National Insurance Contributions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 4th November 2013.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary 4:18 pm, 4th November 2013

My hon. Friend is right. The policy of providing a NICs break only for new employees raised all sorts of practical questions such as who constituted a new employee and what perverse incentives might have been created. That is not dissimilar to the point that my hon. Friend Margot James has made about Labour’s current policy.

I will turn to the other elements of the Bill. Clauses 9 and 10 relate to the general anti-abuse rule. The Government announced at last year’s Budget that they accepted the recommendation of the Aaronson report to introduce a GAAR targeted at abusive tax avoidance schemes. The GAAR was introduced in part 5 of the Finance Act 2013 and has been in force since July. This Bill will apply the GAAR to national insurance contributions.

Clause 11 relates to oil and gas workers. In this year’s Budget, the Chancellor announced that the Government would strengthen the legislation on offshore employment intermediaries. The Bill will address the non-payment of employer’s national insurance contributions in the oil and gas industry through the placement of the employer of oil and gas workers who are working on the UK continental shelf outside the UK. The measure has been subject to consultation. The consultation document, “Offshore employment intermediaries”, was published on 30 May 2013 and the consultation closed on 8 August 2013. The summary of responses was published in October.

The Government intend to address those offshore employment schemes largely by using existing powers contained in social security legislation. The Bill supplements those with a new certification provision for the oil and gas industry. That provision will apply where the national insurance obligations are fulfilled by someone on behalf of the person deemed to be the employer for national insurance purposes.

Clause 11 is part of a measure that, as a whole, is expected to bring in the region of £100 million per year to the Exchequer, without having a significant economic impact on the oil and gas industry. Staff costs for some businesses may increase if they had not previously been accounting properly for all tax and NICs. There will be little cost to the Government through additional administration, other than HMRC implementing the new certification system, and I hope hon. Members will agree that this is a straightforward and uncontroversial provision.

Finally, I wish to refer to provisions in the Bill concerning HMRC’s partnership review, which are contained in clauses 12 and 13. Following the Chancellor’s Budget announcement, HMRC carried out a consultation on two aspects of the partnership rules between May and August this year, and the Government are bringing forward measures in the Bill as a result of that review. The Government are proposing two sets of changes, the first of which was not part of the consultation proposals but resulted directly from information received during that consultation. It concerns a tax issue that can arise from the interaction of the alternative investment fund managers directive—AIFMD—and existing partnership tax rules. Only those alternative investment fund managers who operate as a partnership will be affected by the proposed changes in the Bill.

A provision in the Bill will allow regulations to be made to modify the class 4 NICS liability of partners whose profits will be deferred under AIFMD, which aims to improve investor protection and reduce risk. The regulations will be based on new tax legislation that will be included in the forthcoming finance Bill. Measures will be included in the NICs Bill, the forthcoming finance Bill and secondary legislation to reclassify certain limited liability partnership—or LLP—members as employed earners for tax and national insurance purposes, to tackle the disguising of employment relationships through LLPs.

The tax and NICs changes are expected to bring in approximately £125 million to the Exchequer in the first year, while the broader economic impact is expected to be negligible. There will be changes to the NICs liability for certain partnerships and individual partners in the alternative investment fund sector. The Bill will also result in some LLPs in certain industry sectors where disguised employment has been most prevalent paying increased amounts of NICs.