Clause 3

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 19 October 2010.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 11:45, 19 October 2010

I am looking forward to hearing from the Minister about the statutory instrument that he brought to our attention in the previous debate. I hope that it will be subject to the affirmative procedure. I look forward to being a member of the Committee that will discuss it.

Clause 3 will correct technical anomalies in the special capital allowance rules for foster carers and shared lives carers to ensure that the rules operate as intended when individuals start or finish qualifying or being elected for foster care relief. I understand that carers can stay out of the tax regime if they earn below the individual limit for qualifying care relief. If their earnings from the provision of care exceed that limit, however, they can sometimes use the normal tax rules that apply to businesses. That might seem quite unusual, given that we are discussing carers, but such a resource can sometimes be discussed—as we see in the explanatory notes—as though it were a business arrangement. That can include claiming capital allowances for certain plant and machinery.

My obvious question to the Minister is: what sort of capital plant and machinery applies in care scenarios? Will he elaborate on that and describe the particular mechanistic and plant investments that carers might seek to make to gain such a capital allowance?

I am told that the rules seek to prevent excessive claiming of those capital allowances, or double-claiming in excess of the original costs of plant and machinery that were previously relieved. What evidence does the Minister have that there have been abuses of those capital allowance arrangements in the past? Is it to do with computer purchasing or transport or kitchen equipment? What exactly is it and what evidence is there of previous abuse?

If the Minister has gained some inspiration about the sums of money that relate to this, I should be grateful to know what figures are involved in making the changes. Are we moving from one estimate of capital allowance arrangement to a new lower one? What is the Treasury’s estimate of the financial implications of the arrangements?

Will the Minister say how many qualifying carers choose to calculate their taxable earnings as profits, as though they are in a care business? Again, I am not clear about that, because there seem to be two routes that carers can go down. How many carers, does he estimate, treat the situation in that sense and may fall under the capital allowance arrangement? If we are discussing care as “a business”, at what point would qualifying carers come under the inspection regime of—I presume—the Care Quality Commission? When does the number of placements, or people in care who are being looked after by a family, grow so large that it becomes a business that merits an inspection arrangement? I should be grateful if the Minister would answer those specific points about clause 3.