Offshore Receipts in Respect of Intangible Property

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:30 pm, 20th November 2018

The renowned Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz has said that what we measure shapes what we strive to pursue. I tabled new clauses 14 and 15, in my name and the names of my hon. colleagues, to ensure that we are effectively striving to pursue the reduction in the tax gap and to consult fully on the provisions of this Bill. I support very much what Anneliese Dodds said and support her new clause 5 and amendment 23. She made some excellent points, most of which I fully agree with and endorse. I will not repeat what she said, however, as she made her points very clearly; she did a fantastic job in putting across the Labour party’s view.

It was bizarre to watch Government Back Benchers tie themselves in knots yesterday in opposing new clause 7, tabled by my hon. Friend Kirsty Blackman, in relation to entrepreneur’s relief. If the UK Government are confident that their policies are effective, they must not be afraid to review them. Indeed, reviewing them is all we can do under this Bill; as the hon. Member for Oxford East said, we are limited in what we can do here. So we do propose a review on that.

Likewise on the provisions on tax avoidance, we must gauge our progress by continually measuring the value and effectiveness of those policies. Kevin Foster mentioned the Dutch sandwich. I am sure that was sensible when proposed and I am sure that the Dutch Government then looked at it and decided that actually it was not working. They then will have reviewed the policy and looked at the detail and clamped down on that loophole; I am sure they must have done that as otherwise it would still be an issue. Likewise, this Government should do better at reviewing their policies, testing them, seeing how effective they are and making changes as a result.

Our proposal is in the spirit of achieving better, more robust policies in the future. We should also look to the world to see where the best polices are and see what we can do to adapt them, and we should collaborate with our near-neighbours in Europe, particularly to make sure we are not allowing companies to move around at will seeking the best policies to save money, rather than paying the taxes that they ought to.

There are many reasons why HMRC does not always collect the tax that it ought to be paid, whether through criminal activity, through evasion or avoidance or just through human error, and there is much more that can be done to address that. While a greater focus on the non-compliance of corporations is welcome, there is still ample opportunity to avoid paying into the system, and we need to look at that very seriously.

The SNP has long argued that the tax system is unnecessarily cumbersome and complicated. There are layers and layers of regulations and exemptions, which lead to loopholes appearing. The system seems to get more complex every year when we look at the Finance Bill, and there also appear to be armies of tax avoidance specialists seeking to exploit whatever gaps they can find.