Clause 213 seems to be a fairly straightforward anti-avoidance measure that extends the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes. Tax specialists are required to notify HMRC of any schemes that they believe exploit loopholes to reduce tax to areas of stamp duty where they did not previously apply. It links with the previous clauses and it gives the Treasury the power to make regulations to modify the way in which the DOTAS rules apply to SDLT avoidance schemes.
The measures are welcome. The DOTAS was introduced in 2004 under the Labour Government. Eight years on, it is still a fairly innovative approach to countering tax avoidance. It was limited to high-risk areas of income tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax. A similar scheme was introduced for VAT at the same time. Over the years it has been extended to cover more areas of tax, and that is a welcome development, which we very much support. Does the Minister find the DOTAS regime to be an extremely valuable weapon in the fight against tax avoidance?
As we have heard, clause 213 provides for a power to modify by way of a statutory instrument the application of one section of the SDLT DOTAS regime. This new power will be used to aid HMRC to identify all users of SDLT avoidance schemes. The measure was announced on 6 December and the draft clause was published alongside the technical consultation.
The SDLT DOTAS regime was significantly amended with effect from April 2010. The changes included extending the regime to residential property and introducing a new requirement for the users of avoidance schemes to make disclosures rather than just the promoters. The user disclosure regime applies only to avoidance arrangements that were disclosed by promoters after 1 April 2010. Avoidance arrangements that were disclosed by promoters before April 2010 did not have to be disclosed again and so have never been brought within the regime for users to have to make disclosures.
Clause 213 provides for a power to modify the application of one section of the SDLT DOTAS legislation. This will mean that the promoters of certain SDLT avoidance arrangements first disclosed before April 2010 will have to make one further disclosure. This will bring such arrangements within the regime for disclosure by users, so HMRC will be able to identify the users of the avoidance schemes.
The avoidance arrangements affected will be those that utilise the rules for a transfer of rights, also known as a subsale, in conjunction with certain other specified features. We anticipate that the operational impact of the changes on HMRC will be negligible. It will affect only entities or individuals attempting to avoid paying the appropriate amount of SDLT.
To answer the question raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North, the DOTAS regime is an asset to our tax regime. It is helpful. It enables HMRC to respond to schemes. Our view is that it is working well, but of course we cannot be complacent.
We have strengthened the DOTAS regime in this Parliament, and that is the right thing to do. The clause strengthens the way the SDLT DOTAS regime works, aiding HMRC in identifying users of SDLT avoidance schemes, supporting the Government’s objectives of creating a fairer tax system and tackling SDLT avoidance, so I commend the clause to the Committee.