Clause 87 — Mutual assistance for recovery of taxes etc.

Bill Presented — Police (detention and bail) bill – in the House of Commons at 8:54 pm on 5th July 2011.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary 8:54 pm, 5th July 2011

I beg to move amendment 1, page 48, line 16, leave out subsection (4).

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 2 to 8.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 87 and schedule 25 give effect to the new mutual assistance recovery directive, which comes into effect on 1 January 2012. The directive will improve the current mutual assistance provisions, which permit member states to recover and enforce tax debts and to exchange information across the European Union. This will improve tax compliance and make the tax system fairer. The directive extends mutual assistance to all national and local taxes. Local taxes are devolved, so consent is required from the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on their behalf. These consents could not be secured before those Administrations dissolved ahead of the May elections, so a number of exclusions were included in the Bill published on 31 March 2011. Agreement has now been received from Scotland and Northern Ireland that Westminster can legislate for these matters.

The amendments remove the exclusions included in the Bill in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland. They also make an addition to the explanation of “relevant UK authority” in order to include a claim from another member state to recover an agricultural levy in Scotland.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson Conservative, South Staffordshire

I understand that my hon. Friend recently received the very prestigious award of tax personality of the year. I am somewhat concerned that this glorious award may be influencing his conduct as a Minister in carrying on his business in relation to tax policy. Is that a fact?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I am trying hard not to let the award go to my head. I will endeavour to do my best, but it is of course a great honour. I take it as praise for what the Government are doing more generally on tax policy. Before I break into tears—I find it quite emotional to talk about the award—I shall return to the issue of mutual assistance.

HMRC’s data-gathering powers are modernised by clause 86 and schedules 23 and 24. It is important that the powers satisfy the international standards determined by the OECD and the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes. The provisions in the Bill, which have been discussed in Committee, will ensure that HMRC can use its full range of existing powers to meet requests from overseas.

The global forum is currently conducting a peer review of the UK and a specific issue has been identified that we have to address. Schedule 36 to the Finance Act 2008 does not allow HMRC to require information from a third party when it does not know the full identity of the taxpayer but has some information from which their full identity can be ascertained, such as a branch code and a bank account number or a credit card number. At present, unless a serious loss of tax is suspected, HMRC is unable to issue a notice to a third party that can be reasonably expected to know the name and address of the person concerned. In the examples I have given, that would be a bank or credit card issuer. To meet our international commitments, we need to amend schedule 36 to allow a formal notice to be issued in those circumstances. However, we have made a clear commitment to consult on tax changes, so I have asked HMRC to consult over the summer on how best to achieve the changes, with a view to publishing draft provisions in the autumn and legislating next year. I envisage the changes taking effect from Royal Assent in 2012.

In conclusion, the amendments to clause 87 and schedule 25 will help to ensure that the new mutual assistance recovery directive is fully transposed into UK law by 31 December 2011. We fully support the aims of the directive and this implementing legislation. I therefore commend the amendments to the House.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The amendments look reasonably uncontentious. It is sensible to find ways to support mutual assistance between nation states in the recovery of tax debts and duties. I am glad that the consents have come from the devolved Administrations. Those justify the amendments, so we do not wish to oppose them.

May I, too, take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the prestigious award of tax personality of the year. I am sure that there is more to his personality than tax. Perhaps in his speech, as well as thanking his parents and his agent, he could also thank his accountant.

Amendment 1 agreed to.