Clause 29

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 28 October 2010.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury) 9:15, 28 October 2010

Once again—I am sounding like a broken record—I am happy to support the general principles of the clause.

Although this is not one of the more contentious Finance Bills, we are still required to scrutinise it. I want the Minister to address the concerns that have been raised with me and other members of the Committee by the Chartered Institute of Taxation. I accept that there has been consultation and that these points have been made, but in its submissions to me the institute raised concerns about the need for adequate safeguards in relation to the powers under the compliance checks. It is concerned that the safeguards provided are inadequate. I am not making a judgment on that, but it is important that the Minster should reflect on it and consider whether there is merit to those concerns.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation believes it would be helpful for there to be guidelines and advice to the officers who will deal with the implementation of the measure, and I would welcome the Minister’s reassurance about that. When officers use the powers that deal specifically with the exercise of subjective judgments, those powers should be reflected in published information about how and on what those judgments were made. The institute believes that the Treasury should accept recommendations to ensure that guidelines for officers are published and that when subjective and marginal decisions are taken, the officers themselves should be open to scrutiny.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation advises that HMRC will examine in detail the previous recommendations and release draft guidance to the officers who are going to implement the judgments before the powers come into effect. I raise the issue so that the Minister can reflect on it and consider whether she agrees that detailed  guidance should be provided to officers about how they will be managed downstream, at the coal face of taxation issues. If she does not wish to follow that route, can she reassure those who take an interest in such matters that those concerns are unfounded?