Clause 30 - Failure to comply with requirements

Part of Tax Credits Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 22 January 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Financial Secretary, HM Treasury, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 6:45, 22 January 2002

I am grateful for the way in which the hon. Gentleman spoke to the amendment. I assure him

that we will bear in mind the way in which the Revenue relates compliance and burden to employers. We will expect employers to act reasonably and they will face a penalty if they do not. However, I take the point that we should ensure that compliance is not unduly burdensome.

There is no question that the situation is different for people who are not in the business of engaging in fraud or a concerted action by deceit to obtain money. If a person makes an application and chooses to withdraw it in the ordinary circumstances of the case, there would be no question of imposing a penalty. I give the Committee that assurance.

Penalties may arise in a case such as this. If an application is made and the informal approach, which will always be made, is rebuffed, the application would be persisted with and a formal request made under formal powers. If there were still resistance, it is important that the Revenue should be able to invoke powers to require information to be provided within a set deadline. A penalty should be imposed for failure to do that.

There are safeguards against the indiscriminate application of penalty provisions. Penalties cannot be applied if there is a reasonable excuse for failing to provide information. If an application were made in an ordinary way but it were not pursued—that would be the end of the matter—that would appear to be a reasonable excuse. The initial penalty under the provisions is not at the Revenue's discretion because only the commissioners may impose it.

After hearing those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Northavon will not press the amendment to a vote.