Income tax charge for tax year 2017-18

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:03 pm on 25 April 2017.

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Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1:03, 25 April 2017

I will speak briefly, as we have a fair amount to get through this afternoon. Obviously, I shall attempt to address any points that are made during the debate.

The Bill is progressing on the basis of consensus and therefore, at the request of the Opposition, we are not proceeding with a number of clauses. However, there has been no policy change. These provisions will make a significant contribution to the public finances, and the Government will legislate for the remaining provisions at the earliest opportunity, at the start of the new Parliament. The Government remain committed to the digital future of the tax system, a principle widely accepted on both sides of the House. We recognise the need for the House to consider such measures properly, as called for by my right hon. Friend Mr Tyrie and his Treasury Committee. That is why we have decided to pursue those measures in a Finance Bill in the next Parliament, in the light of the pressures on time that currently apply.

Clauses 1 and 3 provide for the annual charging of income tax in the current financial year and maintain the basic, higher and additional rates at the current level. The annual charge legislated for in the Finance Bill is essential for its continued collection, and it will enable the funding of vital public services during the coming year. Maintaining these rates, while increasing the tax-free personal allowance and the point at which people pay the higher rate of tax, means that we are delivering on important manifesto commitments. On top of that, as of April this year, increases in the personal allowance since 2010 will have cut a typical basic-rate taxpayer’s income tax bill by more than £1,000, taking 1.3 million people out of income tax in this Parliament alone.

Clause 4 will maintain the starting-rate limit for savings income—applied to the savings of those with low earnings—at its current level of £5,000 for the 2017-18 tax year; clause 6 will charge corporation tax for the forthcoming financial year; and clauses 17 and 18 will make changes in the taxation of pensions. Clause 18 legislates for a significant anti-avoidance measure announced at the spring Budget. It will make changes to ensure that pension transfers to qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes requested on or after 9 March 2017 will be taxable. The charge will not apply if the individual and the pension savings are in the same country, if both are within the European economic area or if the pension scheme is provided by the individual’s employer.

Before the changes were announced in the spring Budget, an individual retiring abroad could transfer up to £1 million in pension savings, without facing a charge, to a pension scheme anywhere in the world provided that it met certain requirements. Overseas pension transfers had become increasingly marketed and used as a way to gain an unfair tax advantage on pension savings that had had UK tax relief. That was obviously contrary to the policy rationale for allowing transfers of UK tax-relieved pension savings to be made free of UK tax for overseas schemes. This charge will deter those who seek to gain an unfair tax advantage by transferring their pensions abroad. Exemptions allow those with a genuine need to transfer their pensions abroad to do so tax-free.

Clause 17 will make various changes in the tax treatment of specialist foreign pension schemes to make it more consistent with the taxation of domestic pensions.

Clause 21 will simplify the payment of distributions by some types of investment fund. Following the Government’s introduction of the personal savings allowance, 98% of adults have no tax to pay on savings income. In line with that, the clause will remove the requirement to deduct at source tax that must subsequently be reclaimed by the saver.

Clauses 45 to 47 provide for the removal of the tax advantages of employee shareholder status for arrangements entered into on or after 1 December 2016, in response to evidence suggesting that companies were not using the status for its intended purpose and that it therefore was not delivering value for money. The status was introduced to increase workforce flexibility by creating a new class of employee, but it became apparent that it was being widely used as a tax planning device, rather than for its intended purpose of helping businesses to recruit.

Evidence suggests that companies, particularly those owned by private equity funds, were using employee shareholder status as a tax-efficient way to reward senior staff. In many cases, contract provisions were used to replace the statutory rights that had been given up, which was undermining the purpose of the status. That continued to be the case despite the introduction of the £100,000 lifetime limit on capital gains tax-exempt gains in the 2016 Budget. The Government therefore announced in the 2016 autumn statement that they would remove the tax reliefs associated with the status and close the status itself to new arrangements at the next legislative opportunity. The action that we are taking tackles abuse and increases the fairness of the tax system.