It has long been recognised that a power of remitting tax in cases where the full claim cannot be obtained or cannot reasonably be enforced is inherent in the general powers for the management of the revenue which are vested by Section 57 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, and Section 1 of the Inland Revenue Regulation Act, 1890, in the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. In individual cases the Commissioners normally exercise their own discretion, but the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is obtained for any remission of general application. All remissions of tax are reported to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for the information of the Public Accounts Committee.
Why, then, has the right hon. Gentleman just sent me a letter about a constituent aged 83 who has been charged for tax incurred six years ago which was not claimed at the time by the mistake of the Inland Revenue authorities? Why has he told me there is no power in him to remit this claim?
Without knowing off-hand the details of the case which the right hon. Gentleman quotes, the answer is that it is generally the law that there is no power to remit. However, as the House is well aware, during our Debates recently on the Finance Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, under pressure from all sides of the House, indicated that certain sections for certain reasons would receive discretionary treatment.
I think I have made it quite clear in the rather long answer I have given. It resides, through the Acts I have mentioned, in the Inland Revenue under the control and supervision of the Chancellor of the day. If I may add this, the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain made this quite clear in 1937 in reply to similar questions.