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Clause 8 — Amounts not fully recognised for accounting purposes

Bill Presented — Superannuation Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 15th July 2010.

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

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Financial Secretary, Shadow Minister (Digital Britain)

Clause 8 and schedule 5 amend the corporation tax rules on loan relationships and derivative contracts that apply to amounts not fully recognised for accounting purposes. This is a good example of the way in which the obligations that the previous Government introduced in 2004 on the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes are bearing fruit by revealing forms of avoidance that represent loopholes that need to be closed, which is what the clause does. The intention behind the clause was announced by the previous Government at the time of the March Budget. The provision is tightly targeted. I am not aware of any adverse reaction, and I certainly support the clause, but will the Exchequer Secretary give us his assessment of how much tax avoidance will be prevented by blocking the loophole?

I was pleased that the coalition agreement included the commitment:

"We will make every effort to tackle tax avoidance".

Clauses 8 and 9 are the first concrete signs of that commitment being delivered. However, will Exchequer Secretary tell us a little more about how those efforts will be pursued and what is meant in the coalition agreement by the commitment to

"detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals"?

If I understand correctly, Liberal Democrat proposals in this area include: changing the taxation of benefits in kind; increasing the proportion of HMRC time spent on income tax evasion; a new general anti-avoidance provision for corporation tax, with companies paying a commercial rate for HMRC pre-clearance-I imagine that that is being subsumed in the wider discussion about a general anti-avoidance rule-and legislating to establish the beneficial ownership of property that is sold to prevent the avoidance of stamp duty land tax. Will the Exchequer Secretary confirm what the coalition agreement meant? Are all those initiatives-

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The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is going much wider than the provision before us. Will he confine his remarks to what is contained in clause 8?

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Financial Secretary, Shadow Minister (Digital Britain)

Of course I will, Mr Evans.

I accept that there will always be areas in which there is legitimate uncertainty among business and their representatives about how the law applies. However, I am pleased that clause 8 and schedule 5 are being brought forward to block one more unwanted loophole.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary 6:00 pm, 15th July 2010

I thank the shadow Minister for his words of support. It would be somewhat surprising if he did not support the measure, as I am sure that he would have introduced it had he been in our position.

Clause 8 relates to corporation tax avoidance involving de-recognition. The corporation tax rules on financial instruments broadly follow the treatment of profits and losses recognised in accounts drawn up under generally accepted accounting practice. That applies to most financial instruments, including loans and derivatives. However, in certain cases where the terms of an asset and a liability are closely related, accounting practice may mean that neither the income nor the expenses arising on them are included in the accounts. For example, a company may have issued preference shares on which the dividends payable equal the interest received. As the company is economically flat in such cases, accounting practice allows it to de-recognise both the income and expenses. However, for tax purposes, that gives rise to a mismatch. The income is taxable, while the dividends are not deductible.

Unfortunately, avoidance schemes have continually sought to exploit the practice of de-recognising income. In 2006, legislation was introduced to block such avoidance by overriding the de-recognition for tax purposes. It required that where certain conditions are met, taxable profits are to be computed as if there had been no de-recognition in the accounts. It was necessary to amend the original legislation in 2007 and 2009 to block new schemes. Previous action has protected something like between £100 million and £150 million. To answer the shadow Minister's question, it is anticipated that the measures in the Bill will protect £150 million per annum.

It is worth making the point that in addition to blocking the latest schemes, the Government intend to remove the opportunity for new abuse. We will amend the anti-avoidance rule in question so that it works in a more wide-ranging manner. Such a rule will make it unnecessary repeatedly to block similar versions of what is essentially the same scheme, and will allow us to address the matter more completely. HMRC will issue a technical note on the subject shortly, with a view to us making the amendments in the Finance Bill 2011. Any such changes would be effective from a date to be announced in the autumn, following consultation on the details of the proposals.

I note your earlier guidance, Mr Evans, and I will not go into detail on the points that the shadow Minister made, but we continue to look at the issue, and the Government take anti-avoidance measures very seriously.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clauses 9 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Bill to be read the Third time tomorrow.

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