Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 9th December 2020.

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Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble 4:30 pm, 9th December 2020

I am going to break with tradition in this debate and actually talk about the Bill. A Bill that is described, in large sections, as primarily technical, administrative and procedural will not always excite the juices in Parliament, among the public or in the press but, although dry in sections, this Bill contains important measures, and I rise to support them.

Let me ground my comments in the experience of many people in the UK today. As someone who ran her own business prior to the election, I know that it is often the technical, administrative and procedural that can really shift the dial—for example, on the number of sales an individual can make or on market price points for a certain type of product—never mind the administrative and procedural processes that take too much valuable time from often hard-pressed smaller traders. Clarity is essential, welcome and timely. Once passed, the Bill will ensure that whatever happens in the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU, in an important subset of regulations there is clarity and fairness for businesses in the UK.

Measures in the Bill will change and improve our tax system and have been brought forward in separate legislation in advance of the proposed Finance Bill. They will ensure that the UK is prepared, whatever the outcome of the Prime Minister’s trip to Brussels later today. We are, and will continue to be, a proud sovereign trading nation. We are ensuring, and will continue to ensure, a smooth transition and continuity for trading businesses.

What do I mean? Let me be specific and turn to schedule 3, on amendments to the Value Added Tax Act 1994—essential bedtime reading for all, I am certain. In my previous business, I sold volumes of lower-value goods in online marketplaces and online channels to customers in the UK, the EU and many other locations overseas. For too long prior to the election I saw lower-value goods advertised by overseas sellers—my competitors— that were imported from abroad and undercut UK manufacturers and suppliers.

Currently, overseas sellers can avoid VAT, not charging it at the point of sale and not handing the revenue back to our Exchequer. That means that our country is losing twice: our fabulous businesses are losing sales to cheaper products from overseas sellers who do not have to charge VAT, which is unacceptable, while our Exchequer is also losing the revenue that such measures raise, which I remind the House funds the provision of the public services, such as the NHS and schools, that we rightly value so highly on the Government Benches. The Bill will remove that overseas-seller anomaly.

Specifically, the measures will mean that low-value consignment relief—LVCR—is removed from all non-UK sellers. All imported goods worth under £135, including under those worth under £15, will be subject to VAT at UK rates. Although currently legal, the existing situation amounts to tax avoidance by overseas sellers and has created distortions in UK marketplaces. It is this Conservative Government who are clamping down on it. To level the playing field, online marketplaces must now account for their VAT. This Government support our fabulous businessmen and women who trade from shops or—like me—online and will continue to do so.

Earlier, Alison Thewliss mentioned extra exporting barriers. As someone who has sat and put the labels on to goods going to EU, Ireland and international destinations, I know that for lower-value goods, any individual consignment worth under £270 gets a CN23 sticker with all the declarations on it, and then off it pops and there are no additional barriers between the EU and the US. No change that we will make today will put in place extra paperwork: what was done for the EU was always what happened anyway—it automatically comes off the printer. I am sure there are great British jewellers who can sell us wonderful earrings—