Review of tax treatment of Scottish Limited Partnerships

Part of Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 5th September 2016.

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Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 9:45 pm, 5th September 2016

It has been a wide-ranging and at times passionate debate. I shall address the Government amendments before addressing the amendments and new clauses tabled by the Opposition.

Clause 155 makes an administrative change to strengthen the procedural efficiency of the GAAR. Amendments 136 and 137 make small technical changes to the clause, which incorporate the new terms introduced by clause 156. The new terms provide a new way of counteracting under the GAAR procedure to enable the same advisory panel opinion to apply to multiple users of marketed tax avoidance schemes. We believe that the changes will streamline the procedure without altering the fundamental test to which taxpayers are subject under the GAAR. They will ensure that a provisional GAAR counteraction will apply equally to all counteraction procedures, and enable tax to be protected for the cases that we intend to address.

Amendment 145, to which Caroline Flint spoke, would give the Treasury the power to require groups to publish a country-by-country report showing their profits, taxes paid and other financial information for the countries in which they operate. As she and others acknowledged in the debate, the UK has led international efforts, although Rebecca Long Bailey, who spoke for the Opposition, was, to say the least, miserable about the leadership that the UK has shown. I did not recognise the description she applied, but others were more generous, noting the fact that the UK has rightly led those international efforts to tackle tax avoidance by multinational enterprises, for all the reasons so brilliantly articulated by colleagues such as my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke. We all support what he said. The Government have been a firm supporter of greater tax transparency and greater public disclosure of the tax affairs of large businesses. For those reasons, we fully support the intentions of amendment 145 and will support its inclusion in the Bill.

The Government have consistently pushed for a multilateral solution for country-by-country reporting. For example, the Chancellor made the case for looking at this at the G20 in July. Amendment 145 is very much in keeping with that aim and provides the Government with the power to implement when appropriate. It is none the less important that the power is used to deliver a comprehensive and effective model—as was acknowledged by the right hon. Lady—of public country-by-country reporting that is agreed on a multilateral basis. I am sure we will return to this issue and the basis on which we can go forward. It means a model that requires all groups, both UK headquartered and non-UK headquartered, to report accessible information for the full range of countries in which they operate. It is vital for ensuring that the policy intention of greater transparency is delivered. It is also important for ensuring that UK headquartered groups are not put at a competitive disadvantage. Again, I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady for recognising that concern, as expressed earlier in the year in a previous stage of the Bill, and that disclosure requirements cannot be avoided through group restructuring—another issue that we want to ensure we are on top of.

The Government remain focused on getting international agreement for such a model, as part of their continued efforts to ensure that taxes are paid and paid in jurisdictions where economic activities take place. The right hon. Lady and the House have my assurance that the Government will continue to take every opportunity to champion this agenda at an international level. It is increasingly clear that we move forward with a welcome degree of agreement across this House.