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Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 20th April 2004.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Chief Secretary, HM Treasury, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:20 pm, 20th April 2004

I must make progress, I am afraid.

To protect the revenue for investment in the public services that the country wants we are determined to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. We have therefore introduced a number of legislative changes to close loopholes that have been exploited for tax avoidance, and we are taking steps to target low rates of corporation tax on small businesses that are reinvesting to ensure that distributed profits are subject to a minimum corporation tax rate of 19 per cent. We are protecting the zero rate as an incentive for businesses to invest for growth, enterprise and productivity.

We have also introduced new requirements to disclose the use of direct tax and VAT avoidance schemes. As a result of the continued high level of spirits duty fraud, we will legislate to implement the Roques report recommendation to stamp spirit bottles. Recognising the costs to the trade, however, we will assist it with cash-flow costs and defer payments for tax stamps. In addition, spirits duty will remain frozen for the seventh successive year and, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear, for the remainder of this Parliament. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary has spent many hours in discussion with the industry, and has made himself available to right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House in order to make sure that we get this right. Considerable progress has been made in ensuring that we tackle the evil of the illicit trade in spirits.