Regulatory capital securities and hybrid capital instruments

Finance (No.3) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 11th December 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 156, in schedule 19, page 315, line 15, at end insert —

“Part 4

Statement on consultation

“22 The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons a statement on the consultation undertaken on the provisions of this Schedule no later than two months after the passing of this Act.”

Amendment 158, in schedule 19, page 315, line 15, at end insert —

“Part 4

Review of revenue effects

“22 The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the revenue effects of the provisions introduced by this Schedule and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons with twelve months of the passing of this Act.”

That schedule 19 be the Nineteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

The Government are making changes to the tax rules for the hybrid capital instruments that are issued by some companies to raise funds. One of these changes is made by clause 28, which we have already discussed. Taken together with clause 88, it ensures that these instruments are taxed in line with their economic substance, and that the tax rules take account of forthcoming changes in financial sector regulation. The new rules cover issuances by companies in any sector, and replace rules covering regulatory capital instruments issued by banks and insurers.

As I explained when introducing clause 28, some companies raise funds by issuing instruments referred to as hybrid capital, which sit close to the border between debt and equity. This distinction between debt and equity is important for the UK tax system. In particular, coupon payments on instruments that are considered to be debt are typically deductible for tax purposes, whereas dividends paid on equity instruments are normally disallowed. However, determining the correct treatment for hybrid instruments can be problematic by its nature, and this can lead to uncertainty for companies. This is particularly difficult for the financial sector, where banking and insurance companies are required by industry regulators to hold a certain amount of capital. The instruments issued to raise this capital must contain certain features to allow for loss absorbency in the event of financial strain. Existing rules aim to provide certainty of treatment for these instruments issued by banks and insurers.

Clause 88 and schedule 19 make changes to the taxation of hybrid capital instruments, most of which have effect from 1 January 2019. Our overall aim is to ensure that all hybrid capital issued by any company that is in essence debt continues to be treated as debt for tax purposes. In June 2018, the Bank of England finalised its approach to setting a minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liability, or MREL. The Bank set out how it will use its powers to require firms to hold a minimum amount of equity and debt with a loss absorbing capacity from 1 January 2019. This will allow the Bank of England to ensure that shareholders and creditors absorb losses in times of financial stress, allowing banks to keep operating without recourse to public funds.

For global, systemically important banks operating in the UK, the MREL requirements take effect from 1 January 2019. Eleven other UK banks and building societies will need to meet these requirements from 1 January 2020. The instruments banks are permitted to issue to meet these new requirements include types of hybrid capital instruments that are not covered by the existing rules. Alongside updating the rules to take account of these new requirements, we have also taken this opportunity to conduct a wider review of hybrid capital instruments. We are providing coupon deductibility for all instruments issued by any company, provided that they are in essence debt, even if they are accounted for as equity. These are also elective, so HMRC will be able to monitor their use closely to ensure that they are not abused. If HMRC detects abuse, we will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary, including further legislative change, in order to counter it.

Clause 88 and schedule 19 provide for the revocation of the existing rules for hybrid capital instruments issued by banks and insurers. They will be replaced by new rules for hybrid capital instruments issued by any sector. This will provide tax certainty for the issuers and holders of hybrid capital instruments. These instruments are issued by a small number of companies, primarily in the banking, insurance, utilities and telecoms sectors. The new rules apply from 1 January 2019, when existing rules are revoked. However, we have delayed the revocation of certain specific aspects of the rules for instruments issued before that date to allow banks and insurers time to consider the impact of the changes and to restructure their debt, if necessary.

In order to identify whether changes made by this clause and clause 28 were needed, we had to wait until the Bank of England published its MREL rules in June 2018. These new rules apply from 1 January 2019, and meant that changes to our tax rules were needed by the same date. The Finance Bill timetable meant that it was not possible to conduct a full public consultation, but officials consulted advisers who collectively represented those most likely to be impacted by the changes being made by the schedule. Officials also consulted with the Bank of England and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Amendment 158 proposes that we publish a review of the revenue effects of the changes being introduced by this schedule. The policy paper published by HMRC on 29 October 2018 clearly states that the Exchequer impact of changes being introduced by this clause will be negligible. Furthermore, to apply the new tax rules, issuing companies must submit an election in respect of each instrument by September 30 2019, or within six months of issuing a new hybrid capital instrument. That will allow HMRC to closely monitor the use of the rules and ensure they are not being abused. If HMRC detects abuse, it will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary. I commend the clause and the schedule to the Committee.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury) 11:15 am, 11th December 2018

I rise to make my final speech to the Committee on clause 88. [Hon. Members: “Shame!”] I know; it is a shame. The fun must end, but there will always be another Finance Bill.

The clause is enticingly named “Regulatory capital securities and hybrid capital instruments”. As the Minister just told us, it will introduce new tax rules for loan relationships that are hybrid capital instruments. According to the Bill’s explanatory notes, it will also revoke regulations dealing with the taxation of regulatory capital. The clause and schedule refer to the issuance of instruments by companies and financial institutions that contain debt and equity-like features, which, in investment terms, are more commonly known as convertible bonds.

Convertible bonds are having something of a renaissance, as some investors argue that they are well suited to current market conditions, especially the potential rise in interest rates. Practically, a convertible bond pays a fixed coupon, like a debt, but gives the holder the right to exchange the instrument for equity on redemption. In uncertain times for the markets, the appeal is clear: the investor is exposed to a fixed income-type risk in terms of downside, while being able to participate in an equity-like upside. That risk profile has been especially popular in recent years. Subsequently, 2018 has been the year of the highest convertible bond issuance since 2007.

If issuance is on the rise, it is important that investors understand what they are buying and the precise risk profile of how the instruments will perform in different market conditions. It is also important that any tax mismatches are corrected, so the Exchequer is not missing out. That brings us to the substance of the clause.

Hybrid instruments present a taxation challenge, precisely because they change in nature throughout their duration. The distribution of profits would not attract the same tax treatment as interest payments. For financial institutions, that problem was solved by legislation that related to capital requirements—the Taxation of Regulatory Capital Securities Regulations 2013.

Given that the issuance of different hybrid securities was required by a more recent exercise in assessment of loss-absorbing liabilities by the Bank of England in June 2018, the change forms part of a comprehensive review across sectors to remove tax uncertainty. That is timely, given the rising popularity in other sectors of issuing convertible debt, which I referred to earlier. It is important that the Exchequer does not miss out on any revenue as a result of uncertainty. I understand that the Taxation of Regulatory Capital Securities Regulations will be revoked for that reason and replaced by a new taxation policy for hybrid capital instruments, which will be applied across all sectors.

My first question for the Minister is how confident he feels that HMRC and financial taxpayers will have time to comply with the new rules. What consultation has taken place, and what guidance will be made available to those for whom the regulations are changing? The Bank of England’s changes, which demand the issuance of new instruments, will take effect from January 2019. The timeline feels extremely tight from a compliance perspective, if the tax rules are changing only now to accommodate the modification.

We are discussing a comprehensive and detailed set of changes that will affect huge amounts of capital from financial institutions. The technical note published by HMRC on 29 October goes into some depth about the changes, but the Opposition believe that further insight must be given on what feedback and concerns were raised by those who will be affected by the measure. We therefore tabled amendment 156, which would require the Government to make a statement on what consultation there has been on schedule 19.

Amendment 158 goes further by obliging the Government to publish a review of the revenue effects of the measure. According to statistics from Scope Ratings, the European issuance of hybrid bonds from non-financial corporates alone reached more than €10 billion in the first four months of 2018. Together with issuance from financial institutions, we are talking about an enormous source of revenue. We need to understand whether the reforms have been effective.

In connection with that, I ask the Minister to clarify how the stamp duty rules will apply to the measure. The technical note explains that

“The hybrid capital instruments rules provide an exception from all stamp duties on the transfer of these instruments.”

However, it goes on to stipulate conditions under which it might apply. Objectively, it seems that where the instrument is converted to equity, it should be subject to stamp duty, like ordinary shares, but the technical note seems to apply a number of contingencies. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified that one way or the other. I call on hon. Members to support the amendments and ensure that we have transparency on a potentially crucial issue of revenue for the Exchequer.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He raised the issue of whether those affected by the measures in the clause will have time to adjust and take on board the new regime. I can assure him that we are confident that is the case, albeit, for the reasons I gave in my opening remarks, we were not able to have a full consultation on these measures given the timing as between consideration of the Finance Bill and the decisions taken by the Bank of England.

Specifically on that point, the Bank held a public consultation on the MREL rules, but the outcome was not published until June 2018. The rules apply from 1 January 2019 and any changes to our tax laws are necessary before then. The Finance Bill timetable means it is not possible to put that out for public consultation on the clause. We consulted on those measures with a number of those who will be affected, so we did what we could in the time available.

As to the hon. Gentleman’s question regarding stamp duty exemptions, those will continue to be in force as under the current regime.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 88 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 19