognise the importance of the financial services industry to the economy as a whole. As we saw, painfully, back in the midst of the global financial crisis, when the financial services industry fails and suffers, the whole economy suffers, too. It is important to acknowledge the value that we place on it.

However, it is also important that the banks should continue to reflect on the fact that the financial crisis—which came about as the result of irresponsible and reckless actions, and greed—demanded a significant price that fell on the heads of taxpayers and citizens of this country and around the world, who had no part in the making of that crisis. For the past decade of cuts to public services and pain that has been felt by businesses and households across the country—although part of the blame rests with Government for policy decisions that were taken, which we have rehearsed many times in those 10 years—it is a fact that the decisions and choices faced by successive Governments were made all the more difficult because of the irresponsibility of the spivs and speculators in financial centres, who did not understand their responsibility to society as much as they understood their own reckless greed.

In that context it is right that over the past 10 years Governments have asked banks, through the bank levy and other provisions, to pay back the debt they owe to society, so it is disappointing when new ways are found to try to lessen their tax liabilities. It is important that when the Government identify gaps and loopholes in legislation that have unintended consequences, they act to close them.

I hope that my remarks will achieve two things, the first of which is to reassure the financial services industry that we value its contribution and see it as an important part of our economic success and national life. However, I also want to remind financial services of the responsibilities that they have to the society they serve. The clause goes some way to ensuring that the debt they owe to society is properly repaid.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I share his view: it is of enormous value to the UK to have a global financial sector between the City of London, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh. The UK is a country with astonishing heft in global markets, which is a very good thing in many ways. As he said, however, it is also important that those institutions pay the full burden of taxation that is due. There is very little concern that they have not done so in this case, and the concern has now been addressed because a potential loophole has been removed.

If I have understood him correctly, the hon. Gentleman attributes the crash of 2007-08 to spivs and speculators in the financial markets. There was a lot of that, but it is important to recognise that it was also a function of incentives, law and culture. Those things were all, in some respects, out of control before 2007-08. We talked banteringly about the level to which the Government have attempted to tinker with the legislation. In that case, however, it is perfectly clear that there was a failure not of regulation, but of supervision. It was a failure that was extraordinarily costly to this country.

In the spirit of putting things on the record, it is important to remember that, as the Vickers report found, the level of aggregate bank leverage in the financial sector in this country remained roughly steady for 40 years between 1960 and 2000 at 20 times capital. Between 2000 and 2007, it increased to 50 times capital. The effect of that was that, when the financial crisis hit, the UK banking sector was vastly over-leveraged. I am thrilled that this Government, as I suspect other Governments would have done if they were in place, have taken steps to extract a proper level of taxation from the banking sector and thereby set incentives that restrain the tendencies to growth and periodic explosion in the banking sector, because such tendencies are often absolutely ruinous for the wider economy.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is, of course, right to say, especially with the benefit of hindsight, that the supervisory arrangements governing financial services in this country and other countries were insufficient. That is why we have a much more robust supervisory regime in place, which has been implemented to a large degree with cross-party consensus over the course of the past 10 years. I would gently point out two things. The first is the global context, and the second is that, although the Financial Secretary may point to the apparent failure of the last Labour Government to put in place a greater degree of regulation, I would challenge him—he can write to me if he cannot answer immediately—to cite a single example of a Conservative shadow Chancellor or shadow Treasury Minister calling for greater financial regulation by the last Labour Government. In fact, I remember the charge against the Government being that we were too prone to regulation rather than too hands-off, but I stand to be corrected.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think there is any doubt at all that MPs and politicians across the political spectrum were taken by surprise and were not as alert as they should have been to the expansion in bank leverage that took place. I was merely putting those facts on the record. Inevitably, the responsibility lies with the Government in power at the time, as it would do in other crises, and it is for posterity to decide how it wishes to judge. I just mean that this is a proper response to a crisis that is much worse than it should have been; if those in charge at the time had taken the measures and spotted the crisis in advance, it would not have happened, notwithstanding all the ameliorative points that the hon. Gentleman has made in opposition to that.

Having said that, let me move on to points of greater overlap and agreement, and recommend to the Committee that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33

CT payment plans for tax on certain transactions with EEA residents

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 33 and schedule 6 would make changes to UK corporation tax payment plan rules so as to provide a deferred payment option for tax on certain transactions with EEA residents. Again, this is a small and technical matter.

A recent decision of the tax tribunal found that the requirement for a taxpayer to pay tax immediately following certain transfers of assets from a UK company to an EEA company within the same group did not conform with EU law. UK rules provide for tax-neutral transfers of assets between two group companies within the charge to UK tax, meaning that there is no immediate tax charge. If assets are sold or transferred otherwise, tax is payable immediately based on a disposal of the assets at market value.

The risk to the Exchequer arises from the fact that the tax tribunal decided that these rules could only be justified if transfers to group companies in the EU did not give rise to an immediate tax charge. In the absence of any mechanism for deferral, the tribunal decided that tax-neutral treatment must be applied to such transfers. Effectively, that would mean that the UK would completely lose its right to tax any profits on such assets. The case is under appeal, but resolution could be some years away. In response to that decision, the Government are acting to provide taxpayers with the option to pay tax on such transfers in instalments, which the judgment says would ensure compatibility with EU law. The effect of this is to remove the uncertainty caused by the decision and provide protection to the Exchequer.

This new facility to defer payment of part of a company’s corporation tax bill for an accounting period is modelled on an existing scheme for so-called exit taxes. Schedule 6 provides that corporation tax due on transfers of assets from a company in the UK to an EU company in the same group can be paid in instalments over five years, subject to interest at the usual rate for late-paid tax. We are making this change not to comply with European law, but to provide certainty to UK businesses and ensure that there is no risk to the Exchequer while the case before the UK courts remains unresolved. Once the risks and the uncertainty are resolved, this deferred tax payment facility will no longer be required.

Certainty could come either through a successful conclusion to the litigation in favour of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, or at such time as the EU treaty freedom of establishment rules no longer apply to the UK. To that end, schedule 6 includes a power for the Treasury to repeal this facility by regulation; the Government intend that this power should be used once there is no need for the facility. These changes will provide greater flexibility for UK businesses, remove uncertainty and protect Exchequer revenues. I therefore commend both the clause and the schedule to the Committee.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 33 and schedule 6 represent a welcome and sensible response to the decision taken by the first-tier tribunal in the case of Gallaher v. HMRC. The only question I have for the Financial Secretary is about the fact that the Treasury can withdraw the facility to enter into CT payment plans by statutory instrument, as he alluded to at the end of his remarks. The explanatory notes to the Bill state that the power of repeal

“is intended to be used if the Government determines that CT payment plans are no longer required.”

Could the Financial Secretary give us some sense of the circumstances in which the Government may determine that CT payment plans are no longer required?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the question. If we get certainty in the legislation, the effect would be that the provision was no longer required. Certainty could come, as I said, at the successful conclusion to litigation in favour of Revenue and Customs, or when the EU treaty freedom of establishment rules no longer apply to the UK. Those are the circumstances under which we would expect the Treasury to repeal the facility. It is done by regulation simply because it is completely uncontroversial and would be much better handled that way, rather than through the primary legislative process.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 34

Changes to accounting standards affecting leases

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, this is a minor and technical amendment that makes a change to the Finance Act 2019 to remove a potential ambiguity in the spreading rules for businesses adopting the latest lease accounting standards.

The Finance Act 2019 made changes to the income and corporation tax rules for businesses leasing assets in order to allow rules to work following the introduction of international financial reporting standards 16. That legislation was designed to ensure equitable treatment for businesses by spreading the tax effects of adopting IFRS 16 over the average remaining terms of asset leases. Consequently, the Exchequer impact of those changes would also be spread out.

It was subsequently brought to the Treasury’s attention that minor aspects of the legislation did not work as originally intended. To address that, this clause makes minor amendments to the legislation, clarifying how the rules ought to be implemented. The Government published the amendments in draft on 11 July 2019, and they were well received by stakeholders.

The changes made by clause 34 clarify that firms ought to spread the tax effect of changes in adopting IFRS 16 over the average remaining term of asset leases. The changes are to be treated as having always had effect from 1 January 2019. They will affect only businesses, and they will have no novel impacts. They provide for only modest amendments to deliver on the policy intent agreed by hon. Members in the Finance Act 2019.

Making these clarificatory amendments will ensure that the legislation introduced in the Finance Act 2019 operates as intended, and therefore that there is fairness, certainty and stability for all businesses when applying the relevant accounting rules. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Chair, Ms McDonagh, and to take up the case for the Opposition on what my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North described as the more technical aspects of the Bill. I am sure we will continue to enjoy debating these clauses none the less.

The Opposition do not object to the principle behind this clause, which appears straightforward and achieves its aim. Bringing leases on to the balance sheet is a welcome step in achieving greater transparency in our system. The Opposition believe that there is a very important need for the Government to continue to do more in this area. I simply ask the Minister why this was not done sooner.

I am keen to raise the broader issue of tax transparency and tax fairness in our system as a whole. Our small and family-run businesses are operating in a very difficult climate due to the ongoing pandemic, and they want to have confidence that everyone is playing by the rules and that there is fairness across the system. We know from various documents that we continue to have an ongoing problem with tax avoidance and the broader tax gap in our country.

I am always grateful to the House of Commons Library for providing additional material in this area. It is a wonderful source of useful information, research and analysis, especially for Opposition Members; our ability to undertake some of this research ourselves is a bit more limited, as we do not have access to the fine officials who the Minister has the privilege of working with on a daily basis. The Library has put to us that the wider tax gap for income tax, national insurance contributions and capital gains tax was estimated at £12.9 billion in 2017-18, based on HMRC documents; there are other assessments, of course.

I am sure that the Minister will want to make sure that we do everything in our power to ensure that there is fairness right across the system, particularly at this time. We believe that income must be more tightly tied to tax treatment, with tax liability going up with income, so that the Government can fund, and can ensure that we have revenue available to fund, our vital public services—not least now, at this very trying time for our country.

We hope that this change and the future legislation that the Government might seek to bring forward will be developed in the same spirit of creating greater transparency within our system. We also hope that the pressures that Ministers and officials are under at this time will not divert them from the necessary action that they must continue to take, to ensure that we have greater transparency and that everyone pays their fair share. We also want to make sure that HMRC has all the resources and staffing it needs to do this work to the best of its ability.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady—what an effortless tag team she and the hon. Member for Ilford North make! It is good to see them in action.

The hon. Lady’s points are very well made, and I hope she recognises that the Government take these issues seriously—not just avoidance and evasion, and, in a separate category, fraud, but the wider question of fairness. It is absolutely right that we should do so. In an environment where the vast majority of taxpayers pay tax as due, in good time and do not become subject to any enforcement proceedings, it is all the more vital to maintain that consent and recognition of the public fairness of the system. She is absolutely right about that.

I hope that the hon. Lady will see that some of the issues that we have been facing in this Finance Bill and its predecessors, be they the loan charge or IR35, have reflected a persistent desire of the Government to see fairness through, despite some pretty strong headwinds. Also important is the ability to strike a fair balance within each of those schemes; we have discussed the loan charge and the Amyas Morse review, which is designed to ensure the right balance, even within that area.

However, I also draw attention to other important aspects. As the hon. Lady will be aware, we have announced a consultation on a strategy that takes a much more vigorous approach towards tackling the promoters and enablers of tax avoidance. I hope she will note that there continues to be a robust enforcement process within HMRC—one that has been carefully modulated and restrained in the context of coronavirus, but has not been in any sense left off thereby.

I will also say a couple of other things of which the hon. Lady may be less aware. One is that because of the concern about the balance of powers, which has been raised in part by the Lords Economic Affairs Committee and others, we now have a customer experience committee within HMRC. It has also brought in a series of experts who understand what might be called effective and successful customer and taxpayer treatment, bringing them in from other sources across the private sector to make sure that people do feel well treated and well handled, and that it is not a bruising process to have an interaction with HMRC. That sense of the importance of maintaining consent, and of Revenue and Customs not being oppressive while remaining highly effective in ensuring that people pay the right tax due, is a balance that both HMRC and the Government are constantly seeking to strike.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35

Enterprise investment scheme: approved investment fund as nominee

--- Later in debate ---
Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We welcome the Government’s attempt to draw from their capital review with industry lenders on the enterprise investment scheme. I will come on to our response to amendment 4.

The Government have listened and are not offering further tax relief, instead providing additional flexibility for fund managers to make subscriptions in shares for investors over the years in which the relief is given. However, the difference between adding further tax relief and additional flexibility in this policy is not clear.

We are sympathetic to the position that the hon. Member for Aberdeen South has outlined. We know that there is a big imbalance across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. The Government talk a lot about the need to level up; we hear about it all the time. It has not always been entirely clear to me what that means—not least because, over the past 10 years, what we have seen has involved precisely the opposite.

I look forward to the days when the Government will provide investment in parts of the country such as the north-east of England, which will enable us to contribute our fair share and play our full role in economic recovery more broadly. We are therefore sympathetic to the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South.

The requirement to release a report on the effects of the enterprise investment scheme will enhance scrutiny of this policy and ensure that its results are fruitful and target the right causes. It is important to ensure that it starts benefiting regions that need it the most. I am sure the Minister will understand why I put in a particular plug for the north east of England, but we want to see this right across the country and the nations of the UK as well.

The amendment also raises the important issue of the climate emergency, which has not simply vanished because we are currently focused on the pandemic. The climate emergency is still with us and the longer we take to tackle it, the faster we will start to feel the effects of global warming. Research and investment must go towards tackling the climate emergency and we need to encourage the responsible and relevant use of Government funds for knowledge-intensive companies to benefit from them.

In the broader sense of the clause, it is not quite clear to the Opposition what the outcome of adjustments to the enterprise investment scheme detailed in the clause would be. The clause lacks some detail and clarity. We worry that it may be open and liable to exploitation, so I would like the Minister to say a little more when he responds. We have seen problems in recent years in this area and we do not want to see them repeated here.

Research conducted by Ipsos MORI for HMRC in 2016 showed that income tax relief was the main driver for investors to use the enterprise investment scheme: eight in 10 considered the income tax relief element of the scheme to be very important, and 32% essential, to their decision to invest; more than half also considered capital gains tax exemption to be either very important or essential. While many investors decide to invest in the enterprise investment scheme for philanthropic reasons, the financial incentive remains important none the less. The concern is reflected in the scepticism of some universities reported in the Government’s consultation back in March 2018. It is in all of our interests that academic institutions, entrepreneurs and fund managers are aligned, but it is clear there are some issues around greater cohesion between them as part of this scheme.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South referred to the disparity. The Government’s own figures show that London and the south-east accounted for the largest proportion of investment, with companies registered in those regions receiving 65% of all enterprise investment scheme investment in 2018-19. London and the south-east of England does not have a monopoly on talent, innovation or research. If the Government’s levelling-up agenda is to mean anything in practice, we have to see much more support targeted to those regions so they are able to take part in the wealth of our nation and they can contribute more. We have wonderful universities, pioneering companies both large and small, and a wonderful and flourishing supply chain.

I put it to the Minister that the hon. Gentleman is quite right. We require greater scrutiny to be confident that we are pushing in the right direction and that the Government are making sure that where measures are introduced, they are targeted on the areas of the country where additional Government support could lead to much better outcomes for residents of those communities, who want the opportunity to contribute more broadly to the economic health of our nation. Especially as we start to emerge from this crisis, we will need targeted support that allows every nation and region to contribute to our economy, both in terms of skills and broader investment. For that reason, we are sympathetic to the amendment.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad to be able to address clause 35 and the questions the hon. Members for Aberdeen South and for Houghton and Sunderland South have raised.

Clause 35 changes the approved enterprise investment scheme fund rules to focus investments made through such funds on knowledge-intensive companies. It provides additional flexibility for fund managers to make subscriptions in shares and for investors to claim relief. Fund managers will have more time to deploy capital raised, and investors will be able to claim relief one tax year earlier than previously when using an approved fund.  The EIS encourages investment in smaller, higher risk trading companies by offering tax reliefs to individual investors who subscribe for new shares in qualifying companies.

A knowledge-intensive company is defined as a company that has spent a defined proportion of its operating costs on innovation and/or R&D and either creates intellectual property or has a defined proportion of its employees with advanced degrees. The intention to change the existing approved fund structures to focus on knowledge-intensive companies was announced at autumn Budget 2017 as part of the Government’s response to the patient capital review.

The Government consulted on new rules and outlined its response at Budget 2018, which set out planned additional flexibilities for fund managers and investors using this structure. The changes made by clause 35 set out the requirements that must be met for investments to be considered as made via an approved knowledge-intensive fund. They include investing at least 80% of capital raised into knowledge-intensive companies and deploying the majority of capital raised within two years.

Amendment 4 would require the Government to review the economic and geographical impacts of the existing EIS and the changes to approved fund structure, and how far they support wider efforts to mitigate climate change. I understand and appreciate the intention of hon. Members to use EIS more strategically to help with mitigating climate change and to ensure that the benefits of EIS are spread more widely across the country, but I put it to the Committee that the amendment is not necessary.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the principal purpose of EIS. It is designed to address a specific market failure, which is that younger, innovative companies across the UK struggle to get access to patient and long-term equity finance to grow their businesses and to develop the innovative products that consumers may want in future. It is not designed specifically to help certain types of companies—for example those that operate in certain parts of the country or certain sectors. The scheme operates on a neutral market basis, and there is no requirement for that companies use EIS funds in specific ways, such as to develop products linked to the fight against climate change.

I completely understand that Opposition Members would like us to collect more information about how attractive EIS is to companies in different parts of the country. HMRC already publishes statistics about where fundraising companies have their registered offices and where EIS investors have their main household. However, it is also worth reiterating the limits of what we know.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs knows where a company’s registered office is, but companies that benefit from the scheme are free to place their registered offices and places of establishment for EI purposes wherever they please in the UK. A registered office in the south-east may not mean that that investment is going into the south-east, because a registered office does not need to be in the same place as where the bulk of the staff are employed.

The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South is concerned that there might be a lack of clarity in the structure, so let me shed some light on that. The measure limits approved fund status to companies that invest 80% of their capital into knowledge-intensive companies and extends the period in which approved knowledge-intensive fund managers must subscribe for shares in those companies from 12 months to 24 months, provided that 50% of the qualifying individual investment is invested within the first 12 months and 90% within 24 months. It allows the investor to carry back the claim for income tax relief to the tax year preceding the tax year of the fund closure. I would suggest that, within the limits of a description within legislation, that is relatively clear.

The hon. Lady also raised a question about regional investment. Again, I fully share her concern, and the Government’s levelling-up agenda is designed to address that very issue. I must say that across my different ministerial jobs, I seem to spend most of my life investing in the north-east of England, one way or another—the massive pivot towards offshore wind has been nothing but good to that area, and I remember making a substantial investment in the Tyne and Wear Metro and the A19 when I was at the Department for Transport—so I hope that the hon. Lady does not feel that there is any lack of love for or investment in that part of the world from this quarter.

--- Later in debate ---
Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There are a few points that I think are incredibly important to pick up on. The first relates to the Minister’s remark that the EIS is and needs to be a neutral fund. It does not need to be a neutral fund; that is a choice. If we seek to combat climate change and put our words into action, we can make those decisions and make them now—the gift to do that is in the Minister’s hands. It is incredibly important that we focus on that point: that it does not have to be how it is at the moment.

I respect the commitment to review before 2024, but that is a significant time away. I am not overly comfortable with the idea that we can allow that time to pass before we assess whether the scheme is working as we feel it should.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I say what a joy it is to have the boot on the other foot and to be able to intervene on another member of the Committee? Of course the hon. Gentleman is right that legislation can be changed, subject to the will of Parliament, but this measure cannot be changed without distorting its essential character. Its purpose is to implement a reform that addresses, and hopefully cures, a market anomaly.

To address the real and important wider concern that the hon. Gentleman raises, the real question is therefore whether there are other measures outside the EIS that could achieve some of the aims he describes. The EIS cures the anomaly, which is about investment—as we know, we cannot deduce effectively where the investment goes from where the head offices are—but there may be other measures that the Government can take, and that the Scottish Government may want to take, to address more widely the concerns that he describes.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I look forward to the UK Government coming forward with such proposals; that would certainly be of much interest to me and to colleagues across the UK.

I want to home in on the climate situation in Aberdeen. It would be remiss of me not to highlight the fact that Aberdeen is the oil and gas capital of these islands, and indeed of Europe, and has been so for a significant time. However, we are extremely conscious of the situation in Aberdeen due to the oil and gas sector downturn—we heard earlier about the support that the UK Government put in place during the downturn, although I was not quite sure which downturn was being referred to since we are currently in the midst of perhaps the sharpest downturn of the North sea basin—but we are very cognisant that we need to make a sustainable transition to a net zero future.

If we look to the possibilities of the north-east of Scotland—hydrogen technologies, carbon storage, alternative fuel gas turbines, subsea and offshore energy—there is a wealth of opportunity. We are blessed with unbelievable natural resources in Scotland. If we can have a fund that channels money into exploiting such research and talent, we should be willing to do so.

Ultimately, amendment 4 is very clear: it is about

“analysing the fiscal and economic effects of Government relief under the Enterprise Investment Scheme since the inception of the Scheme”.

We are talking about analysing the scheme and whether it is doing the job it should be doing. As I have said on a number of occasions, the Government should not be afraid of looking at whether their schemes are effective. We should all retain a firm commitment not just through our words but—I repeat—through our actions to combat the climate emergency and the amendment is one way in which we could do that.

--- Later in debate ---

Division 2

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 9


Conservative: 9

Clause 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause introduces the gripping topic of top-slicing relief on life insurance policy gains. It makes changes to ensure that the calculation of top-slicing relief on life insurance policy gains operates fairly and prevents excessive relief from being claimed. This measure supports the Government’s objective, already discussed in the Committee today, of promoting fairness in the tax system by ensuring that the relief is calculated in a fair and consistent way.

Life insurance policy gains arise, for example, when an investment bond is surrendered or matures. In this case, the gain accrues over the lifetime of the policy but is taxed in one year, which can result in gains being taxed at the higher rate. Top-slicing relief, or TSR, was introduced in 1968 as a mechanism to mitigate the impact of that higher tax charge. The principle behind TSR is simple: a taxpayer should not pay a higher rate of tax on their life insurance gain just because all of that gain falls to be taxed in a single year. Instead, the rate of tax on the gain should reflect the fact that it was accrued over the lifetime of the policy, assuming it rose in even amounts over the years during which the policy was held.

The calculation for TSR was intended to be straight- forward. However, changes to the personal allowance from 2010 have led to unintended complexity. A recent first-tier tribunal case brought into question how TSR interacts with the restriction to the personal allowance for higher rate taxpayers, creating uncertainty for taxpayers and a significant administrative burden for HMRC. It is for those reasons that we are making a change and a clarification to TSR in the Bill. I turn to both of those things.

The change made by the clause will permit personal allowances that have been reduced because the gain arises in one year to be reinstated in the TSR calculation. The gain will now be treated as if it arose in even amounts over the years during which the policy was held when determining the availability of the personal allowance in the TSR calculation. The change comes at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of £15 million per annum, but it provides a fairer result for those taxpayers who would otherwise have been taxed on their gain only because that gain has fallen in one year and reduced their personal allowance.

The clause will also put beyond doubt the principle that taxpayers cannot set their gain against their personal allowance first, in preference to their other income, in the TSR calculation. That will ensure that higher-rate taxpayers cannot get the benefit of the relief by effectively taking the benefit of the personal allowance more than once when calculating TSR. That will prevent excessive relief from being claimed and, in turn, protect £240 million of revenue.

The measure is estimated to affect around 2,000 of the 45,000 taxpayers who are entitled to top-slicing relief every year. The clause ensures that the taxpayers receive all the relief that they are entitled to and makes clear that taxpayers who seek to claim excessive relief will no longer be able to do so. It will ensure that top-slicing relief continues to operate in line with its original policy intent, and will therefore provide a fair and consistent outcome for those taxpayers who are entitled to claim the relief. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I turn to the substance of clause 36, and without dwelling on it too much, I will take slight exception to the Minister’s comments around the so-called levelling up agenda and the last 10 years. First, though, I must commend him—he is one of the few Ministers I have come across who understands how to pronounce my constituency name properly. He has great north-east knowledge, which will stand us in wonderful stead for the years ahead, when we can make sure that Sunderland and the wider north-east get their fair share of Government investment.

On clause 36, we note the Government’s stated objective of creating fairness in the UK tax system, ensuring that top-slicing relief is calculated in a fair and consistent way, and of seeking to provide legislative clarity. However, there are some issues that still remain around the language of the clause, regarding the treatment of gains before 11 March 2020.

In response to the clause, the Chartered Institute of Taxation noted:

“The amendments made by clause 36 have effect…from the tax year 2019/20. It is not clear why the amendments, which are clarificatory in nature and in accordance with the original policy intent, should not be extended to years prior to 2019/20 to provide the same clarity for taxpayers in respect of earlier gains.”

It also comments that,

“as clause 36 is not retrospective, an individual who is liable to tax in respect of gains from chargeable events before 2019/20 and who wishes to reinstate the personal allowance within the calculation for TSR will instead need to rely on the basis agreed in Silver v HMRC. Decisions of the First-tier Tribunal do not create a legally binding precedent.”

It argues that it is

“not clear whether or not HMRC will accept claims for repayment from taxpayers with gains in years prior to 2019/20.”

The Minister touched on this point in introducing the clause, but I would be grateful if he could clarify whether he intends for HMRC to accept repayment from taxpayers with gains in years before 2019-20. If he does not, as the language stands, do the provisions of the clause still affect taxpayers fairly?

The Chartered Institute of Taxation also notes that the approach is different from the approach in clauses 100 and 101, which we will come to later, which put

“beyond doubt that the relevant rules work as designed and intended but apply both prospectively and retrospectively.”

What assessment does the Minister make of that point?

The institute also draws attention to the fact that clause 36 specifies how reliefs and allowances are set against life assurance policy gains:

“The personal savings allowance does not operate as a typical allowance. It is a nil rate band of tax that does not extend the basic or higher rate bands. The draft legislation should specify that the personal savings allowance is not an allowance for this or any other purpose.”

It regards the term “allowance” as “an unhelpful misnomer”. I would be grateful if the Minister would address that point.

HMRC also notes that the clause will only really affect those with above-average earnings. We have considered that point more broadly in other aspects of the Bill; it points to something of a pattern in the measures that the Government are bringing forward. Over a significant period—over the last decade—we have seen that the impact of changes, whether that is spending reductions or the broader impact of Government policy, has fallen more sharply on those with less ability to make a contribution. Earlier in proceedings, we discussed the distributional impact of Government measures after 2010. We have seen a disproportionate impact on those from lower and middle-earning backgrounds. That cannot be sustained, not least in the current situation.

We hope the Government will continue to keep that under review, so that we can ensure that our public services have the funding they need, and that those who need additional support to make a contribution do not see themselves penalised as a result. However, we understand the intent behind the clause—the objective that the Government seek to promote—and I hope that the Minister will address the issues to provide some clarification on specific points.
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. Let me respond. She will understand that top-slicing relief has been around for a long time. It is therefore something that we have come to for specific reasons. As she will be aware, a concern is arising that the judgment, coupled with challenges from taxpayers, suggests that more clarity is needed in the legislation and, therefore, that we need to review the relief.

The review highlighted that some payers were paying tax on their gain at the higher rate only because they lost the personal allowance due to a gain being included in their income. That is why the conclusion was for the reinstatement of the personal allowance, solely for purposes of the top-slicing relief calculation, to address that and to bring it back in line with the policy intent.

Of course, as the hon. Lady says, the changes work in both directions—there is a cost to the Exchequer, which comes from allowing the gain to be treated as though it arose in even amounts over the years, but, at the same time, there is also a return from the Treasury, which prevents excessive relief from being claimed. That points to the essential fairness of the approach, because it is designed to restore fairness in the spreading of gain, but also to ensure that there can be no funny business, if you like, in the way in which the gain is treated with regard to the personal allowance that might allow it to be manipulated to the detriment of the taxpayer or the system.

The hon. Lady also asked about timing. HMRC will calculate the relief for affected taxpayers and advise them of changes in the relief calculation. For self-assessment returns submitted for the 2019-20 tax year, that calculation will be performed manually. For subsequent tax years, the calculation will form part of the automatic self-assessment process. Detailed guidance has been put on gov.uk setting out the changes in full. I hope that will put the matter beyond doubt.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 36 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 37

Losses on disposal of shares: abolition of requirement to be UK business

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, this is a small and technical clause. It widens the scope of share loss relief for income tax and corporation tax so that it applies to shares in companies carrying on a business anywhere in the world and not just in the UK.

Share loss relief is available where an investor or investment company makes an investment in qualifying shares that are later disposed of at a loss. The relief enables the loss to be set against taxable income, rather than against capital gains under the normal rules. Qualifying shares are shares to which the enterprise investment scheme, EIS, or the seed enterprise investment scheme, SEIS, are attributable, or in a qualifying training company, as defined in statute, which can be summarised as a small or medium unlisted trading company that carries on its business wholly or mainly in the UK.

The measure will change the existing statute so that investors can claim relief no matter where the business is based, providing added protection for those investing in high-risk enterprises. It will be backdated to proposals made after 21 January 2019. A change will be made to the reporting requirements so that HMRC can identify the tax residency of the company that issued the shares.

The UK has now left the EU and has agreed to follow its rules for the duration of the transition period. On 24 January 2019—hence the date—the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion arguing that applying SLR to shares only in UK companies contravened the free movement of capital principle. The Government accepted that the legislation as drafted was too narrow and agreed to introduce legislation to expand the rules and, thereby, comply with the principle.

The change made by clause 37 widens the relief so that it applies to shares in qualifying businesses worldwide, not just in the UK. The proposed changes are expected to increase the cost of the relief to the Exchequer by £5 million in 2020-21, increasing to £15 million per year thereafter.

The Government consider that this legislation strikes the right balance between supporting overseas investment opportunities for UK-based investors and meeting our residual obligations to the European Union for the free movement of capital. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Opposition welcome the intention behind this clause, and the statement of the Minister seems straightforward in terms of what the Government are seeking to achieve in this area. For future trading to be as streamlined as possible, it is important that the Government introduce this measure to ensure compliance with article 63 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union after the end of the transition period.

However, on the transition period—we touched on this this morning, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North raised this issue—we have, sadly, not had the kind of regular updates we would like in the House around ongoing negotiations. We all want the Government to succeed, and we want to secure a great deal for our country, but we want to be confident that the Government are making progress and are on the right track.

Some of the reporting we have seen lately suggests that—for a number of reasons, some of which are entirely fair, given the unprecedented crisis in which we find ourselves—Ministers and officials have found things hard. I understand how difficult it must be to operate during this time, but the pandemic has highlighted how important it is that we ensure everything is properly aligned at the end of the transition period and that we secure an excellent deal, because so much depends on it—workers’ rights, businesses and our ability to export.

We want to avoid any further disruption to our economy. We have been through a very difficult time—we are still going through a very difficult time—for businesses large and small, and not least for our manufacturing sector and our world-class exporters. We want to avoid any further disruption to the economy, at the border or in people’s lives.

The Government have variously described the deal they will secure as

“a great new deal that is ready to go”,

“ambitious”, “broad”, “deep”, “flexible”, “a balanced economic partnership” and “oven ready”—that is one I recall particularly well from the recent general election campaign. Given all of that, I am sure that we will have no difficulty at all, notwithstanding the big challenges we face around the pandemic, and that we can ensure we do not have tariffs, fees or charges, so that our world-leading industries can continue to do well.

On clause 37, especially, businesses will, according to HMRC, need to familiarise themselves with tax changes, make the decision on whether to claim for the loss, determine the tax residency of the company that issued that shares and inform HMRC of this information. I would be grateful if the Minister could assure us that there is no prospect of exploitation in this area and that the Government will do all they can to ensure fairness across the system, so that we do not end up with companies potentially claiming this relief in a way that was perhaps not intended in the scope of the legislation and in the measures that Ministers are quite sensibly seeking to set out here.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I feel almost sad to be winding up on the final clause of this very good day. I thank the hon. Lady very much for her questions. Regarding the transition period, she has said she is sure the deal will be smooth and tariff-free. In that, she shares the Government’s high hopes and expectations for a deal with the EU. There is not much more I can add to that.

On the prospect of exploitation, I cannot give her, I am afraid, the guarantee she seeks, because if there is anything that my five years on the Treasury Committee and one year as Financial Secretary have taught me it is that there are no limits to human ingenuity in exploiting aspects of the tax code contrary to expectation, so there is some possibility of exploitation. The comfort I can give her is that, as this change is mandated as a result of compliance with an EU procedure, once we are free from the transition period, we will have the ability to make a sovereign change to our own legislation that remedies any concerns that are raised and any risks to the Exchequer that thereby arise.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 37 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(David Rutley.)

Finance Bill (Sixth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 11th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Finance Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 11 June 2020 - (11 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Finance Act 2020 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 52 to 55 stand part.

That schedule 7 be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clauses 51 to 55 come under the broad heading of a duty to submit returns in relation to the digital services tax. Having established that a group has DST revenues above the thresholds, it is appropriate for a group member, the responsible member, to provide Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs with the necessary information to assess the tax. That is a sensible way of requiring groups to administer the tax. They need to submit a return to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs only when there is a potential liability, and they can stop doing so when it is clear that there will not be a future liability.

The group will be required to continue to submit a single return for each accounting period until an officer of HMRC provides a direction for the group to stop. The direction to stop will be given only when it appears that the threshold conditions will not be met. Put simply, the responsible member will be the point of contact between HMRC and the rest of the group. The effect is to make administering the new tax easier for the groups that will be liable for DST and for HMRC. It means that only a single return for HMRC will need to be produced when a group assesses its DST liability.

Clause 51 sets out which members of the group can be the responsible member and what can prevent a company from being a responsible member. Those are sensible precautions to reduce the burden of the tax as much as possible, recognising that it is intended to be a temporary tax. As we have already noted in Committee, groups are dynamic with members joining and leaving all the time. The best choice as the responsible member for a group at one stage may no longer be the best choice later. It is therefore necessary for groups to have the ability to change the responsible member, but where that happens, it is important that nothing is lost by the change of company, which is achieved by clause 52.

Clause 53 sets out the duty for a group to notify HMRC when it has met the DST threshold conditions set out in clause 45. Groups will have 90 days from the end of the accounting period in which they meet the threshold conditions to make the notification. It is important to say that we have listened to businesses in requiring notification after the period to which the notification relates, which gives groups the opportunity to collect the fullest information possible before making contact with HMRC to notify it of any liability.

As I have mentioned, groups are organic and details will change. Clause 54 sets out the duty for a group to notify HMRC when there is a change to the details registered under clause 53. Finally, clause 55 sets out the obligation of the responsible member to submit a return of information to HMRC.

The clause also introduces schedule 7, which provides further details about the obligations of the group and HMRC in relation to the return and ensures by that means that the figures and the return are complete and accurate. As the tax is new, a new set of rules is required to ensure that HMRC has the powers necessary to ensure that the correct amount of tax is paid by those from whom it is due. The new rules borrow and draw from existing concepts that will be familiar to many tax practitioners. The schedule does not grant HMRC any further powers in relation to the tax that do not already apply to other existing taxes. It grants companies the protections from those powers that they would expect from a fair and balanced tax administration. With that in mind, I commend the clauses and the schedule to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have no real issue with the clauses, as they are understandable in the context of the overall measures proposed.

I will draw the Minister’s attention to some technical concerns raised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which I hope he can address. In September 2019, it wrote:

“Given the complexities which a business could encounter in identifying and quantifying DST revenues, we are concerned that notification within 90 days of the accounting period is unhelpful. It would make sense to tie this notification into the deadline for filing accounts—6 months for a plc or 9 months otherwise”.

The institute also states that there should not be a need to notify HMRC in advance of the payment deadline, as

“businesses will require more time to review their accounting records, analyse and quantify revenues to decide whether they are”

required to pay under the tax. It recognises that such obligations would not pose a problem for larger digital companies, but would be more problematic for marginal cases requiring “advice and review”, so

“the notification deadline should be aligned with the payment date.”

Regardless of whether we believe that the measures go far enough, or whether the tax is set at an appropriate rate, we believe that its implementation and administration should be fair, to give businesses—in particular those that fall on the margins of the scope of the measure—adequate time to provide accurate calculations of what they should be paying. I invite the Minister to respond to those points to provide some clarification.

Robin Millar Portrait Robin Millar (Aberconwy) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As much as we have heard excellent contributions on matters of delivery and on technical matters, which are far beyond my knowledge of accounting and such, it strikes me that, as we are talking about the introduction of a new tax, this is the moment at which we should reflect on its meaning and on the purposes behind it.

The phrase that caught my eye is in clauses 53 and 54 —“Duty to”. My sense is that tax should not be, or should not only be, a catch-up exercise—chasing after developments in industry and the disruption brought to different sectors. Nor should it be about how much money we gather, although that is clearly of keen and close interest to us. It is also about the privilege of membership of a community and of participation in the UK economy. I find it interesting that it falls to a Conservative Government to introduce a tax such as this, which I consider to be progressive in its nature and intent.

In support of that, I pray in aid consideration of the principle of permanent residence, for example. Permanent residence was traditionally attached to the ability to trade in a nation, and tax therefore followed. If not trading in—that is, without that permanent residence—someone would be trading with, so coming under a different regime. Now, we have disruption in the digital economy, which means that we are trading in even though there is no permanent residence.

I also point to the development in the understanding of value over the years. At one point, value was measured in amounts of gold, so the question was one of setting a price, or offering gold in return for something; that was in essence a measurement of weight. The free trade argument slugged that one out with the mercantilist over many years, but the free trade argument won because it made the case effectively that the value of gold could be expressed in terms of the labour required to extract it. Discussions of value therefore moved from a physical object to the notion of labour.

As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury mentioned earlier, we are now talking about user-generated value. The notion of value itself has changed, and there are many debates about what value is and how it is best measured and captured. I suggest that they are extremely relevant to a discussion of tax, especially the introduction of a new one.

To look at tax solely in terms of being punitive, a “fair share” or a certain quantum, is to miss the point. Returning to the issue of leadership that was mentioned this morning, tax properly administered is surely more than a statement of how much money we can collect. It is more a statement of what we are trying to become—tax used as an instrument of government. What kind of society do we wish to become? It is not even, as might be suggested, a statement of how well we can co-ordinate with other nations. For this Government—I am interested in whether the Minister agrees with me—it is a statement of leadership, of what we are trying to become as a nation and, in particular, how we are trying to capture value through the proper encouragement of those industries as they participate in our economy.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me start with the interesting remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy. I think he is absolutely right to notice and bring to public attention the question of the basis of tax. He is absolutely correct to call upon an idea of tax as a privilege and obligation associated with membership of a community, and to highlight that that notion of tax, which in some sense has always been implicit in the idea of tax, is being drawn upon in this wider sense of a UK user contribution. He is absolutely right about that.

All government derives from the consent of the governed, as the cliché goes; but in order to give that consent, the governed must feel not merely that the tax is fair and equitable in its own right, but that it springs from a conception of government that fundamentally puts the wellbeing of society at its heart. In that sense, it is about not just an economic or fiscal change, nor necessarily who we want to become, but, as my hon. Friend said, who we are. It will come to no surprise to members of the Committee that I think Edmund Burke—one of my great heroes—put this well when he spoke about a nation as a moral idea. That is why the nation has historically been the basis of taxation: the nation provides the consent and, therefore, the guarantee of future taxation, which can underlie effective long-term public spending.

Going slightly beyond that point, it is notable that when crisis hits a country, that country and its Government must draw on that moral capital in pulling the alarm cable and using the power of taxation to secure future borrowing or future public spending that may be required to address the crisis. There is a very deep way in which my hon. Friend is getting to the centre of a very important fact about human life in democratic society, so I thank him for that.

On the more mundane and practical, but none the less vital points that the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South made about notification periods, I will simply say this: these are businesses that keep this data in real time. Of course, it is by no means only UK companies that are caught by this tax. The whole point of a UK user contribution is to capture companies’ revenue sources that might be derived from UK users and from that sense of community my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy mentioned, but without being resident as such in a formal tax sense in this country.

The data is immediate. The tax does not merely apply to UK companies. It does apply from the end of an accounting period—90 days after the end of an accounting period. We think that is a proportionate, appropriate and internationally recognised way of levying this tax.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 51 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 52 to 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7 agreed to.

Clause 56

Meaning of “group”, “parent” etc

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 57 to 59 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This group of clauses is again of a rather technical character and deals with some of the more detailed technical requirements of the new tax.

Clause 56 sets out the definitions of the terms “group” and “parent”, which are used to define the companies and revenues that will be taxable for the purposes of the digital services tax. It should be read along with clause 57, which makes it clear that the definition of “group” will be the same as that used for accountancy purposes. The choice of using accountancy definitions to define the group is, again, to reduce the burden of this new tax and to make it as straightforward and comprehensible as possible. Wherever possible, the Government are seeking to minimise the burden of administering the tax by using concepts that already exist and are in common use, if for other purposes.

Clause 58 sets out the conditions that determine if a group has remained the same in different time periods. That will be relevant when members of a group change through acquisition, disposal or otherwise over time. Like the changes to the responsible member, these everyday business transactions of companies joining and leaving groups should not prevent the tax operating correctly and this clause ensures that these changes do not prevent the tax from applying.

Finally, clause 59 sets out the treatment of two or more entities that are treated as stapled to each other and are subsidiaries of a “deemed parent”. This is a technical measure designed to enable the tax to work as intended in the widest possible circumstances. I therefore commend these clauses to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

These clauses are technical in nature and we have no questions to ask of the Minister.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I cannot imagine that the Minister wants to sum up.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I am entirely content with the summary that has been given by the hon. Lady.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 56 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 57 to 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 60

Accounting periods and meaning of “a group’s accounts”

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 61 to 63 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

These clauses, which are again of a thoroughly technical nature, provide more details on some of the aspects we have been discussing already in relation to the digital services tax.

Clause 60 sets the time period over which a group will account for revenues from relevant business activities for DST. This will usually be the period of account of the parent company of the group, which reduces the administrative burden as far as possible for these groups. They will be able to use figures they collect for other purposes wherever possible.



Clause 61 sets out how revenues and expenditure will be apportioned when a group’s period of account does not coincide with an accounting period. For example, many groups make up their accounts to 31 December each year. For 2020, their accounts will be for the 12 months to 31 December. However, for DST, their accounting period will only be nine months, from 1 April 2020 to 31 December. There is a mismatch in periods, and this clause enables the accounting figures to be used for DST by taking the correct proportion of those accounting figures.

Clause 62 sets out what is meant by

“revenues arising, or expenses recognised, in a period”

for the purposes of the DST legislation. Both of those terms mean the figures recognised in accordance with the applicable accounting standards for that period. Again, this demonstrates that the Government are seeking to minimise the burden of administration as much as possible by using figures that already exist for other purposes. Finally for this group, clause 63 sets out the definition of various terms relating to accounting standards for the purposes of the legislation. I commend these clauses to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, these clauses are technical in nature, and we have no further comments for the Minister in this area.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 60 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 61 to 63 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 64

Anti-avoidance

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 65 stand part.

That schedule 8 be the Eighth schedule to the Bill.

Clauses 66 to 69 stand part.

That schedule 9 be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 71 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

These clauses and schedules, again technical in nature, are also essential to the effective working of the digital services tax. Clause 64 sets out anti-avoidance provisions for the tax, and I make clear that the digital services tax has not been introduced to counteract avoidance of other taxes by digital groups. It is not about targeting particular businesses; it is a temporary measure designed to address failings in international tax rules. This clause provides HMRC with the power to counteract arrangements that may be designed or used to reduce the amount of DST that a group may have to pay. There are also safeguards within the clause that ensure the counteraction provisions do not apply when the tax advantage obtained was within the spirit of the rules.

Clause 65 sets out the process by which HMRC can collect unpaid DST liabilities from other members of the same group. This is particularly relevant to DST, as the companies liable to the tax may not be resident in the UK. Therefore, to assist HMRC in collecting unpaid debts, it will be possible for it to issue a notice to other members within a group it intends to collect the debt from.

Schedule 8 is introduced by clause 65, and provides further detail about how the notices operate. The combined effect of clause 65 and schedule 8 is to ensure that unpaid debts are collected wherever possible.

Clauses 66 and 67 set out at which rate, and when, interest will be due or required on DST payments that are made early or late, as the case may be. This will mirror the rates and timings found in corporation tax, and will therefore be familiar to many practitioners.

Clause 68 sets out that any DST liability is recoverable as a debt due to the Crown, the effect of which is to ensure that HMRC can collect any amount of DST that goes unpaid.

Clause 69 simply introduces schedule 9, which sets out provisions for minor consequential amendments in other enactments that are required as a result of the introduction of the DST. Primarily, these relate to interest rates, penalties and other tax administration processes.

Clause 71 sets out the meaning of various key terms used in the Bill relating to DST, and I commend the clauses and schedules to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have no substantial issue with these clauses, and obviously we welcome the inclusion of an anti-avoidance provision. As has been evident throughout the course of the discussions in Committee on this section of the Bill, it is a complex area, and we know that many large digital companies use intricate methods with considerable skill in order to reduce their tax liability. I mentioned earlier that some stakeholders have referred to the need for extra capacity at HMRC to make sure that this tax is properly administered and its impact properly accounted for. How confident is the Minister that anti-avoidance strategies will be adequately detected when the overall difficulties in administering the tax are taken into consideration?

Moreover, the Government’s website states that HMRC must counteract such arrangements by making such adjustments as are just and reasonable. The Minister touched on this in some of our earlier discussions, but I would be grateful if he could elaborate on exactly what a just and reasonable adjustment for tax avoidance arrangements entails. As I have already set out earlier today and in other debates we have had, the scale of tax avoidance practices by digital multinational enterprises is large and the methods that they adopt are intricate. The Government’s record so far in this area does not inspire a great deal of confidence on the Opposition Benches, and I would be grateful if the Minister could allay some of our concerns in this area.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising those questions.

The first question she raised was about extra capacity. I think we touched on this already, but it is worth just saying that HMRC already has a digital services team in place. The tax requires, in the first instance, companies to come forward with a process of self-assessment, which HMRC can then assess and view. From that point of view, this is a tax that is designed to minimise administrative burdens, not merely on the groups being taxed but on HMRC itself.

It is also worth saying that one of the extraordinary aspects of the past few months has been that HMRC has been able to show itself remarkably flexible in the way it has operated, and this might be a moment to pay due tribute in respect of that. Although it is an enormous organisation, it has been very flexible in several different areas. The first was in reconfiguring its business to be able to deal with staff absence in the face of coronavirus, which has been extremely effective. The second has been in being able to configure its services in order to match the evolving demand. A classic example would be that many services that were being handled by telephone interactions are increasingly being handled by text interactions or chats. Many services that were being handled through office phone interactions are being handled through phone interactions at home.

HMRC has been very flexible in that regard. Almost the most salient aspect is that it has been able to bring a succession of schemes into play, such as the furlough scheme, the self-employment scheme and the statutory sickness pay scheme. That flexibility of organisation has allowed it to move incredibly quickly to put those schemes in place and thereby support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. If someone had asked me at the beginning of year whether I would be publicly accountable for an organisation that would end up supporting the lives and livelihoods of some 10 million to 11 million people, I would have been very surprised indeed, but that is what has happened. I pay great tribute to the officials and staff at HMRC, and of course the Treasury, for their public spirit and service.

The hon. Lady asked how confident I am about anti-avoidance. Of course, anti-avoidance is an ever shifting and evolving pattern, and it is right to raise that question. If the past is any guide to the future, there will prove to be aspects of avoidance that are not contemplated at the moment and against which we may have to take future care, but the Bill provides a very broad capacity for HMRC to counteract arrangements that are designed to reduce the amount of tax that the group may have to pay through the digital services tax.

--- Later in debate ---
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I very much appreciate the hon. Lady’s comments. I will speak to the amendment and to clause 70, as well as to the SNP’s new clause 11.

Clause 70 requires the Government to review the DST and submit such a review to Parliament in 2025. It is a Government priority to secure an appropriate global solution to the corporate tax challenges posed by the digital economy, as we have discussed. As we have also said, once such a solution is in place, the DST will be removed.

Should the DST remain in place in 2025, the review will consider whether it continues to meet its objectives and whether international reform means that it is no longer required. However, it remains our strong preference to agree and implement an appropriate global solution, and to remove the DST as soon as possible.

The hon. Lady raised a point about the absence of a sunset clause. The 2025 review allows a context in which the Government can have an in-the-round consideration of whether this tax—were it, unexpectedly, still on the statute book—was doing its job and if it is, how it could be improved, and if it is not, where it could be tweaked to further advantage.

The amendment would require the Government to produce a review of DST annually rather than in 2025. It is not clear what the hon. Lady means by a review, but there are already very substantial processes in place. HMRC regularly reports on the taxes that it is responsible for collecting and DST will be no exception to that. It will be possible for parliamentarians and the public to scrutinise what tax has been collected by this measure. It is a new tax, so there may be some variety or it may come in higher or lower than expectation.

A review in 2025 as a backstop ensures that, should the DST remain in place at that point, its continuing relevance can be considered against the relevant circumstances at the time. However, the Government keep tax policy under continuous review through the annual budget process and, as I have said, it is our strong preference to agree and implement an appropriate global solution.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that tax policy was constantly under review and that if things changed, so would the legislation. What is the logic against an annual review? Is that not more flexible than waiting until 2025?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A review in the formal sense is a substantial undertaking. It is something that is done periodically to assess the viability or effectiveness of taxes. Given the amount of scrutiny that exists on existing tax, and given the fact that this is a new tax, that scrutiny will be carefully exercised. No doubt it will be scrutinised in Parliament as well, through the usual channels.

The case for a review comes when there has been a period of time in which one can establish and look at the track record and effectiveness of the tax. As I have said, however, we do not expect it to be on the statute book, because processes are under way internationally through the OECD that we expect to bring about a global solution that will be satisfactory to us and to the other countries involved.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am trying to understand what the Government’s understanding of temporary is. How long is temporary—five years? The Minister has said that it is a temporary measure. I understand what he is saying about a review being a substantial undertaking, but if the measure is meant to be temporary, do the Government have set guidelines about what they think temporary is?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not often that I am invited to engage in philosophical speculation on the nature of time. Temporary, as far as I am aware, does not have a definition in law. We are framing the measure in the context of currently existing practices and discussions within the OECD. We expect those to come to fruition in the next five years.

As a long stop date, we have left a review in 2025 in place, but of course the Treasury may decide to vary that, or indeed the Government may decide to take it off the statute book, if such a process is forthcoming. The hon. Lady will be aware that taxes have a tendency to mutate. When the income tax was introduced by William Pitt, it was allegedly temporary, but it was temporary only for a while and then came back. It is a good point, however.

I will turn to a couple of wider points mentioned by the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South. She talked about tax avoidance, and she will be aware that, as I have touched on, the Government have done a great deal to tackle and address tax avoidance; there are several such measures in the Bill, which I thank the Opposition Front-Bench team for supporting. Indeed, it is worth noting that the tax gap has continued to fall, which reflects the excellent work of successive Administrations. That is over and above the passage of a variety of measures designed to cut down on tax avoidance and evasion and, of course, an anti-promoters strategy, which is currently the subject of consultation with the public and which we hope to bring to fruition later this year. A series of initiatives is already under way, in addition to much previous work in that area.

On the issue of country-by-country reporting, the hon. Lady will be aware that we already, with the strong encouragement and support of the Government and our predecessors, have private country-by-country reporting, which was an important move forward. The difficulty is that public country-by-country reporting requires a measure of international consensus. If it does not have that, it runs the risk of setting all kinds of incentives that might actually have the effect of undermining the policy and the transparency that we move to, so it is an evolving position in this country, as in the OECD. We hope that the general move towards more integrated global solutions and greater transparency is one that we can reach in all those areas.

The SNP new clause 11, which would require the Government to report to the House within six months of the Act passing—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but unfortunately I did not see Stephen Flynn indicate that he wanted to speak. Would the Minister mind if I brought him in first?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am more than happy to bide my time, Ms McDonagh.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Ms McDonagh, and I thank the Minister for allowing me the opportunity to speak to new clause 11, of which there are two parts. The first relates directly to the digital services tax and the second relates to Scottish limited partnerships in relation to the DST. I shall come to that in due course, to address, I hope, the concerns of the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South.

With direct reference to the new clause and DST, the Minister has taken great pains to stress that this is a new tax, and because of that we need to take things slowly. However, I feel there will still be a strong element of cynicism in the public domain about how effective the tax will be, which his why we have tabled new clause 11. Such cynicism would certainly be justified. Earlier we heard about Amazon as an example of a large multinational corporation that benefited from the lack of direct taxation. For instance, last year I believe it paid £220 million in direct taxation in the United Kingdom, despite revenues in excess of about £11 billion. That is neither sustainable nor fair.

As to fairness, we heard at great length earlier about online retail’s impact on high streets across the United Kingdom. We need not go far to see that many shop fronts are now derelict because of the change in consumer habits. I suggest that those habits are unlikely to change, particularly for people in the younger generations who have become accustomed to sitting in the comfort of their home ordering what they want, and getting it delivered in a day or two.

That being the case, we need to create an element of fairness, which will allow revenue to be gained and income put back into the system. I imagine Members can think of many avenues for spending that revenue, but perhaps it could be spent to provide local authorities with the finance they require to invest in city centres and transform them into something better. The issues relating to DST have perhaps never been as relevant as they are now, given the prevalence of online retailing.

We also need to be mindful during the pandemic of the fact that many companies in Scotland and the United Kingdom face an extremely bleak future, and will still have to pay their fair share, as they have always done. It is unacceptable for us to be in such a situation. That is why I welcome the measure, although it could perhaps have been dealt with in a way that sought to bring in more revenue. Many companies will be in extremely challenging circumstances, through no fault of their own, and we must have a system that provides fairness, as they would expect.

Netflix was discussed earlier. I understand, as do Members on both sides of the Committee, that it might not have the same financial burden of payment as Amazon. I did not ever think I would use this phrase in the Houses of Parliament, but rather than “Netflix and chill” the expression should surely be “Netflix pay your bill.” The reality is that it has coined it and has not had to pay back. No fair-minded person can support that.

I appreciate the Minister’s comments and understand his position: we need to see where the OECD is coming from in its approach. Ultimately we need a global, sustainable position on online taxation; everyone recognises that, but the Government have been slow in getting to the point where they are now, and they could have gone further. The new clause allows them to reflect on where they will be. As I have said, public cynicism will continue to be rife.

That brings me to the second element of the new clause, which relates to Scottish limited partnerships. As all those present are aware, the future of SLPs has been contentious. My colleagues in the Scottish National party have on numerous occasions suggested to the UK Government that changes need to be made, and that SLPs need to be brought under control. After all, they are not taxable in the UK if none of their members is resident there. There is a concern—a justifiable concern—that SLPs may be used to avoid DST. That is the crux of where we are coming from and it is an extremely reasonable concern, given the propensity of SLPs to be used for tax evasion in the past.

I do not wish to suggest that Amazon or the like will follow the pathways that many of the organised crime groups have in trying to funnel money through SLPs, because that is obviously not the same argument to be having, but the reality is that SLPs and the framework that they provide would allow for avoidance to take place, and we should all want to do everything that we possibly can to limit that.

Up to now, I think it was reasonable to say that the Government’s record on SLPs has not been good enough, to put it mildly and candidly. I hope that a recognition of our proposal in new clause 11 with regard to SLPs will be taken on board, out of a commitment to end the sorry practice of those partnerships.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution to the debate on this clause and for the points he has made.

It is worth pointing out a couple of things. First, I have talked a little about the Government’s record on issues of avoidance. The hon. Gentleman talked about cynicism. What is interesting is that the public are perhaps more discerning than he thinks, and I do not think that there is cynicism about this issue. In fact, although I have not looked at any polling on this issue, I think the public are generally highly supportive of this measure. It is not a tax on retail; it is a tax on user-generated content. However, the understanding that there was a problem in the application of international tax rules and that it needed to be addressed is widespread, and I think there is a recognition—for those who would get their heads around this tax—that this measure is part of a response to that problem, as indeed is the wider OECD programme.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I perhaps did not convey it correctly, but I think the cynicism will derive from the fact that the public will not regard the levels that are being put in place as sufficient to bring in the revenue that they should. These companies have benefited exponentially in recent years, and the figures that the Government expect in terms of revenue pale into insignificance compared with the revenue that these companies ultimately bring in. I think that is where the cynicism will arise.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There are two points here. One is the question of what the right level is. As we have discussed, this tax is designed to raise what by any other standard would be a pretty substantial amount of revenue— £2 billion over five years—and at the same time to establish a category of taxation that, in and of itself, is an important category. We have talked about some of the wider philosophical implications of that with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy as well, so I think there is recognition of it.

Of course, it is also worth saying that, in relation to Scottish limited partnerships, the Government have recognised the problem, we have consulted and considered, and we are framing a legislative response to it. So there is also recognition of that problem.

The effect of the new clause would be to require the Government to report to the House, within six months of the Bill’s passing into law, the effect of the DST on tax revenues, and in particular the effect on the tax payable by the owners and employees of Scottish limited partnerships. Of course, this is a tax on groups, not a tax on individuals, whether those individuals are employees or owners; therefore, that is where the tax will fall.

In addition, DST payments will not be required until after the end of the relevant accounting period for each liable group, and thus payments will not be required until 2021. So the report that the hon. Gentleman describes would not contain any useful information. The DST’s reporting deadlines mean that very few groups would have needed to register and no groups would have been required to send in their return by that point. The report would not provide useful information about DST receipts.

We have talked about the importance of reporting and reviewing, but the effect of the new clause would be to pass a requirement to report with very little information and with very little purpose to it. I therefore commend clause 70 to the Committee and urge it to reject amendment 7 and new clause 11.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would like to press amendment 7 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 3

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 10


Conservative: 10

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Finance Bill (Fifth sitting)

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Thursday 11th June 2020

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In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 39 to 44 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Rosindell. I am grateful to all members of the Committee for joining us this morning; I am also grateful it is not too hot outside. It is a rare moment in Parliament when one gets to introduce a new tax—the digital services tax—on to the statute book. With the clauses grouped together, it is appropriate to spend some time in my opening remarks outlining the overall architecture of the tax and how it is designed to work; then we can pick up specific details in the clauses as we come to them.

Clauses 38 to 44 introduce legislation to enact the digital services tax, and they set the scope of this legislation. DST will levy a 2% charge on the revenues that groups receive from providing specific digital services to UK users. The specific services in scope of the charge are search engines, social media, and online marketplaces. I will explain later why those three services are in scope of the new tax. DST will apply only to groups with annual global revenues from services of more than £500 million. It will then be charged on the revenues only where they are attributable to UK users, and only on amounts above £25 million.

An exemption will exclude online financial services marketplaces from the definition of an online marketplace. Businesses making low profit margins on their in-scope activity will be able to pay the tax at a reduced rate, while loss makers will pay nothing; that will minimise the distortions that a tax on revenues can create. To further reduce those distortions, a relief for certain cross-border transactions is also included. It will reduce by half the revenues subject to DST where those revenues are derived from an online marketplace transaction between a UK user and a user from a jurisdiction that also levies a DST. As this is a new tax, there are also extensive provisions to ensure the framework of the tax works as intended. These draw on many existing tax concepts to reduce the burden of implementing the new tax for what we hope will be a limited time.

The digital services tax was announced at Budget 2018 as a response to changes brought about by the rapid development of our digital economy. That economy brings many benefits, but it has posed a significant challenge for international corporate tax rules. Under current rules, digital businesses can derive significant value from UK users, but in many cases they pay little UK tax because international corporate tax rules do not recognise the user-generated value when allocating the right to tax profits between jurisdictions, so undermining the fairness and sustainability of our tax system. It is therefore now widely accepted that the rules require updating.

The Government remain at the forefront of international efforts to secure a comprehensive long-term solution to the issue, and we are fully engaged in discussions with OECD and G20 partners. Although we welcome recent progress towards a global solution, there remain important and difficult issues to resolve, so the Government are acting now to address those widely held concerns in a fair and proportionate manner. DST is a temporary measure, until appropriate global reform is in place.

As a temporary measure, DST is targeted at those business models that rely most significantly on user-generated value and that place the greatest strain on current corporate tax rules. It is the Government’s judgement that these services are search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces. Of course I recognise that a broad range of digital services could be said to derive value from their users, and I am aware that some hon. Members have called for the scope of DST to be extended to include services such as media streaming. However, the services in scope of this tax are those that rely most significantly on user participation in the creation of value: for example, while media streaming platforms may utilise user contributions in the form of reviews or recommendations, users of a social media platform often create the content that is shared across the platform, and users of an online marketplace provide the market liquidity required for the marketplace to function. Also, while we are engaged in OECD discussions about finding a long-term global solution and exploring the case for broader reform, we judge that it would not be appropriate to implement a temporary tax on a broader basis.

DST follows the recommendations of the OECD’s 2018 interim report. Targeting DST at those services that derive the greatest value from their users minimises the distortive consequences of a tax on revenues and minimises the risks of introducing a temporary measure before global reform is agreed. That will ensure that DST is proportionate, while still raising up to £2 billion over the next five years. That in addition to the UK taxes that digital businesses already pay and, as I have said, reflects the value they derive from UK users.

I will now summarise the clauses that form this part of the Bill—clauses 39 to 44. Clause 39 sets out that DST will apply to all revenues that arise in connection with in-scope digital service activity. That is deliberately a very broad test; it ensures that however these businesses make money from their in-scope activity, that revenue will be subject to the tax. The clause also sets out that revenues should be apportioned on a just and reasonable basis when they are not wholly in connection with an in-scope activity.

Once a group’s digital services revenues have been established, the next step is to determine how much of those revenues is attributable to UK users. Clauses 40 and 41 set out the five cases where revenues are attributable to UK users. The first three cases deal with the specific types of revenue that online marketplaces may receive. The first case concerns the revenues that a marketplace earns from facilitating transactions between users; this will include a marketplace’s commission, for example. These revenues are attributable to UK users whenever a UK user is a party to the transaction. It does not matter whether the UK user is the buyer or the seller, or which user paid the revenue; where there is a cross-border transaction between a UK user and a non-UK user, all of the marketplace’s revenue from that transaction is regarded as attributable to UK users, although this may be subject to cross-border relief.

The second case concerns revenues that arise in connection with accommodation and land in the UK—for example when a user books a holiday let on a marketplace. These revenues are attributable to UK users when the property is in the UK. Where the property is overseas, the revenue will only be UK digital services revenue when the purchaser is a UK user. Some marketplaces charge users to list individual items for sale; under the third case, those revenues will be treated as attributable to UK users whenever the user listing the item is a UK user.

The last two cases apply to social media services and internet search engines, as well as to online marketplaces. The fourth case deals with online advertising revenues. These revenues are attributable to UK users when the advertising was viewed by a UK user; the focus is on the viewer of the advertising, not on who paid for it. The fifth and final case is a catch-all, to include revenue that is not trapped by any of the other rules but that is received in connection with UK users. This will cover any other type of revenue earned by social media services and search engines—for example, subscription fees.

Clause 42 defines each of the services in scope of DST. The tax will be charged on the revenues that businesses earn from providing a social media platform, search engine or online marketplace to UK users. The definitions are designed to be targeted and as clear as possible. They have been carefully drafted after extensive consultation periods with business to ensure that they apply as intended. Alongside the three named services, some businesses facilitate online advertising on other websites. The clause ensures that revenues from that source would also be subject to DST when the advertising service derives a significant benefit from operating one of the three named services.

Clause 43 clarifies the meaning of “user” and “UK user” for the purposes of DST legislation. Clause 44 sets out the exclusion of online financial marketplaces from the definition of online marketplaces. The highly regulated nature of financial services limits their ability to engage with users in the ways that other marketplaces do. As such, the clause ensures that they are not subject to DST.

Together, clauses 38 to 44 set out the scope of DST. The digital services tax is a clear signal of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that tax rules reflect the development of our modern economy. Ultimately, as I have said, our strong preference is for a global solution, which will be the most comprehensive and enduring way to address concerns about the current corporate tax rules. Until such a solution is in place, however, DST will ensure that digital businesses pay UK tax that reflects the value they derive from UK users. I therefore commend the clauses to the Committee.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Rosindell. Like the Minister, I will use this opportunity to lay out our broad views and concerns about the operation of the digital services tax. We will pick up some of the technical issues with the clauses as they emerge later.

We welcome the principle behind the introduction of a digital services tax. It is regrettable, if not unsurprising, that it has taken the Government so long to get to such a measure, given the wider inertia when it comes to making sure that multinational companies pay their fair share of tax. The gap between the profits that digital companies derive from UK users and how much they pay in tax is stark. That fact has been evident for some time and is recognised by Labour Members, which is why for years we have consistently pressed for a far more ambitious approach.

It is not right that, at a time when high street shops are struggling in an unprecedented way, the likes of Amazon have been allowed to pay a much lower tax rate than British bookstores and other businesses of a comparable nature. Our local high streets are incredibly important; they are the backbone of our local economies. Many family-run businesses have found this time incredibly difficult, but they also have many long-standing problems because of the way they have been undercut by some of these big players, which do not have the same overheads or level of corporate responsibility and do not make the same impact in our communities. During this crisis, many of our local businesses—our small businesses on the high street—have adapted to do all they can to make sure that vulnerable people receive deliveries and support, and that they are open as much as they can be within the guidelines. It is only right that we make sure that the bigger players with large profits make a contribution too.

There is still much unfairness built into the system. As constituency MPs, we only have to visit the businesses on our high streets that have been operating for many decades to appreciate the scale of disillusionment that many of those family-run firms feel about the lack of fairness in the system and the need for change. The economic crisis we are facing only strengthens the call for action because it has compounded the impact on our high streets, which have struggled and will continue to struggle. It is such a shame that, in many of our communities, affluent and perhaps less affluent, there are clothes shops that had their shutters down even before we felt the impact of the lockdown.

Vibrant local high streets are central to a sense of pride in the community and to making sure that we can support local jobs and businesses. We want to do everything we can to support that, but hand in hand with the pressures facing many small businesses during this time, there has been an unexpected boon for digital and tech giants, as we have all had to adapt to life in different and difficult circumstances during the lockdown. It is only right that we ensure that those with the broadest shoulders help to bear the cost of the recovery that we must now achieve as a country. It is more important than ever to make sure that those big players are taxed properly, reasonably and fairly.

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Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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I am also not usually somebody who likes to find new ways to tax people in the UK. The digital services tax is totally new, but it is the right thing to do. The clauses detail the scope and the mechanisms for the tax and its collection. We even have a clause with an algebraic formula, which should certainly raise an eyebrow. [Laughter.]

The main thing to note is that the economy is changing fast and the tax is a part of that change. The Government’s response is to work internationally as we plot the course to a digital economy. Such economies are by definition international, so it is right to respond in a multinational way. I also know that it is very hard and takes a long time to achieve the objectives, so it is clearly right to proceed in the short term with this measure. Digital firms must pay their fair share.

It is increasingly hard for Governments to raise revenue from their traditional routes. The Government obviously have to raise revenue to fund the public services that we want. There is therefore an underlying, fundamental challenge for the Treasury. Work and consumption patterns change. I recognise that I possibly view this through the prism of somebody who has had responsibility for raising Government revenue—once a Treasury Minister, always a Treasury Minister—but this tax and the thinking behind it are the shape of things to come. Tax has to evolve to reflect the way the economy evolves.

The rise of the digital economy means different things for different companies. The opportunities for productivity and environmental gains are absolutely immense, so we must do all that we can to encourage the shift into a digital economy. Most people encounter it through social media search engines and online retail, which are the target areas for the tax. The growth of online retail has placed ever greater pressure on traditional high street retail businesses: a trend compounded, as colleagues have said, by the current crisis.

There have been concerns about the nature of competition and whether there has been a level playing field between online and offline: the argument between bricks and clicks. We should make every effort to level the playing field and the tax is a part of that. High streets have a role beyond their traditional economic role. They have a social role and bring people together. They create hubs for communities, but they also have to evolve to reflect the changing nature of competition, and a more level playing field in taxation will help give them the space to evolve.

I had some concerns that the tax may discourage digital start-ups; we have seen a good period for start-ups in the UK and I think that we have led Europe in this sector. However, I think those concerns have been dealt with by the threshold at which the tax becomes payable, which will only capture the very largest of businesses.

So, we have a very interesting new area for taxation, which I do not think any Government can enter into lightly. The Minister is an old friend—we have worked together for many years—and I commend him, because this is not easy stuff; it is pioneering for the UK and indeed for the world. But we have found a way forward that updates our taxation system and introduces more fairness to it, and through the operation of the new system we will learn how future taxation may work. So, as we go through further clauses in detail today, perhaps he could comment on how any learnings from this tax might influence and develop future taxation thinking.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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All I can say to my colleagues on the Government Benches who have made their speeches is,

“soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east”—

and my hon. Friends the Members for South Cambridgeshire, and for Harrogate and Knaresborough. What could be finer? I thank them very much for their interventions. If I may, I will start by responding to those interventions and then come on to the very detailed thrust of commentary from the shadow Chief Secretary.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire rightly made the point that taxes are, of their nature, potentially distortive, and revenue taxes, of their nature, in particular. It is therefore appropriate to proceed with a degree of caution in considering how to introduce a tax, and to acknowledge that. He also made the point that many taxes start modestly. I could not possibly comment on the future direction of this tax, but I will say that I do not think that £2 billion is a trivial sum of money to raise from a new tax. I think the tax has been set at an appropriate level, and officials and the Government believe that, too.

My hon. Friend also asked whether businesses affected by the tax will have to collect a vast array of new information, and whether that may be burdensome to them. This is one area where, on reflection, he may be able to take a degree of comfort, because we are only talking about very large businesses, and about businesses for whom tracking users and extracting revenue from them is what they do for a living. So, it is not our expectation that there should be any enormous additional informational burden; there may be a selection process of pulling information out, but not an enormous informational burden.

I will also point out that the approach taken is one of self-assessment, which is to say that we expect businesses that have UK user-generated content revenue to come forward and self-assess. In a way, that relates to the question put by the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South about whether HMRC has enough resources. I am pleased to tell her that it already has a digital team in place, whose job is to monitor this process of self-assessment. And as with other taxes, I have no doubt that they will become increasingly expert in doing that and evaluating the submissions that are made; of course, submissions will vary in their quality and I am sure that evaluating them will be, in turn, an educative process for tax officials at HMRC.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, a beloved former Treasury Minister, made a couple of important points. Of course, he is absolutely right that we are talking about a dynamic market or sector. All markets are intrinsically dynamic and we are talking about an intrinsically highly dynamic sector of activity, perhaps never more so than at this particular moment in our history, when we are seeking—internationally and nationally—to find a whole range of new solutions to support people and maintain the economy. So, it is a very dynamic sector.

My hon. Friend is also right to highlight—in a way entirely unscripted and unprepared with me—the “pioneering” nature of this tax. It is a new form of tax, which seeks to tax UK user-generated content. Therefore, it is an important démarche in our history to consider whether this is an appropriate way in which to tax. I believe it is, and I believe that Parliament will think it is, but we will of course continue to review and take feedback on it. I point out that there have been two sets of consultations on this already—an original, principal set and then a more technical one.

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Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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I appreciate that, of course. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for welcoming the principles behind this, as she is right to do. For the same reasons I described to my hon. Friends, I do not think it appropriate to think of this as in any sense delayed. We are at the forefront of a developing area of tax law. We have not thought it appropriate to wait for international procedures. I am sure that, on reflection, she would prefer that we not have waited, both because of the revenue generated for public services but also because we deem it important—I have no doubt that the Labour party feels the same way—to try to make progress in this important area, removing what we see as ineffective rules or improving the working of the rules within the tax code.

I think it is fair to say, without blowing the Government’s trumpet too hard, that whether it is the diverted profits tax, work on base erosion and profit-shifting, corporate interest restriction rules or, indeed, on private country-by-country reporting rules, the Government have been at the forefront of much of the most progressive tax changes of the past few years, which is entirely appropriate.

The hon. Lady raises the question about the relationship with high streets. No Member of Parliament does not feel the concern about the high street, because they go back to their constituencies every week and see the effects of change. It is important to be aware that this tax is about addressing changes, or the way in which the tax rules are not fully capturing the value that is being generated. The high street is a rapidly evolving entity, as has been pointed out. Many high street businesses—even quite small ones—have online businesses of their own, which are effective supplements to what they do. They will not be caught by this tax, because in many cases their activity will be too small. However, it is in those hybrid models, which are evolving, where I think much of the future of the high street may lie.

It is not by any means obvious that the effect of the pandemic has been solely to privilege the online versus the offline. Plenty of online businesses have been clobbered by the pandemic in a way that many offline businesses have as well.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham) (Lab)
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The Minister raises a valid point about this tax generally creating more revenue. However, he mentions the pandemic, and I am clear that we are heading for one of the worst recessions in history. Does the Minister not think that we would do best to do what European countries are doing, with a much higher rate of tax? The £1.3 billion that we will potentially lose is no small fee. The public coffers need that money. Does he not agree?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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I thank the hon. Lady very much for her question. As I said, the estimate by the independent OBR is of £2 billion over a five-year period. Our estimate is certainly £2 billion over a five-year period. I do not think that is a trivial amount. As has been discussed, we of course recognise the importance of generating revenue, but we also think it important to introduce a tax that is sustainable and that lays a framework that can be effective while it is in operation. There are countries that have had higher taxes, and we have offsetting rules regarding the interaction with those taxes in order to create equity as between the different jurisdictions, so it is a perfectly fair question, but we have taken the view that 2% is an appropriate level for a new tax. As I said, it is a tax that we will be very happy to take off the statute book as and when the OECD process starts to yield effective results, which it may well do before too long.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy
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What I cannot seem to understand is why—the Minister mentioned sustainability—if other countries in Europe see it as sustainable and we have no evidence to the contrary, we have decided that it is not sustainable to have a higher rate.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is, of course, a proper question to ask, but we have taken the view that this is a tax that we would like to take off the books in due course, when there is an OECD agreement. That agreement may take a variety of different forms; it may raise more tax or less. Different countries have different overall tax systems and seek to address different forms of corporate behaviour in deriving revenue. In the UK, there are plenty of businesses deriving revenue from user-generated content. Some of them will be over the thresholds that we are talking about, and those are the ones that are within the scope of the tax.

It is absolutely open to other parties to disagree about how they would put it, but the Government have taken the view that this is the appropriate level for a new tax—it is on revenue and, as I have said, is therefore potentially distortive. We have had feedback and consultations that reflect concerns on both sides of the issue.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend makes a valuable point about the multi-channel operations of many retailers. I came to Parliament from a business background that had a mixture of high street and online retailers. From a business perspective, the key thing is to reach customers in the way that is right for them. By choosing either the high street or online, businesses miss out. Customers are open to trading in whichever way is convenient for them, as this crisis has shown.

I want to make a comment about the taxation. Higher taxation rates do not necessarily mean higher tax collected. We also have to recognise that having a tax environment that is conducive to creating a business-friendly environment is a critical part of the economic growth that we have seen over the past few years. We should certainly be looking around the world to see how other countries operate their tax systems, but drawing comparisons with countries that are not creating wealth or jobs might not be the way forward.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. In a way, he leads me on to my next remarks in response to the hon. Member for Streatham. He is right. The dynamic market that we are seeking to tax is one where revenues are not absolutely predictable; they may be higher or lower than estimated. The tax therefore stands in contrast to a well-established tax such as VAT, because we can be much more certain about how much that tax will raise.

It is also important to understand that this is not a tax designed to penalise certain companies. The strength of our online sector in the UK has been a very important part of the response to coronavirus, as I have mentioned. There is no attempt to pick out companies and target them with the tax. There is a concern about failings in the international tax rules, and that is what the Government seek to address.

The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South raised the issue of multilateral action and asked whether adequate leadership had been exercised. It has been recognised that the OECD has made some good progress in this area recently, which has been achieved with a lot of urging and support from this country. Ultimately, we all agree that international and corporate tax needs to be addressed in a global and inclusive way. That would be the Government’s strong preference, but we have not waited—I do not think the hon. Lady would want us to wait—because we think it is important to take a lead.

It is also important to say that when we have done that, we have tried—as one might expect with a new tax—to target an area where there is a very clear rationale or justification for the tax that is being levied. UK user-generated content is a strong basis on which to levy a tax. There is a contrast with, for example, media streaming. The hon. Lady talks about how much she has enjoyed various media streaming services, and I welcome that, but we can all be relatively certain that she has not contributed a lot of UK user content to them—[Interruption.] Unless delight and shock are forms of UK-generated content.

I want to reassure the hon. Lady a bit about the apportionment of revenue. She is absolutely right that, as the history of base erosion and profit shifting around the world shows, many companies have found it only too easy to move the effective location where tax is generated. In part, this tax, by taxing revenue overall, is designed to sidestep a lot of the temptations that might exist to work round the edges. A very wide definition of revenue has been adopted, and we can go into that in more detail. As I said earlier, we require companies to do it. It is a self-assessment scheme, and we ask companies to designate, evidence and disclose the UK user-generated revenue of the different kinds that we have touched on.

On GDPR, which is the relative question, the legislation has been written so that businesses are expected to use information that they already have to make the determination. We believe that it is compatible with GDPR, and that it draws on data that is already collected. We are not inviting the groups to collect new information that might be in some sense at odds with people’s rights or in contravention of the law, and of course they will have their own GDPR processes to follow. As I have said, many of them collect a great deal of information, including IP addresses, delivery addresses, billing addresses and so on. To come to a point that the hon. Lady made earlier, that is another reason why the use of virtual private networks is more of an in-principle worry than an actual worry, because famously, so much other information is collected about the users of those services from multiple sources. That should help them to make those disclosures.

The hon. Lady asked about double taxation. It is true that some businesses will pay both UK corporation tax and the digital services tax. For reasons of international law, we are not capable in law of discriminating in favour of UK businesses, and we are not going to. The point, though, is to design a proportionate tax with a low rate, and another reason why we have chosen that rate is that we do not wish to be any more distortive or invoke any more double taxation than is absolutely necessary. As I said, our preference is to move to a global solution.

The hon. Lady talked about international leadership. We look forward to a day when the OECD will be able to pass an agreed set of rules with multinational support that give a proper basis for the levying of tax. As she is aware, a number of proposals are under discussion. They and the processes that generated them are well described in the House of Commons Library note, and I encourage any Members who want more detail to look at that. The Government are clear that we will maintain this tax until the OECD passage of agreement—there may be other supervening factors—causes us to remove it. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 38 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 39 to 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 45

Meaning of “the threshold conditions”

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None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 46 to 50 stand part.

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to clauses 45 to 50. The last discussion was quite a long one, but hopefully it was helpful in framing the overall legislation within which we can now discuss the more specific elements, so we may not need to dwell as long on these parts.

Clauses 45 to 50 set out how the digital services tax charge will be calculated. The Government have sought to ensure that the DST is proportionate and charged only to those businesses that are best able to generate significant value from their users. As such, it will apply only to groups with annual global revenues from the named services of over £500 million. DST will be charged only on those revenues where they are attributable to UK users and only on amounts above £25 million.

Clauses 45 and 46 set out the thresholds and the allowance, and they set the rate of the charge at 2%. A DST tax rate of 2%, as we have discussed, ensures that digital businesses will make a fair and proportionate contribution to our public finances. Clause 46 also sets out how each member of a group should calculate their DST liability.

The Government recognise that some businesses have concerns about levying a tax on revenues rather than profits. That is why our strong preference is for a long-term profits-based global solution. That can be implemented only following an international agreement, however, so although the DST applies to revenues, the alternative basis of charge will reduce the charge for businesses with low profit margins or losses on their chargeable UK activity. Clauses 47 and 48 therefore set out the alternative basis of the DST charge and how DST liability should be calculated on that basis.

Online marketplace transactions will occur between two users, and those users may be based in different jurisdictions. Where one of those users is a UK user, revenues attributable to the transaction will be subject to the UK DST. Where the other relevant jurisdiction also levies a DST, however, there is a risk that the revenues could be taxed twice. Clause 49 sets out the relief for certain cross-border transactions, minimising that risk by ensuring that, in such cases, only 50% of the relevant revenues will be subject to the UK DST. Finally, clause 50 sets out when DST payments are due and payable.

Together, the clauses mean that the DST charge is proportionate while ensuring that digital businesses pay a UK tax that reflects the value they derive from UK users. Overall, as I have noted, the tax is expected to raise up to £2 billion over the next five years in a proportionate and responsible way.

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister said, we have discussed at length the broader implications and the necessary measures set out in the clauses, but I have some technical issues relating to them.

On clause 46, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has said that,

“given the potential compliance burdens imposed by the DST, it is important to ensure that smaller digital businesses are not burdened by DST, so the inclusion of a £25m allowance looks reasonable but should be kept under review.”

On a similar but more general note, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has warned that some businesses will be undertaxed while others may be overtaxed. As we have said before, it is our position on the Opposition Benches that in these challenging times, those with the broadest shoulders should bear more of the load. Can the Minister confirm that he will keep the measure under review to ensure that companies, particularly smaller companies, do not pay more than their larger counterparts, to avoid the distortions that he talked about emerging all the time?

There are perhaps more substantial concerns around clauses 47 and 48 on the so-called safe harbour provision. As HMRC has stated, that is intended to ensure that the tax does not have a disproportionate effect on business sustainability in cases where a business has a lower operating margin from providing in-scope activities to UK users. Its inclusion is obviously well-intentioned, but some assurances will be welcome. It is clear that multinational companies are often adept at structuring their operations in a way that reduces their tax liabilities. Are there safeguards in place to ensure that the safe harbour provision is not used for such a purpose?

Clause 48, for instance, contains a list of excluded expenses that cannot be deducted from a company’s net profit, which goes on to form the basis of the alternative charge. The list, however, does not include royalties, and I am grateful to TaxWatch UK for drawing attention, through the research that it has done, to the implications that that might have, because royalties are at the heart of tax avoidance practices perpetrated by some digital tech companies. It describes how most of those companies’ profits are attributable to various types of intellectual property that they have developed.

By artificially locating the intermediate and ultimate legal ownership of the intellectual property in avoidance-facilitating jurisdictions and tax havens, those companies can avoid tax on UK royalties, and ultimately reduce their taxable profits in the UK. Why, therefore, are royalties not included on the list of excluded expenses? Surely the Minister would accept that that is a potential failure to adequately tackle the use of royalties to reduce tax liabilities, and might further incentivise the use of the safe harbour provision by larger tech companies, which will in turn be able to reduce their taxable profits through their practices with regard to royalties.

More broadly on the safe harbour provisions, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has also said that in spite of those, it is still concerned that low-margin businesses could face a very high rate of tax on UK-allocated profits. Will the Minister address those concerns?

On clause 49, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has highlighted that the interaction with other national tax regimes, including broadly similar but subtly different unilateral taxes in other countries, will still mean some double taxation, which the Minister talked about in our earlier debate. It describes this as a rough and ready way of reducing such instances by reducing the revenue chargeable by 50% if it arises from a transaction where a user in respect of a marketplace transaction is normally located in a country that operates a similar tax to the DST. Does the Minister agree with its assessment? What analysis has been done in that area? Has consideration been given to other possible approaches to reduce the risk of double taxation?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. She asks whether the £25 million threshold has the effect of clobbering small businesses. Our view is that the purpose and effect of the thresholds is to levy the tax on the businesses that are best able to afford it, and that to have a global revenue base of £500 million and revenue attributable to UK users above the £25 million threshold is in itself a basis that excludes a vast number of small start-ups—which might turn out to be wildly successful and effective unicorns. We do not believe that the threshold will inhibit growth. If this is a direction in which tax will be going over time, as I rather think it is and as colleagues have suggested, an awareness of how tax will bear on future revenues and profitability is in itself an important part of any business’s market development.

The hon. Lady raised a concern about the safe harbour alternative charge arrangements. That is designed to ensure that the DST is not punitive for businesses with low profit margins or losses, and I think that is appropriate. At the margin, there is a risk that some businesses might try to reconfigure their activities to qualify for that, but I think it will be relatively clear to the Revenue from self-assessment when a business that is intrinsically high-margin is disguising that or is, essentially, seeking to utilise the alternative charge unfairly. It is worth saying that the alternative calculation applies only to in-scope UK activity, so businesses will not be able to reduce profit margins by using out-of-scope or non-UK activity. That is an important safeguard.

The hon. Lady asked about royalties. The tax is designed to work based on the consolidated figures of groups as groups. The concern about royalty payments is that, typically, royalties are used within groups to move revenues around, so, from a gross standpoint, they tend not to fall within the scope of the revenue charge, and they should not. Of course, from a tax-principle perspective, there are perfectly legitimate royalty uses and payments that one would want to continue to allow in any case. The alternative charge takes into account only expenses in the consolidated accounts, and is not therefore principally touched by the concern about intra-group royalties, for the reasons that I have described.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 45 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 46 to 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(David Rutley.)

Finance Bill (Seventh sitting)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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