Digital reporting and record-keeping for income tax etc

Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 31st October 2017.

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Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury) 3:31 pm, 31st October 2017

I beg to move amendment 7, page 78, line 19, after “day”, insert

“no earlier than 1 January 2022”.

This amendment provides that the provisions for digital reporting in Clause 60 may not be brought into force before 2022.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 8, page 78, line 20, at end insert—

“(4A) No regulations may be made under subsection (4) until 90 days after the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid a report before the House of Commons which sets out—

(a) the steps which HMRC has undertaken to establish that suitable software is available;

(b) the results of the testing by HMRC and others of that software, and

(c) the reasons why mandatory use of the software is in the interest of HMRC and taxpayers.”

This amendment would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to report on software suitability and testing before giving effect to the provisions of Clause 60.

Amendment 9, in clause 61, page 78, line 34, after “day” insert

“no earlier than 1 January 2022”.

This amendment provides that the provisions for digital reporting in Schedule 14 and Clause 61 may not be brought into force before 2022.

Amendment 10, in clause 62, page 79, line 12, at end insert—

“(5A) No regulations may be made under sub-paragraph (5) on a day prior to 1 January 2022.”

This amendment provides that the provisions for digital reporting in Clause 62 may not be brought into force before 2022.

Amendment 11, page 79, line 19, at end insert—

“(6A) Regulations under sub-paragraph (5) may not impose mandatory requirements for businesses to generate quarterly updates.”

This amendment provides that any system for quarterly updates to be generated must not be mandatory.

New clause 2—Taxation of chargeable gains: review of treatment of commercial property held by persons with foreign domicile—

“(1) The Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 14 (non-resident groups of companies), insert—

“Review of treatment of commercial property held by persons with foreign domicile

(1) Within three months of the passing of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review about the taxation of chargeable gains held by persons with foreign domicile.

(2) The review shall consider in particular the implications if the treatment of commercial property were to be the same as the treatment of residential property under section 4BB(2).

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons within three months of its completion.””

This new clause requires a review to be undertaken of the treatment of capital gains on commercial property disposed of by UK taxpayers with a foreign domicile.

New clause 3—Income provided through third parties: review of effects generally and in relation to sports image rights—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall, no later than 21 July 2019, undertake a review of the effects of the changes made in relation to income provided through third parties.

(2) The review under subsection (1) shall consider in particular the effects in relation to sports image rights.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before the House of Commons a report of the review under this section no later than 15 October 2019.

(4) In this section—

“the changes made in relation to income provided through third parties” means the provisions of sections 34 and 35 of and Schedule 11 to this Act,

“sports image rights” means the rights or purported rights, whether or not protected or capable of protection under any relevant laws, associated with the identity or activities of a person where those rights or purported rights are associated with their participation or former participation in a sport.”

This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out and publish a review of the effects of provisions for disguised remuneration in relation to income provided through third parties, including particularly the effects in relation to sports image rights.

New clause 4—Impact analyses of provisions of this Act—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact of the provisions of this Act in accordance with this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider—

(a) the impact of those provisions on households at different levels of income,

(b) the impact of those provisions on people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010), and

(c) the impact of those provisions on different parts of the United Kingdom and different regions of England.

(3) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

“regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out and publish a review of the effects of the provisions of the Bill on households with different levels of income, people with protected characteristics and on a regional basis.

New clause 5—Review of the conditions of registration for third country goods fulfilment businesses and traders using their services—

“(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall complete a review of the conditions of registration for third country goods fulfilment businesses and the traders using their services.

(2) The review shall consider in particular—

(a) an automatic joint and several liability for VAT between registered fulfilment businesses and the traders using their services, and

(b) a requirement that registered fulfilment businesses should charge VAT to customers on behalf of traders using their services.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons within one month of its completion.”

This new clause requires a review to be undertaken of the conditions of registration for third country goods fulfilment businesses and the traders using their services.

Government amendments 12 to 16.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

I rise to speak to amendments 7 to 11, which relate to the Government’s Making Tax Digital proposals. I do not think I will be able to get in any references to ancient Rome or Greece, unlike my colleagues, because of the subject matter.

Given that the debate on this package of measures has been ongoing since the first version of the Finance Bill, Labour’s many concerns have been well rehearsed at every stage of the discussions. However, they are not our concerns alone. They echo the worries of businesses, service providers and the trade associations that represent them, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Federation of Small Businesses.

We recognise that Labour’s repetition of and emphasis on the potential damage that the measures might have had has led to a number of concessions over the summer. The Government had to concede that the timeline for implementation was not feasible and undertook a U-turn to delay the implementation of digital reporting for VAT until 2019. The Federation of Small Businesses described that change to the timetable as a “lifeline for small firms”. Labour has also ensured that there is an exemption for small businesses operating under the VAT threshold of £85,000.

However, we do not believe that those changes are enough. That is why Labour proposes this package of amendments today. To be clear, we support the principle of digitising tax returns, as we would any measure that purported to simplify the compliance and reporting burden on UK businesses and that might help HMRC efficiently and accurately to collect the amount of tax it is owed. That does not change the fact that the Government have made a chaotic mess of implementing Making Tax Digital. This significant and important change to the system needs to be approached with due care and attention.

If the Government’s measures are carried out as currently proposed, there is a risk that added costs and unintended consequences will be passed on to small and medium-sized businesses, as tax experts and accountants have warned. The Government’s target implementation date is unrealistic and unworkable. What is more, it will coincide with the uncertainty created by Britain’s departure from the EU, which is already creating a significantly tougher operating climate for small businesses. I note the comments made by Conservative Members during the debate on the first group of amendments about not wanting a review of any measure in the Finance Bill to coincide with Brexit. I am sure that they will apply that view consistently to this package of measures.

To be frank, nobody is sure whether HMRC or business can be ready for the implementation date. At present, the plans are rushed and poorly thought through. This is why our amendment proposes that the date is put back to 2022 to allow time for consideration and compliance, and to avoid a clash with our exit from the European Union.

We need to see robust evidence and proof that the software for Making Tax Digital is effective, not least if the Government want to keep to their 2019 implementation timetable. So far, that has not been forthcoming. We have not heard feedback on the pilot schemes for this software and nor have we heard details of how HMRC proposes to train its staff in time for implementation. Businesses need time to accustom themselves to using the new system, and we cannot see how there is sufficient time to pilot, test and run the software in time for 2019, while allowing for that to occur. We therefore propose in amendment 8 that the Chancellor must report on the suitability of the software before full implementation is rolled out.

The final issue on the Making Tax Digital proposals that we wish to raise today is quarterly reporting. As outlined in Labour’s 2017 election manifesto, we believe small businesses underneath the VAT threshold should be permanently exempted from mandatory quarterly reporting. It presents an unnecessary compliance burden, and risks adding costs and administration to small businesses with insufficient evidence of benefit. It is Labour’s belief that the Treasury, having made the mistake of already accounting for the revenue they believe they will raise from these measures, is now ill-advisedly committing to rushing them through so as to avoid creating a further black hole in the public finances, but these are enormous changes that must be implemented with due care and attention. We urge the Government to give them more time.

Too often, the Government have exercised a sloppy approach to policymaking, with disasters such as universal credit a direct result of ignoring the evidence available from pathfinder schemes and the testimony of stakeholders. Britain’s small businesses cannot afford a similar disaster in the implementation of Making Tax Digital. We therefore ask the House to listen to us and to the warnings of independent experts outside this building, and support this pragmatic and sensible package of amendments today.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 4:00 pm, 31st October 2017

Government amendments 12 to 16 fix a small technical error that could otherwise result in an outcome that was not intended. They will ensure that landlords who stop renting out a property and move in rather than sell it are not unintentionally disadvantaged when using the cash basis.

I now turn to the Opposition’s amendments. New clause 4 requires the Chancellor to review the impact of the provisions on households at different levels of income, the impact on people with protected characteristics, and regional impacts. The Treasury considers carefully the impacts of its decisions on individuals and groups with protected characteristics in line with both its legal obligations and its strong commitment to promoting fairness. The Government have published distributional analysis of measures contained in the Finance Bill in the “impact on households” document which accompanied spring Budget 2017. The Treasury and HMRC also published tax information and impact notes for individual tax measures that include an assessment of expected equalities impacts. I therefore urge the House to reject new clause 4.

The Bill includes provisions for the introduction of Making Tax Digital programme. The tax gap resulting from errant carelessness currently stands at £9.4 billion. The Government’s plans for Making Tax Digital aim to address the tax gap and provide a more modern digital service which will help businesses to get their tax right. However, as discussed in Committee, it is also important to do this in a way that works for business. My announcement of 13 July allows a small business more time through a phased implementation of Making Tax Digital. This change has been widely welcomed and stakeholders are now working hard to prepare for MTD.

Opposition Members have, as we have heard, proposed amendments that would make three changes to the implementation of Making Tax Digital. First, they propose that the programme should be delayed until 2022 at the earliest. As I have said, I have already made changes to the timetable of Making Tax Digital, so that businesses have longer to prepare. Secondly, Opposition Members are seeking to prevent mandatory quarterly updates for VAT under MTD. Most businesses paying VAT already report quarterly. Businesses that are mandated to use MTD for VAT will not be required to provide updates to HMRC more frequently than they do currently, or to provide any more information. Finally, the Opposition have pressed for a report on the suitability of software at least 90 days before MTD for income tax is mandated. The Government are already committed to ensuring that a full range of software is available for MTD and that these have been tested thoroughly. I therefore urge the House to reject the amendments tabled on these clauses.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

At a Public Accounts Committee sitting last week on the future customs border and the software upgrade for that, the permanent secretary appeared to suggest that Making Tax Digital was the highest priority IT programme for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Would the Minister agree with that, or does he think that we should prioritise making sure that our systems can cope with the many changes that may come about through Brexit?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

Of course there are a number of HMRC-led IT programmes; making tax digital is but one of them. A new system for customs, the customs declaration service system, will replace CHIEF—the customs handling of import and export freight system—and that has very high priority. We are on target for full roll-out in January 2019; we will begin the CDS pilot in August next year. I am satisfied that the balance is correct at the moment.

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution)

Has the Minister spoken to his colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions, who are embarking on a £13 billion IT contract for universal credit, on the lessons to be learned and the impact on people who are trying to use a system that is evidently not fit for purpose?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

As that programme relates to DWP, the question would be best directed in that direction, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that, to the extent that the Treasury and HMRC impinge on the programme, it is for us a very high priority.

I turn to new clause 2, which, although not debated, was tabled by Stella Creasy. I would like to deal with it, because I know that from her perspective it was a very important new clause. I understand why she suggests extending the rules on the taxation of capital gains from commercial property disposals by UK taxpayers with a foreign domicile, but I fear that the new clause and the discussion it has prompted have fallen foul of the complexity inherent in this area. I would like to clarify some of the issues.

First, contrary to the new clause, it is residence and not domicile that determines whether the disposal of an asset in the UK is within the charge of capital gains tax. UK residents, including non-doms, will always be liable for CGT on the profits from selling UK land, whether that land is residential or commercial. Also, it does not appear that the change that the hon. Lady proposes would apply to foreign companies owning UK commercial property, as domicile does not apply to companies.

These elements of confusion mean that it is far from clear that the review proposed would work. I remind the hon. Lady that this Government in 2015 started taxing non-residents on their gains from UK real estate—something that previous Governments had ducked. Those changes give a sense of the amount of revenue that an extension of them to the commercial property market would raise. The Office for Budget Responsibility certified that the 2015 changes will raise £40 million this financial year and £70 million in the next. That gives a more realistic sense of the order of magnitude of the amount that this change could raise than the figures suggested in previous debates.

The hon. Lady has also suggested that taxpayers are designating residential property as commercial property to avoid paying the residential charge. Let me be clear: if residential property is being designated as commercial property, that is a matter of tax avoidance or evasion, not of the scope of CGT. HMRC has not seen any evidence of this practice.

The hon. Lady has provoked a good debate on this issue. Although I urge the House to reject new clause 2, which confuses too many of the issues at stake, I recognise that a number of points in this area are worth consideration, and we will certainly continue to look closely at the issue of non-residence and CGT on commercial property.

New clause 3 seeks to commit the Government to carrying out and publishing a review of the tax treatment of income provided through third parties, in particular in relation to sports image rights. Image rights payments have long been taxable. There have been cases where employers have tried to inflate payments for image rights and to reduce salaries accordingly, to deliver a tax saving to both employers and employees. I thank my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke, whom I see in his place, for the insights, advice and support that he has given me on this issue.

The courts have ruled that genuine image rights payments to an employee are not taxable as earnings. It is therefore for HMRC to ensure that image rights payments are genuine and taxed in the right way. At spring Budget 2017, this Government committed HMRC to publishing clear guidelines for employers who make image rights payments for the use of an employee’s image, and HMRC has done that. HMRC undertakes extensive compliance activity to ensure that employers play by the rules and image rights payments are taxed in the right way. The new clause is not necessary, so I urge the House to reject it.

New clause 5 asks for a review of the conditions of registration for third country goods fulfilment businesses. The review would also need to consider the case for imposing either joint and several liability or direct liability on third country goods fulfilment businesses for the unpaid VAT of their overseas clients.

The Government are proud of their record in tackling online VAT fraud, a complex international problem. The UK has led the way with a package of measures that Government first announced at Budget 2016. It includes the fulfilment house due diligence scheme provided for in the Bill and powers for HMRC to hold online marketplaces jointly and severally liable for the unpaid VAT of overseas traders.

The Government have already undertaken extensive consultation on the scheme in the past 18 months. I assure hon. Members that we will continue to monitor the impact of the legislation. I therefore urge the House to reject new clause 5.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

I commend to the Minister the better solution to this issue: making the online marketplaces themselves liable for the VAT on sales outside the EU. At the Public Accounts Committee, Amazon thought that that was a better solution and it would be happy to implement it. The EU wants to do it. The Government have consulted on split payment. Is it not time to push ahead to ensure that we get all the revenue we deserve and need?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

My hon. Friend rightly raises one of the approaches that could be deployed to ensure that VAT is paid: the split payment system, whereby the platform itself is responsible for collecting the VAT and passing it on. That is certainly something, along with other measures, that we are considering.

It has been a pleasure debating this group of amendments. I hope that hon. Members are satisfied on the points we have discussed and I urge the House to reject the amendments and new clauses tabled by Opposition Members.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

I think we are all slightly bamboozled by the order in which this part of the debate has happened. None the less, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak.

We have raised concerns about Making Tax Digital and we will carry on doing so because we have issues with the way in which some of these things are being implemented. I appreciate the fact that in Committee the Minister took the time to answer questions about lack of internet access. I am still not 100% clear about the position for those people who have only intermittent access to the internet. I understand what he was saying about those people being able to make a case to HMRC about why they cannot, through the Making Tax Digital scheme, do quarterly reporting. However, I am still not convinced that the language on that was robust enough to protect any of my constituents who, because of their internet connection, are unable, for example, to reasonably undertake the quarterly reporting that is being asked of them. If he is able to come back on that and clarify the position, I will be grateful. The point he made in Committee was useful, but possibly not strong enough in that regard.

The other issues we have about Making Tax Digital concern those people who are in particularly rural areas and who therefore struggle with lack of access to technology and the internet and with doing the quarterly reporting. There are also people who do not have access to HMRC offices in the way they used to. We have raised all those concerns. I have said that I am pleased that the Government have changed the way and the order in which the implementation is going to happen. The SNP is not against Making Tax Digital and quarterly reporting, but we have concerns and we want to ensure that our constituents and businesses in our constituency are protected.

On that note, we said in our manifesto this year that we would support the phased introduction of Making Tax Digital. I want to be clear that we will not, therefore, support Labour’s amendment 11, which is the tack that we also took in Committee. We would not want to vote against something that is a manifesto commitment.

New clause 2 is on commercial property and non-doms. The statements that I made earlier about the issue of non-doms and about the concerns regarding the complexity of the tax code and possible loopholes in relation to that, apply exactly in this regard. I am pleased that the new clause has been tabled by the Labour party, including Stella Creasy, I think. I say that quietly in the hope that I have got the constituency right. I am pleased that this has been put forward. Constituents have got in touch with me and several of my colleagues about this. The Scottish National party has previously raised concerns about the taxation of non-domiciles, and we will continue to do so, in particular around some of the loopholes. We will support new clause 2—many of the constituents who wrote to me will be delighted about that—and I am pleased that this matter is on the table and being debated today.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 4:15 pm, 31st October 2017

As it is Halloween, I rise to give the Minister a fright, because if he thinks he is going to get away without properly examining new clause 2 and the benefits that it could bring to our country and British business, he is in for a trick-or-treat moment. There are certainly ghosts that haunt our politics—[Interruption.] I am disappointed to see you being so slow, Mr Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.] That is certainly very spooky.

As I said, there are ghosts that haunt our politics, so I start my speech by putting on record my thanks to the former Member for Tatton, George Osborne, for inspiring new clause 2. Indeed, I noted that the Minister referred to his work, too. These were the words of the former Member for Tatton in 2015 when the then Government brought in the first rules around tax and non-doms:

“It is not fair that non-doms with residential property here in the UK can put it in an offshore company and avoid inheritance tax.”—[Official Report, 8 July 2015;
Vol. 598, c. 325.]

By using those words, the former Chancellor raised two important issues: first, the fairness of our taxation system; and, secondly, how it extends to foreign ownership. He was absolutely right to introduce those measures, but what we are talking about today is the necessary and inevitable conclusion of that debate: what we do when people raise issues about fairness and foreign ownership. The new clause answers that call because, frankly, it is not fair that British businesses have to pay corporation tax on their capital gains when they sell commercial properties, but overseas businesses trading in the UK in UK-based property do not.

It is not fair that we are one of the few countries in the world to treat its businesses in this way and let foreign companies off the hook—all those real estate investors who some might feel donate so much else to some in this country, but who do not pay their taxes. As the previous Chancellor argued, people can put property into an offshore company to avoid tax.

If the Minister’s main objection to the new clause is the way in which I have described the domicile of these people, he ought to think again. Certainly, he ought to do as I did today and google the term “tax efficient Jersey UK real estate”, because when he does and he sees the advice being offered to non-resident companies, I suspect he will find it galling. He will find companies including BNP Paribas Real Estate, Ogier, Bedell Cristin and Hawksford boasting about how UK real estate investment trusts based in Jersey but listed on the international stock exchange do not pay the same rates of stamp duty as those resident in the UK, and do not pay capital gains tax. Indeed, the International Stock Exchange itself states:

“we have pragmatic listing requirements for this product”.

That simply means that the businesses involved get to avoid the same charges that our British businesses have to pay. We as British taxpayers should be asking why any company is using such a model—why such companies are given these listings, and are able to buy and sell UK property in this way—because it is very hard to see what the justification is, and why we make it so easy to exploit this loophole when there is tax on residential property sales, but not on commercial properties.

The former Chancellor boasted in 2015 that making non-UK based people pay capital gains tax on their residential property sales would raise £1.5 billion over the course of this Parliament. The purpose of the new clause is to tell us just how much closing this loophole would raise, and just how much these companies are making through such behaviour.

Sadly, because the Minister was so determined to get through his speech so quickly, I did not hear the number he came up with. I certainly find it striking that HMRC does not know how much money is missing, but in the spirit of this cross-party measure, let me offer the House some of my own figures.

The British Property Federation says that there is about £871 billion of commercial real estate in the UK, which represents 10% of our nation’s entire wealth. That is a hugely important market in its own right, but how we buy and sell commercial property also affects our residential property market, as it has an impact on the price of land. For those of us who represent constituencies where house prices are exorbitant, to say the least, tackling the overheating in our property market would be a very noble thing to do. I believe that we would get support for that from both sides of the House.

We know that about 20% of commercial real estate is sold every year, and that it was worth an eye-watering £115 billion in 2015—that is the figure the taxman knows about. We also know that about 30% of commercial property in the UK is held in these offshore trusts and companies. For those who are fans of “Countdown” and want to see how I have done my homework, I have done my sums assuming an 8% increase as the long-term trend rate for commercial property prices. Working on that assumption, if about 20% of that property is sold and the current 19% rate of corporation tax is used, there would be about £11 billion of taxable gains every year. It is therefore not unrealistic to expect that around £6 billion of taxation could be collected.

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution)

We are told time after time that we should live within our means and that our public services will pay the price if we do not, so is it not the case that the first thing we should do is to maximise our means?

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

Spoken like a true former local authority leader who has had to deal with the consequences of Government cuts!

This is about the question of fairness that was put forward by the former Chancellor. None of this is illegal. We might consider it immoral, but it is certainly not illegal, and none of it is captured by UK anti-avoidance rules. The Minister is not being open about companies that might include UK residents who have their properties held offshore. This is unfair to UK businesses. I understand that at present there is concern about economic policies and a dangerous air of radicalism in British politics. Let me reassure Conservative Members who might feel frightened about supporting this measure to close the loophole, and fear that it could be a radical socialist policy—I happen to think that it could be—that this is simply a question of fairness.

This is also something that most other countries do. Canada, Australia and the rest of Europe do it, so the new clause would bring us into line with them. Indeed, the OECD model double tax treaty explicitly preserves the right of countries to tax non-residents on their capital gains from the disposal of local real estate.

The Bill itself brings in anti-avoidance measures relating to inheritance tax and to holding property through non-UK companies. That is why it is difficult, having listened to the Minister in Committee, to understand why this particular proposal has been put into the “too complex” category. In Committee, he voted against a similar provision because he argued that it was just too complex, while admitting that the rules introduced in 2015 were designed to catch individuals holding a title over a dwelling in a trust or a closely held company. He argued against the proposal because he said that it would require what he considered to be a whole tax code. My problem with the Minister’s saying that this is too complicated is that it places him and the British Government in a special category. If most other countries can get their heads around how to tax non-resident companies’ capital gains on commercial properties, I simply fail to understand why it is beyond the wit and wisdom of the UK Treasury to do so.

My hon. Friend Jim McMahon has mentioned the human impact of this situation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that the Chancellor has black hole in his budget of £20 billion and rising, and that is before we even consider the cost and impact of Brexit. If my estimate is right that closing the loophole would raise £6 billion every year, that money would pay for the entire public health budget helping people with diabetes and heart disease. It would cover restoring nursing bursaries and keeping open our police stations that are currently destined for closure. It would entirely cover the cost of a public sector pay rise in line with inflation—that is according to the IFS’s figures, not mine. When reports tell us that the Government are so short of money at a time when a Budget is coming up, “Is it fair?” and “Can we afford not to do this?” are two important questions for British taxpayers.

I disagree with the Minister, but if he is worried about the drafting of new clause 2, I would support his tabling an amendment to address the use of the term “domicile”. Even if Government Members are worried about the detail, new clause 2 simply looks at the numbers, so it would give us some information. HMRC does not know the amount that we are missing out on as a result of this loophole. The Minister mumbled something about OBR figures, but I have done my own calculations and we are not talking about small change. This money could have a tangible impact on our public finances now.

I am sad that Charlie Elphicke is not in the Chamber because he chided my hon. Friend Ruth George in September about a lack of action on loopholes. This proposal has cross-party support, so I would love Members from both sides of the House to recognise that when we see something that is unfair and costs us billions of pounds, we can act quickly. I am sure that the Minister will be given an opportunity to respond to the debate, so if other countries can do this, if British businesses are suffering unfairness, and if our public services desperately need the cash, will he think again? He says that he keeps the tax situation under review, so if he will pledge to publish a specific review of capital gains tax on commercial properties, I will happily not press the new clause to a Division.

British taxpayers have a right to know how much money is leaking out of our system as a result of the loophole. I would wager that many MPs will be lobbied by their constituents about closures in their community, public service cuts and struggling businesses, and by people who cannot afford their own home due to the overheated property market. Those people will want answers, so I look forward to what the Minister has to say. When we were young, we were all told that money does not grow on trees, but in this instance the roots are overseas, and it is up to the Minister to pull them up.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

It is pleasure to appear before you for my second appearance, Madam Deputy Speaker.

To pick up quickly on a point made by Kirsty Blackman, digital exclusion is covered in clause 62, which provides that the digital exclusion condition is met if

“for any reason (including age, disability or location) it is not reasonably practicable for the person or partner to use electronic communications or to keep electronic records.”

That is the test, and the Bill contains powers to allow HMRC’s commissioners to bring in further grounds for exclusion as the measure is rolled out and we see how it operates.

I see that Stella Creasy has been on her phone and has already tweeted that I have rejected her advances in this debate, but I am now at the Dispatch Box trying to make my points. She makes her points powerfully and raises an important issue, as I signalled earlier, but she has to accept that new clause 2 would not actually do what she would intend it to do. It confuses non-doms with residents, which is the critical distinction, and would classify companies as being non-domiciled, which they cannot technically be. This is a complicated area about which we had an extended debate in Committee, but I have made it clear that we will continue to consider it. We take on board the general thrust of what the hon. Lady wants to achieve.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

I make it clear that I am not making advances to the Minister; I am making arguments to him. Let me ask him one simple question: if this is so complicated—if it seems that the UK Treasury cannot do it—why can most other countries operate without a loophole?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 4:30 pm, 31st October 2017

I have already conceded that point. We are looking at this, which rather trumps any questions about why we are not. We are considering it very seriously, and I said earlier that we are looking closely at the issue of non-residents and capital gains tax on commercial property.

Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Devolution)

I am pleased to hear that the Government are looking at this important issue, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Stella Creasy on her significant work. When will the Government publish their findings?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

It is not a question of publishing information on every area we look into, but I have made it clear that we are seriously considering the issues that have been raised. I have also made it clear that new clause 2 would not do what the hon. Member for Walthamstow describes.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I will give way one last time. We went through this at considerable length in Committee.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

I disagree with the words “at considerable length.” I am grateful to the Minister for trying to explain what I am attempting to do. For the avoidance of doubt, the Opposition are asking that British taxpayers and businesses who are paying this charge know exactly what other companies are getting off paying. He tried to mention something from the Office for Budget Responsibility and he clearly has some figures in his head for how much the loophole is potentially costing the British taxpayer. Will he repeat loudly and clearly what he thinks the number is and where he got his evidence?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

As I have said, we are looking at this and we will continue to do so. I have carefully considered the points raised by the hon. Lady both on Report and in Committee, and I think I have a clear understanding, as she does, of what she wishes to achieve.

New clause 2 would not do what the hon. Lady intends. I hope that she will take some comfort from my assurances about our looking at this matter and that she will not press the new clause to a Division. Whether or not she does, I urge the House to reject the Opposition amendments and new clauses.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 62