Review of tax treatment of Scottish Limited Partnerships

Part of Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 5th September 2016.

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Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 9:00 pm, 5th September 2016

That is a very powerful point. This is why transparency matters. If people know that they are being taken for a ride, they do not have to use an organisation that uses a Luxembourg structure, which is a common kind of intermediate structure for pan-European tax planning to organise things so that no tax need be paid.

This is not just about Avis. I had a look at the accounts of Hertz, another large US car rental company that also does not seem to have paid any tax in the past few years. It is hard to tell how it is doing that, and I had to look at the accounts in very great detail. It has some let-out whereby the company does not have to report related-party transactions. One would think that it may well be renting its car fleets through the Luxembourg company or the Netherlands BV that it uses. Hertz uses a Netherlands BV and Avis uses a Luxembourg company to get money out of the UK tax net so that it is not subject to tax on any profit. However, I cannot tell, because we do not have that level of reporting. That is why country-by-country reporting is important, not just as a tax concept but as an accounting concept, so that one can see where the money has gone. Similarly, inter-company loans and borrowings are often at the much higher rate. That is certainly the case with Avis, which was paying more in its inter-company loans than in its borrowings to the bank. That, too, caused me a level of concern. There seemed perhaps to be some trademark royalties in there, or some royalties to do with its internal IT and computer systems, but it was hard to tell because we do not have that granularity in the accounts.

We ought to have a greater level of knowledge, a greater level of reporting, and a greater level of understanding of how money is being paid, the taxes that are due, and the nature of the planning that is being undertaken so that our laws are more robust and we can make sure that everyone in this nation pays a fair share of tax, be they the cleaner or the largest enterprise that is trading. It matters for the rule of law, for a fair and open market, and for a level competitive playing field that all businesses and enterprises are treated the same.