Amendment proposed: No. 149, in
schedule 15, page 348, leave out lines 2 to 8 and insert—
'20 (1) This paragraph applies where—
(a) a person (''the chargeable person'') would (apart from this paragraph) be chargeable under paragraph 3 (land) or paragraph 6 (chattels) for any year of assessment (''the initial year'') by reference to any property (''the relevant property''), and
(b) he has not been chargeable under the paragraph in question by reference to the relevant property in respect of any previous year of assessment.'—[Dawn Primarolo.]
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 62, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 4, leave out
'the year of assessment 2005–06'
'any year of assessment following the year of assessment 2004–05 (''the relevant year'')'.
[R] Relevant registered interest declared.
Amendment No. 63, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 8, leave out 'that' and insert 'the relevant'.
Amendment No. 64, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 11, leave out
'the year of assessment 2005–06'
and insert 'the relevant year'.
Government amendment No. 150.
Amendment No. 65, in
schedule 15, page 348, leave out lines 13 to 19 and insert—
'(b) the property shall subject to the provisions of paragraph 6 of Schedule 20 of the 1986 Act be treated for the purposes of Part 5 of the 1986 Act (in relation to the chargeable person) as property subject to a reservation;
(c) and for as long as the property is so treated section 102(3) and (4) of that Act shall apply; and
(i) no other person or persons shall for the purposes of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 be treated as beneficially entitled to the property and the property shall not be treated as ''relevant property'' under the provisions of section 58 of that Act; and
(ii) on the death of the chargeable person the property shall be deemed for the purposes of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 to be disposed of and immediately reacquired by the person or persons then competent to dispose of the property and no chargeable gain shall accrue on that disposal;
(iii) the provisions of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 shall apply on any disposal of the property as if
the person disposing of the property was the chargeable person.'.
Amendment No. 102, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 23, at end insert—
'(4) An election made under this paragraph shall not be valid and the chargeable person shall be treated as the settlor of the property under the provisions of Schedule 4 of IHTA 1984 if—
(a) within two years of death of the chargeable person the relevant property is transferred to a maintenance fund; and
(b) a direction is given in respect of the property under the provisions of paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 4 of IHTA 1984.
Government amendment No. 151.
Amendment No. 66, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 26, leave out
'the year of assessment 2005–06'
'any year of assessment following the year of assessment 2004–05 (''the relevant year'').'.
Amendment No. 68, in
schedule 15, page 348, leave out lines 29 to 36 and insert—
'(a) the property shall subject to the provisions of paragraph 6 of Schedule 20 of the 1986 Act be treated for the purposes of Part 5 of the 1986 Act (in relation to the chargeable person) as property subject to a reservation.
(b) and for as long as the property is so treated section 102(3) and (4) of that Act shall apply; and
(i) no other person or persons shall for the purposes of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 be treated as beneficially entitled to the property and the property shall not be treated as ''relevant property'' under the provisions of section 58 of that Act; and
(ii) on the death of the chargeable person the property shall be deemed for the purposes of the Taxation and Chargeable Gains Act 1992 to be disposed of and immediately reacquired by the person or persons then competent to dispose of the property and no chargeable gain shall accrue on that disposal;
(iii) the provisions of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 shall apply on any disposal of the property as if the person disposing of the property was the chargeable person'.
Amendment No. 67, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 30, leave out
'the year of assessment 2005–06'
and insert 'the relevant year'.
Government amendments Nos. 152 to 154.
Amendment No. 69, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 46, leave out '2007' and insert
'following the end of the relevant year'.
Government amendment No. 155.
Amendment No. 70, in
schedule 15, page 349, line 2, leave out '2007' and insert
'following the end of the relevant year'.
Government amendment No. 156.
Amendment No. 71, in
schedule 15, page 349, line 5, leave out '2007' and insert
'following the end of the relevant year'.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. McWilliam.
The Government amendments in the group go some way towards softening the deadlines for election to
bring an asset back into the estate for inheritance tax purposes, so that court situations after 2005–06 are covered; otherwise, unfairly, it might not have been possible for people to sort out their affairs. The amendments extend the deadlines for the election from the fixed 2007 date to the filing date for the first income tax year in which the chargeable benefit would otherwise arise. We welcome that change, but it addresses only the issue of the timing of the election, and not other aspects covered by our amendments Nos. 65, 68 and 102.
I bracket together amendments Nos. 62 to 64, 66 and 69 to 71. It makes sense to take them together as they are all, in different ways, included to enable taxpayers to re-order their affairs—as is fair—by making an election under the schedule in relation to any tax year. There are many situations in which a taxpayer might be liable to the new charge as a result of an unexpected change in their circumstances. For example, if one of the joint owners of an affected property moves abroad, the ability to elect to have the property revert to the donor's estate for inheritance tax purposes should surely, in fairness, be available in each tax year—that is, the tax year in which the change of circumstances bites.
I support what the hon. Gentleman says, but has it not always been enshrined in inheritance tax legislation that ''revert to settlor'' should be exempt and available at any time?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He knows a great deal more about the law on the matter than I do. I am sure that he is right, and he is in essence reinforcing my point.
If someone elects to have transferred property revert to the estate of the donor for IHT purposes, as the transitional provisions allow, surely, in fairness, the donor should be allowed to pursue or put in place the option that he would have had anyway before making the original transfer—that of transferring a property to a maintenance fund. Why should he not be able to mitigate his tax position thus, especially as he may not have taken the time, or the opportunity, to take out life insurance to cover the IHT liability on his death, believing that he had made a perfectly legal transfer to the next generation? In essence we are saying that, at the very least, the quid pro quo for the retrospection of the arrangements is that one can turn the clock back and have all the options that were available when one made the legal arrangements.
On amendment Nos. 65 and 68, a proviso ensures that having elected to be subject to the gift with reservations rules, the chargeable person will not be liable to inheritance tax charge if he falls within one of the normal exemptions to those rules. There is, first, a provision to avoid double taxation, by ensuring that, following an election, the property in question is also not treated as part of someone else's estate or subject to inheritance tax for discretionary trusts.
Secondly, a provision is included to avoid double taxation by ensuring that, following an election, the
property would be subject to an uplift for capital gains tax purposes on the death of the chargeable person. It is generally accepted that one should not be subject to both inheritance tax and capital gains tax in relation to the same asset. It is clear that there is an automatic capital gains tax base value uplift on death and that should surely also apply to property that is deemed to have reverted to the taxpayer's estate under the transitional provisions of the schedule. As I understand it, the present situation is that if one elects to pay inheritance tax, one pays it on the value at death. However, the new base cost that the child or other heir takes on is not that value, but the historic value at which the transfer into a trust was originally made. That seems to be unfair and unreasonable.
Thirdly, a provision is included to ensure that the reliefs to which the chargeable person would have been entitled, such as principal private residence relief, taper relief or indexation relief, would apply had they not disposed of the property. In other words, as far as possible the provisions ensure that the chargeable person is not prejudiced by having disposed of the property under one set of tax rules. For cash-flow reasons they are now effectively obliged to opt to pay IHT on the value at death. I can imagine the Paymaster General saying, ''Well, hard luck to old people who are engaged in those schemes. Why should they be returned to a starting again basis?'' That is unreasonable. We have argued extensively, and virtually everyone other than the Paymaster General perceives, that the impact of the changes is retrospective on elderly individuals. Surely, if we are to have the option to pay IHT it should be on the basis of turning the clock back, and one should enjoy the same arrangements as one would have done at that time.
Amendment No. 102 is in essence one that was put to me by the Historic Houses Association. It includes a further sub-paragraph to the effect that if an election had been made under paragraph 20 and within two years of the death of the chargeable person, the relevant property would be transferred to a maintenance fund. The election would not have effect, but the chargeable person would be treated as the settlor of the property for the purposes of schedule 4 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984.
Good morning, Mr. McWilliam. Before I respond to the hon. Gentlemen, may I say that I have developed an abscess on one of my teeth. I wanted to finish the debate and ensure that we can make progress. I am on a pretty hefty course of antibiotics and painkillers, so if I am not quite as—
I may have to resort during the course of the morning to asking for the Committee's forbearance because I may need to write to hon. Members about some matters. I am afraid that antibiotics and painkillers inhibit the speed at which one's brain can operate. I hope that hon. Members will bear with me.
Overall, this has been a very long debate. The last group of amendments is large, and I thought it would be best to respond to them in one go, having heard the comments of the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight). As he rightly says, the Opposition amendments are concerned with and, in a sense, substantially duplicate what the Government are doing in amendments Nos. 149 to 156, but there are some slight differences that I will highlight.
The amendments would make the election, which is already part of the schedule, into a permanent feature of the new charge and extend the time limit for making an election in relation to any property until the time that that process would otherwise have given rise to the charge or benefit. The Government originally regarded the election as solely for people who are already caught by the schedule, so that they can, if they choose, have second thoughts about the tax plan that they have already undertaken. It would be relevant to people who are making substantial cash gifts.
Continuing election has nothing to offer people who know that they want to retain the asset that they have purported to give away. As was originally intended, they can either make a genuine gift, so that they are within the IHT framework, with all its reliefs and supports, or they can remain in the arrangements that they have made and not operate the election, and they would therefore would be subject to the income tax charge, should it arise.
The other relaxations proposed in Government amendment No. 137 mean that people will not have to worry about any future consequences of their giving once they have parted with the money for seven years without it giving rise to benefit, which echoes the inheritance tax provisions. However, there is a middle ground where people who make large gifts might worry about the consequences under schedule 15 if events developed in such a way that they would enjoy substantial benefit from their donee subsequent to those seven years. The extended election that they could make only as and when their gift came back to them could address those concerns by ensuring that they would never be faced with an income tax charge they had not bargained for. It is clear that the Opposition amendments share that objective. There is not a great deal between us on the amendments, apart from the detailed choice of words that seek to reach shared objectives. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the Government amendments and withdraw his own.
Thank you, Mr. McWilliam.
Opposition amendments Nos. 65 and 68 go further. They state that where an election is made, the property subject to the election effectively does not belong to anyone else for inheritance tax purposes. I really cannot countenance that. In particular, they would mean that the property would not belong to the person who actually owned it. I am sorry, but we cannot have that—in fact, I am not sorry, because that would be contrary to the purpose of the inheritance tax rules that we seek to operate.
The amendments go further and rewrite the capital gains position of the actual owner on the same assumption that the formal owner making the election will still own the property. They clearly would not still own it, because the whole point of the election is to transfer the property back to its original owner—if that decision is made—to prevent the income tax charge by bringing themselves back into the inheritance tax rules.
The amendments may be imperfectly drafted, but I hope that I have made the reason for them clear: as we understand it, the present arrangements are unfair. Let us imagine that, 10 years ago, someone gave another person a property that was worth £300,000. They die, and the property is now worth £2 million. If inheritance tax is paid on that, surely the heir should have a base value of the £2 million on which the tax has been paid and not of the £300,000 that was the value at the time of the gift. It is not common sense for that not to be the case. I am seeking a solution to that problem.
The hon. Gentleman misses the point of the schedule, which is quite clear. Either people are within the inheritance tax rules, and therefore those rules and reliefs apply, or they choose not to allow those rules to apply and engage in a contrived scheme that enables them to claim that they do not own the asset, but to carrying on benefiting from it in exactly the same way as they would if they owned it, in which case an income tax charge could be levied—obviously with regard to all the exclusions that we have discussed. There can be no halfway house and the schedule does not provide for one.
I will when I have finished this point.
Either people are within inheritance tax rules, or they are subject to the charge. The rules say that inheritance tax is charged on the estate according to its value when the owner of the estate dies. The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs is asking for something else. Say I decide to give my son my house now, and I have it valued. I do not want to pay the income tax charge so, having used a contrived scheme, I elect to say that I want to transfer the house back. However, I still want to pretend that I transferred it to my son so that if I live for another 40 years—as a young woman, I am hoping to live slightly longer than that—my son will be liable to inheritance tax not on the worth of my estate at the time of my death but on its worth when it was transferred in 2004. That is not agreeable.
I must be communicating poorly. That is not what I am seeking, neither is it the point that I am making. Let me try again. My point is simply this: if someone has elected to pay inheritance tax and the value on which it is paid is the value at death, is it not fair that when the estate is then left to the next generation that should be the base value for capital gains tax, not the value when it was transferred 10 years ago?
Our understanding of the way in which the rules work at the moment is that inheritance tax is paid on the £2 million but the deemed base cost at which the heir takes it is the value when it was transferred into trust 10 years ago—£300,000. That seems to be unfair, but we are certainly not arguing for a benefit the other way round.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. He is attempting to rewrite the capital gains rules in a way that they do not currently apply to that regime. He seems to be saying that the way in which capital gains tax and inheritance tax rules rub up against each other, although they are attempting to deal with two different types of gain, does not work appropriately in that situation.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman because—
May I just finish my point? I will not forget the hon. Gentleman.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs because the purposes are different. I will try to find out whether the circumstances that he describes can happen or whether they are hypothetical. It is in the back of my mind that in coming back into the inheritance tax rules the interaction of gifts with reservation should smooth that out. That is the interaction that is missing if it is in the contrived scheme. It returns to the point made by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. I am happy to confirm that if people elect to return to the inheritance tax regime, the full relief for gifts with reservation and so on is at their disposal. If they dispose of assets and have no access to them for seven years, those assets are no longer deemed to be part of the estate.
I think that we are seeing some light on this. Since 1965, when capital gains tax was introduced, death has given rise to an automatic uplift and, even since estate duty times, capital transfer tax and now inheritance tax—if someone opts to pay the full value for inheritance tax purposes at death they should always receive an uplift for capital gains tax purposes. If that is not the case, I am sure that the
Well, I hate to go over old ground, but during the debate on section 660A, for example, hon. Gentlemen identified what they believed was double taxation but was not; it was clear taxation for different purposes on different actions. They sought to telescope that into the change, and that is what they are doing now.
The simple proposition is that if people have contrived schemes, which is basically when they have transferred ownership but continue to benefit as if they were still the owner and are living in the house free of charge, the taxpayer will be offered a choice. The first choice is the subject of the schedule and the amendments. Rather than having to go through the unwinding of their schemes to which the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs drew attention, they will simply make a declaration—binding on them and their estate—to the Inland Revenue that they wish to return to inheritance tax rules. So, the contrived scheme seeking to negate those rules will be cancelled. In those circumstances all reliefs are available. Everything else, whether it be capital gains, houses, chattels or whatever, returns to inheritance tax and the rules and reliefs set.
Mr. Burnett rose—
Hang on a minute. If the taxpayer chooses to allow their scheme to continue, they could be subject—I say ''could'', because with some of the exclusions they have to get the benefit of the asset that they claim no longer to own—to an income tax charge as laid out in the schedule. At that point, the taxpayer's concentration should be triggered and they will have to decide whether they really want their scheme to continue and pay the income tax charge, or whether they do not want to pay it and must therefore opt for the election.
Nothing else in the scheme's running, whether it be capital gains, inheritance tax, tangible benefits and intangible benefits or whatever, is disturbed. It is a simple, straightforward proposition. Hon. Gentlemen have criticised it, but we are not rewriting inheritance tax; we are simply seeking to ensure that the inheritance tax rules work.
The Paymaster General made a good point—well, she made a point. This is an intervention for clarification, because she knows that some people enter those schemes without appreciating their full consequences. The people who make the first choice are those who can declare to the capital taxes office binding them and their estate, which brings the matter back to IHT. She said that in those circumstances ordinary inheritance tax reliefs will continue. Do they qualify for those ordinary reliefs before entering into the arrangements?
The taxpayer has agreed to a package—a contrived scheme—and the proposition, ''If you enact this contrived scheme, you will not have to pay inheritance tax on any of your estate''. ''Any of your estate'' means above the thresholds and exemptions. The taxpayer may or may not understand the detail, but the central proposition is not to pay inheritance tax. The Government are saying, ''No, taxpayer, you cannot do that. If you do not want to pay inheritance tax, you will pay an income tax charge, so the choice is yours.''
Quite simply, all the taxpayer has to do is say, ''OK, we tried not to pay inheritance tax on our estate. Fair cop.'' They sign the election and they are back in the rules. What they subsequently do is up to them. Some may not leave it at that, but the Government will have to consider that if it arises. The process is plain and simple, and I have tried valiantly since Tuesday morning to remind the Committee that that is all we are doing. I cannot understand why it seems unreasonable to taxpayers that they should all comply, as many of them still do, with the tax rules of the land, which are made by Parliament for all our citizens. It is such a simple request and the Government are going to enforce it.
I do not wish to raise again the emotive issues surrounding houses, but the essence of the confirmation that we are seeking is the following. The Paymaster General made the situation as near to being clear as possible. It is that either one pays the new income tax charge, or one elects to pay inheritance tax as though one never paid the charge. If one does that, one will enjoy all the reliefs, as though one never set up the trust. My point is that the meaning of ''all the reliefs'' is unclear. There are some related reliefs that are not specific inheritance tax reliefs but part of the territory.
I raised the issue of the ability to transfer property into a maintenance fund. I cannot remember whether the Inland Revenue website has information on that. It might be viewed as not being a specific inheritance tax relief, but it has that effect. Similarly, we have spoken long and large about the impact on uplift of capital values on death. That may not be described as a relief relating to inheritance tax, but it is an automatic consequence. So, our amendments endeavour to test whether, if one opts to pay inheritance tax, one ends up in the same position as if the transfer never existed. I think that it would be a little unfair if that were not the case.
I will come to the point about maintenance funds because I think that that is what amendment No. 102 relates to. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's point about capital gains and the uplift, that is not the case where there is a gift with reservation. The situation in schedule 15 is comparable with that. If normal inheritance tax rules are operating, and it is appropriate to transfer those rules to enforcement as well under schedule 15, we will do that.
That is why I said to the hon. Gentleman that all the reliefs and interactions work. He is right that some
of the reliefs in inheritance tax already interact in different ways, often with capital gains tax. My response is that we want schedule 15 to operate in the same way as inheritance tax does.
The hon. Gentleman raises the disagreement about how inheritance tax operates when there is a reservation with gifts and what happens with the interaction with CGT. That may be a fair criticism of the inheritance tax system, but it is not the subject of the arrangements. Those arrangements do not disturb any inheritance tax rules but use them in the appropriate place.
I think that the Paymaster General can clear up the confusion if she will give a simple answer to a simple question. On the basis of the law as potentially redrafted by the schedule, if there is a transfer of property by inheritance, and inheritance tax is therefore paid, if appropriate, does that constitute a base price for the purpose of future capital gains tax liabilities of the inheritor or the beneficiary of that inheritance? That is a simple question. If the answer is yes, much of the confusion will be cleared up.
To answer the hon. Gentleman's question, it would depend on how the taxpayer chose to deliver the transfer under inheritance tax rules. If they were to do it through a gift with reservation, there would be no uplift. I hope that the Committee will be tolerant with this suggestion: rather than our going around in circles, I will write to each member of the Committee to explain how schedule 15 affects capital gains and uplift if the taxpayer chooses not to elect or if they choose to elect and use gift with reservation. That would be the best way to deal with the question.
This is as much a point of order for you, Mr. McWilliam, as it is an intervention on the Paymaster General. She wants to address the ambiguity that I just described by writing to the Committee. That is perfectly acceptable, and it is desirable that we should have absolute clarity on the central point about the interaction between inheritance tax and capital gains tax. I thought that the position was clear, but I am completely confused as a result of the past half hour. I am sure that I am not the only person in the Committee who has been confused by the debate. We need to clear up the matter.
My point of order, Mr. McWilliam, is whether we can reopen the matter on Report if we do not like the letter when we get it; of course, we will get a letter, because the Paymaster General has promised one. That will be our only opportunity once we understand the effect of the proposed legislation to say that we do not like it. If Parliament is to do the job that it should on the Bill, it will be undesirable to be told on Report, ''Sorry, that point was dealt with in the Committee debate on schedule 15.''
That is not a point of order for me but a decision for the Speaker, who is a fair man. He will listen to representations and will make the decision. I remind the Committee that there is a Standing Order about tedious repetition—it is not about one person tediously repeating themselves but
about the tedious repetition of the same point during a debate. We have come very close to that.
I just want to finish this point. It would be best that I attempt to explain the matter in writing. The letter will basically say the same thing as I have said here, but I am always happy to help the Committee.
I am grateful to the Paymaster General and look forward to receiving her letter. I believe that she is saying that, if someone falls under the existing rules for gifts with reservation of benefit, they will get the worst of both worlds. They will pay inheritance tax, because they will be deemed not to have made the gift, but they will forsake the capital gains tax uplift. We do not like the existing rules, and we do not want them imposed under this arrangement.
I absolutely understand that. I have been trying to explain to hon. Members that that is how inheritance tax rules operate, as much as they may not like them. I do not recollect any amendment or new clause in a Finance Bill in the past seven years to address that issue, which I have clearly explained in our debates on clause 84 and schedule 15. The explanation has been clear, as the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon understands. He just does not like it—he is free to take that position—but that is how inheritance tax rules work. The arrangements are simply an either-or choice. They do not rewrite the underlying inheritance tax rules.
At the risk of being accused of tedious repetition, will the Paymaster General undertake to unwind the unfairness that she has confirmed exists, and which my hon. Friends and I have raised? Whatever the structure of existing law, it is manifestly unreasonable in practice that, if someone is paying inheritance tax at full market value, the heir should not take on the property with that base cost. There is a problem with the way the law is drafted, but for someone to end up paying the full whack of inheritance tax and paying another great whack of capital gains tax is double taxation, which is unfair.
Order. Unless we can think of some new points—I have not heard any in the past 40 minutes—it is time to bring this debate to a close. All I have heard is the same point repeated, and it is getting tedious.
I shall move on. The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs tempts me into rewriting the capital gains and inheritance tax rules. As he knows, that is a substantial area. He also knows that the changes that the Government have made to capital gains tax make the approach to taxation far more encouraging and lenient than before the review and amendments.
The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear me say that I always look keenly and in detail at inheritance tax and its interactions, hence the clause and schedule. He can be sure that there are different views about the fairness of the operation of inheritance tax rules from the ones that he holds. When I receive representations that suggest that the inheritance tax rules should be tighter, as I often do, I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's points on the other side of the scales when considering the question of fairness.
I shall move on to the remaining amendments. Most of the points addressed in amendments Nos. 65 and 68 have been covered in my response and the interventions on inheritance tax rules, gifts with reservation and capital gains tax.
It is clear from all the Paymaster General has said that information about her lines of argument are clearly communicated to taxpayers who may wish to reconsider their position. If those taxpayers now live in, say, Spain, what will the Treasury do to advise taxpayers, subject to the Committee and Parliament passing schedule 15 into law, to alert them to the new state of affairs?
Clearly, the Treasury will expect financial advisers, without whom it would not be able to run such schemes, to inform taxpayers of the changes, as they will be subject to an income tax charge that their advisers told them they were not subject to. All taxpayers have access to the information on the Inland Revenue websites and tax bulletins. As a former Financial Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman knows that those are the traditional routes that the Treasury uses. Unless the advisers decide to tell the Inland Revenue directly the names of clients whom they have signed up to these regimes, guaranteed direct communication with all taxpayers will be difficult.
Several hon. Members rose—
I know that the Paymaster General is not feeling too fit at the moment.
Difficulties of communication are obviously involved, and the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) has discussed moving to Spain. As the Paymaster General knows, if those individuals shifted their domicile to Spain, they would not be within the UK inheritance tax net. If they shifted their ordinary residence for income tax and capital gains tax purposes, they would escape those charges as well. No doubt she will confirm that.
Absolutely. I obviously made the error—well, I do not think that it was an error—of assuming that the right hon. Member for Fylde, as a distinguished former Financial Secretary, knew the rules. I understood his question to relate to somebody
living in Spain, but I assumed that he meant that they were still within the UK tax net. If they were not, and were in the circumstances that the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon has described—this is getting like a tax seminar—clearly, we would not need to communicate with them in the first place.
I do not know whether, from something that she just said, the Paymaster General is not feeling well this morning. She seems as lucid and forceful as usual. She has just said something revealing, which I ought to pick up, about the liability for taxpayers who fall within the proposed new income tax charges. If a taxpayer fails to declare their tax liability, and is subsequently challenged by the Inland Revenue with non-declaration, will it be a defence that they did not know that the advice that they were previously given—to the effect that there would be no problem in avoiding inheritance tax under the scheme that they had adopted—was no longer valid, and that an income tax charge had arisen? Would that be a defence, if their advisers had not returned to tell them that the scheme had been retrospectively invalidated?
The hon. Gentleman is very knowledgeable about these affairs, and he well knows that ignorance is not a defence for failure to comply with obligations. I remind the Committee that we are talking about the transfer of huge assets, and about the taxpayer consciously taking the decision to make arrangements so that—they hope—they will not be liable for inheritance tax.
I have no doubt that financial advisers, accountants and tax planners, given their professionalism, will be keen to ensure that their clients understand the obligations that now impinge on them. It may well be that those advisers, accountants or tax planners encouraged them down that route in the first place and will feel an obligation to tell them. There is a Finance Bill each year, and the part under discussion has had much coverage even though taxpayer groups have been reluctant to reveal to the Inland Revenue the extent of their planning and have acted similarly to the examples cited by the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford. We can rest assured that taxpayers are aware of such matters.
Amendment No. 122 is a mystery to me. It contemplates a retrospective relief and earlier the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs said we should have retrospection under no circumstances. The relief is not retrospective, and I am not going back over that ground. Hon. Gentlemen understand full well that retrospection is to place a charge going back, but the charge is going forward, in respect of assets in future years, and the taxpayer will have the benefit of that.
I cannot justify contemplating a retrospective relief on the charge under schedule 15 when property is put into a maintenance fund following the death of a person who is currently caught up in avoidance. That would be rewarding individuals for having undertaken avoidance in the first place and allowing them to say, ''I have had all the benefits of my avoidance and now, thank you very much, I would like to go back to the other system.'' That is like their having their cake and eating it.
There are generous tax reliefs on property going into maintenance funds. If people who are currently alive have a property eligible for a maintenance fund and appropriate assets to fund one, they can and should be doing so now. Instead, the person has chosen to engage in inheritance tax avoidance of the sort that the schedule is aimed at, and I do not believe that we should make special provision for that. People can make the election, come back and make provisions to go into the maintenance fund, but it is not on for them to go from avoidance to a maintenance fund.
Over many years, several Committees—the Public Accounts Committee for one—have chastised the Inland Revenue about the penalties, or whether someone could tax plan, be caught out, but not suffer penalties for it, and come back into the system and not suffer a subsequent charge. That is not fair to the overwhelming majority of taxpayers. In fact, amendment No. 102 would provide the route for such action. If, following death, the person's beneficiaries decided to reconsider the attraction of a maintenance fund, whatever tax breaks are available would be given to them.
We greatly value our heritage and we have wide-ranging and generous reliefs to prove it. Those reliefs carefully balance the interest of the owners, the importance of the heritage and the rights of the general public who will be funding it through the general reliefs to enjoy access to assets that they are helping to preserve under the tax system. It beggars belief that we should be asked to preserve our heritage, to which all of us contribute, but should not be allowed to enjoy it. That is why those reliefs are the routes that heritage owners should use if they wish to mitigate their inheritance tax liabilities. That is on top of conditional exemption and the other arrangements that are made. If the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs chooses to press his amendments to a Division I will ask my colleagues to oppose them.
I have sympathy with the Paymaster General, as I had two tooth abscesses recently and that made me feel pretty rough. However, I think that what she just said was unfairly rough, because as she knows, this maintenance fund element is simply about heritage assets—about achieving the objective of preserving heritage assets. She has said that the broad intent is to give people the choice of whether to pay the new income tax charge or to go back to square one and pay the inheritance tax, and she stressed that the intent was that all the reliefs would go with it.
A fair point is being made. People who tried to preserve a heritage asset by routes that were perfectly legal at the time but are now being retrospectively cancelled are asking whether it is not reasonable that
they should have the option to do what they could have done with the property in the past.
According to what the Paymaster General just said, they cannot, because they cannot put it retrospectively into a maintenance fund. In essence, these amendments address whether that can or cannot be done. People are saying, ''Fine, what we did no longer works, so we will go back to square one and unscramble it all; can we retrospectively have it as if it had been in the maintenance fund?''
In this context, amendment No. 102 is not as unreasonable as the Paymaster General suggested. When people are sorting things out at death, the key decision may be between selling up and continuing to look after the heritage. I do not know whether a two-year period is reasonable, but the amendment is intended not to be some fancy tax avoidance measure but to sort out a heritage asset.
The hon. Gentleman is missing the point. I said that following the death of the owner, the beneficiaries can decide to transfer the assets into a maintenance fund and all the reliefs will be available. He has put a theoretical proposition to me. He has said that owners of historic houses have been using contrived schemes, and that they chose not to use the maintenance fund route, even though that has existed since 1986. If they now decide that they want to go into a maintenance fund, all they have to do is elect to do so and then make the arrangements. I fail to see why we need to deem retrospectively that the asset had been in the maintenance fund all along. The taxpayer had the option to do that when instead they opted for the contrived scheme. Why should we allow them to revisit the past and change their mind with hindsight? That is not reasonable, for any period.
The charge will apply from 2005–06. If people say, ''No, we want a maintenance fund,'' and all the arrangements are made, the charge will not apply. All that I am saying to the hon. Gentleman is that I do not see why a special group of taxpayers who theoretically originally chose not to have a maintenance fund—I have no proof that that is what they originally chose, because no one has told us that they made that choice and that this is an issue—why should we now let them decide with hindsight that they really want it? There are no retrospective charges over that period, so why should they have retrospective reliefs?
I am sad that the Paymaster General's talk about wishing to preserve our heritage assets is skin-deep. She will know that heritage assets cost people far more than they ever make out of them. The fact that they may have gone down one route or another is a matter of history. Similarly, there is nothing unreasonable about people going to their lawyers, saying, ''We want to preserve this for the next generation and thereafter. What is the best way to structure it?''
I have a parallel example. I cannot go to my mortgage company and say, ''Five years ago I should have opted for a fixed-rate rather than a repayment mortgage, and I should like to change my mind. Can you please give me the fixed-rate mortgage that I would have got five years ago?''
Yes, it would be—although perhaps not five years ago. The building society or bank would say, ''You made a choice. If you want to choose to have a fixed-rate mortgage now, let's make the arrangements.'' That is the parallel. Why should this tiny group of taxpayers be allowed to revisit their historical free choice? It is nothing to do with heritage.
We have aired this matter pretty fully, but it is everything to do with heritage. The Paymaster General will know that from 1945 to 1970, we lost about half our historic homes, which were pulled down because people could not afford to maintain them after taxation. Their contents were dispersed all over the place. Half our nation's heritage was lost as a result of excessive taxation.
The arguments around this matter are not for the general run of circumstances. They relate to people doing their duty in endeavouring to preserve heritage assets. The crafting of measures that are fair in that circumstance, as opposed to more run-of-the-mill circumstances, needs to be slightly different to take that into account. Time will tell whether the net effect will be a lot fewer of our heritage assets being looked after. They may be sold, converted into offices and not opened to the public. The public at large will not say a big thank you for tax arrangements that have such a result.
I understand, as we have discussed already, that the Revenue is continuing in dialogue with the Historic Houses Association. It is often difficult to articulate precisely what are the concerns and worries—what are bona fides and what do not exist—and how they can be addressed. I hope that that dialogue continues constructively and that if any further thoughts about ensuring that our heritage is preserved come out of it before the Bill is enacted, the Minister will be sympathetic to them.
I am not sure technically how to address this point, but our amendments Nos. 65 and 68 are the most fundamental, for all the reasons that we have debated. I welcome your guidance, Mr. McWilliam, about how and at what time votes on some and not others would be organised.
On a small but valid point, the Paymaster General complained that there had not been one amendment about the double whammy around the existing gifts with reservation of benefit—and she has considerable experience, because in one capacity or another she has done every Finance Bill since Labour came to power. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the reason for that is probably the same as why we are being lumbered with all these clauses—that the gifts with reservation of benefit legislation was very easy to avoid? That is why we have never sought to table amendments. If a
professional had allowed a client to make a gift with reservation of benefit, that would have been negligent.
Let me help. If the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs wants to move amendments Nos. 65 and 68 formally I will ask him to do so when we get to them. I hope that the Committee will bear with me, as there is a long and complicated list of amendments to be moved formally.
I have something further to say as we have, in essence, had the clause stand part debate. The Paymaster General pointed out that there may be 30,000 participants in schemes, and values of £500,000, and the potential for a substantial tax take. My view is that the extra tax take will end up being very small for a variety of reasons, and that we will have ended up cluttering up the tax system yet again.
This is not a tax take—it is preventing a tax loss. Given the comments of the hon. Gentleman's party about what it might do if it was ever in power, the baseline of what we expect to get in in taxes is important to defend. My point is that there is a difference here: we are stopping a tax loss.
I fear that the Paymaster General is making a purely semantic point. Regardless of whether this is stopping a loss or adding to the tax take, all I am saying is that it is clear that the Government think that there is significant tax to be pulled in that might not be pulled in without this legislation. I think that that is extremely unlikely. In most cases, people will simply vacate the properties and go and live wherever they can, because otherwise they will pay the income tax charge and they may or may not have any money to pay the inheritance taxes and so forth. My assessment is that the overall tax impact will be minimal.
In that case, the hon. Gentleman will agree that if we—as Members of Parliament, let alone as Ministers—fail to ensure that all our citizens pay the tax that the law says they should, the burden on the remaining taxpayers will have to grow ever larger if we are to sustain the type of investment in the public services that we are committed to. Surely he cannot be subscribing to that point of view?
The starting point should be to manage the public sector efficiently. Even the Government admit that £20 billion has been wasted, so there is plenty of scope to do that. That is not the issue. The issue is that taxation should be as clear and efficient and cost as little as possible.
Indeed. What we have here is a classic example of socialist intellect triumphing over reality. We now have a mightily complicated system. As the Paymaster General commented, people with significant tax liabilities at risk will examine how to address them. The tax take will not increase, but the complexities have increased. The Revenue's administration costs will increase enormously. The exercise will not achieve its purposes.
There are some unfairnesses. We have sought to raise most of them, and the Government have addressed many of them, for which we are grateful.
However, some remain outstanding, and there are some that none of us has even thought about because this is so complex that people can be hit over the head without anyone knowing. I still greatly regret that approach, and again, the whole principle of talking in legal terms about retrospection and retroaction is playing with words. The meaning of retrospective taxes on individuals is very clear to the individuals, and that is something rather different from the nice legal distinction. We are grateful that several issues have been addressed by the various amendments to schedule 15. There are more to be dealt with, but we fear that the exercise will be rather expensive and self-defeating.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab) rose—
I had no intention of doing that, Mr. McWilliam. I rise briefly to oppose amendment No. 102 and the points about historic homes that the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs has made. They are absolute nonsense. The figures on Tuesday showed that 1,250 of the 1,800 historic homes are not open to the public at all; 350 are fully open; and 200 are partially open. The examples that he cited on Tuesday were some of the worst examples of inherited wealth, and he should turn his phrase around, because he is allowing his monopoly-capitalist intellect to override reality. Some of the homes that he cited have been in families for hundreds of years. That is not about people who are rich through creating something for society; it is about something that their forebears did hundreds of years ago. That is not to be supported, and I oppose amendment No.102.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 150, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 11, leave out 'year of assessment 2005–06' and insert 'initial year'.
No. 151, in
schedule 15, page 348, leave out lines 24 to 27 and insert—
'21 (1) This paragraph applies where—
(a) a person (''the chargeable person'') would (apart from this paragraph) be chargeable under paragraph 8 (intangible property) for any year of assessment (''the initial year'') by reference to any property (''the relevant property''), and
(b) he has not been chargeable under that paragraph by reference to the relevant property in respect of any previous year of assessment.'
No. 152, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 30, leave out 'year of assessment 2005–06' and insert 'initial year'.
No. 153, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 44, at end insert—
' ''the relevant filing date'' means 31st January in the year of assessment that immediately follows the initial year within the meaning of paragraph 20 or (as the case requires) paragraph 21.
No. 154, in
schedule 15, page 348, line 46, leave out '31st January 2007' and insert 'the relevant filing date'.
No. 155, in
schedule 15, page 349, line 2, leave out '31st January 2007' and insert 'the relevant filing date'.
No. 156, in
schedule 15, page 349, line 5, leave out 'before 31st January 2007' and insert
'on or before the relevant filing date'.—[Dawn Primarolo.]
Schedule 15, as amended, agreed to.