Review of effects on public finances

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 7:45 pm, 8th January 2019

Given the limited time that is available to me to summarise a debate that has covered a large number of amendments and new clauses, I shall confine my remarks principally to the issue that has been raised most frequently, which relates to new clause 26. The new clause requires the Government to lay before the House a report reviewing the effects of changes made by clauses 79 and 80 no later than 30 March 2019. While I should note that such a report will come too soon for the measures to have had a real effect, the Government of course remain committed to setting out the rationale for their policies as well as their impact, and in that spirit we will not oppose the new clause.

I do, however, echo many of the comments made by Members about what these schemes are truly about, which is gross aggressive tax avoidance. The way in which disguised remuneration typically works is that, instead of an employer’s paying an employee by way of a salary in the normal way, which attracts PAYE income tax and employees’ and employers national insurance, the payment is made as a loan. Typically, those so-called loans, which are not really loans at all—there is no intention of ever repaying them—are routed out via an offshore trust in a low or no-tax jurisdiction, and then routed back to the United Kingdom to be received by the end recipient. That is extremely unfair. It is unfair to our public services, because we have a duty as a Government to collect the tax that is due to fund them, and it is unfair to the vast majority of taxpayers who do the right thing, which is not to get involved in aggressive tax avoidance schemes in the first place and to pay their fair share of tax.

One issue that has been raised on a number of occasions is the question of whether HMRC’s loan charge arrangements are themselves retrospective. They are not retrospective because, critically—this is where I take issue with Sir Edward Davey—at the time when they were entered into they were defective. No matter how far we go back, the scheme typically—I have described the way it works—was defective. It did not work then, it does not work now and the tax is due.

These schemes have been taken through the courts on many occasions. A scheme used to the benefit of Rangers Football Club was taken to the Supreme Court—the highest court in the land—and was found to be defective.