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Clause 23 - Loan relationships: debts becoming held by connected company

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 12th June 2012.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Education) 5:00 pm, 12th June 2012

I wish not so much to comment on the amendment of the hon. Member for Amber Valley, although I join my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw in commending him for tabling it, but to seek clarification on the clause, which affects debts held by connected companies and has retrospective effect from 1 December 2011. Before the legislation, profits made as a result of such arrangements were not taxable, and companies would regularly seek to exploit the tax loophole. The clause addresses such aggressive avoidance measures, as the Minister states, ensuring payment of more than £500 million in tax, protecting further billions of pounds in tax from being lost, and maintaining fairness in the tax system—laudable aims. As the impact note states, the measure could bring in as much as £385 million in the first year, although subsequent declines in revenue are anticipated as the schemes increasingly fall out of use.

Turning to the origins of clause 23, Barclays bank, which was revealed as the bank involved in that tax avoidance measure, disclosed its use of the two schemes to HMRC in February this year, prompting the Government to introduce the legislation and to take the unusual step of giving it retrospective effect so as to cover arrangements entered into as far back as 1 December 2011 and up to 27 February 2012, when the decision was taken. It has been widely documented that Barclays was surprised by HMRC’s reaction to the two schemes, which it believed were in line with those employed by other banks. Barclays has subsequently voiced its concerns quite publicly. The hon. Member for Amber Valley has put on record his concerns about the use of retrospective tax avoidance action by the Government, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on the amendment.

I would like some clarity on the impact of the measures in the clause, given the importance of the matter. Is HMRC aware of any other companies or British banks entering into such arrangements? If so, is it intending to come to any settlement with them? Has HMRC investigated or at least estimated how many such schemes are being used, and how many will close as a result of the clause? Turning to the retrospective nature of the legislation, how was the date—1 December 2011—decided on, and what does HMRC intend to do about schemes in place before that date? If the scheme and the determination of its abusive nature came to light before the announcement was made in February, why in particular was the 1 December date chosen? Finally, as there have been no tax information and impact notes since the Budget, what are the confirmed revenue numbers for the closure of the scheme?