Assets transfer to non-resident company: reorganisations of share capital etc

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 11 January 2018.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 11—Review of financial impact of postponement of charge on share exchange in overseas transferee company—

‘(1) Within twelve months after the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the financial impact of the changes made by section 27 of this Act to section 140 TCGA.

(2) The review under this section must consider—

(a) the revenue effects of the change made, and

(b) the extent to which the change has supported UK companies to conduct international business.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons the report of the review under this section as soon as practicable after its completion.”

This new clause provides for a review of the revenue impact and the impact on business of the change to TCGA to prevent a postponed chargeable gain from becoming chargeable following further restructuring of a UK Company’s overseas business.

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

Clause 27 will ensure that where a series of changes have been made to the corporate structure of a group, the rules for taxing the capital gain at the final stage of the change work as the Government intend.

The situation that the clause addresses is where a group reconstruction involves a part of the business that has previously converted from a branch operation into one carried on by a separate overseas company. That is done through an exchange of the foreign branch business and assets for shares in the overseas company. If the assets have increased in value, the group may be liable for tax on the capital gain. The tax system allows it to defer paying that until either the assets of the business or the shares in the overseas company are sold or otherwise disposed of outside the group. That is a sensible approach. It means that groups pay tax on the full level of gains when they realise them through selling an asset and generate a profit to pay the tax with, but they are not charged on a purely internal restructuring.

The introduction of the substantial shareholding exemption in 2002 affected those rules in a way that was not intended, meaning that the tax on the earlier capital gain may become payable if there is a later restructuring, even if that does not involve a sale outside the group. The need to undertake such reconstructions has been rare since 2002, so the anomalous tax outcome was not identified as problematic until recently. However, it is now a cause for concern to some businesses, mainly due to changes in regulatory requirements of some overseas tax jurisdictions. The clause corrects that anomaly.

The change made by the clause will affect groups that commonly operate overseas through branches. It will be welcomed by them, as it will give them certainty in arriving at their commercial decisions when considering restructuring. It is a wholly relieving measure with negligible fiscal impact, as the groups that were affected by the problem would either have found other ways to deal with it or simply not have proceeded with the proposed transaction.

Opposition Members have requested a review of the revenue effects of this change and of the extent to which it has supported UK companies in conducting international business. I am happy to provide them with further information on those points. The OBR has agreed that there will be no revenue effects, because if the changes were not made, the companies concerned would either not undertake the reorganisation or would reconstruct in a way that did not create a tax charge. In either case, they would have to suffer a less than ideal commercial structure because of an anomaly in the tax rules.

This change will help a small number of businesses. On its own, it will not make a big difference, but it will contribute to our wider approach of encouraging UK businesses to conduct international business. The purpose of the change is to remove an anomaly at no cost to the Exchequer. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Bootle will not press the new clause to a vote, and I commend clause 27 to the Committee.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Clause 27 amends the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 to ensure that tax postponed does not become due on the occasion of a subsequent corporate restructuring involving the exchange of shares in an overseas transferee company where the substantial shareholding exemption applies to the share exchange. The Government’s explanation for this change is that the measure removes an unintended tax barrier to commercial restructuring of groups. I will not go into the ins and outs of this, which the helpful explanatory notes set out.

The argument for this change is that currently, companies that use the substantial shareholding exemption can treat the gain or loss on a disposal of shares as exempt from corporation tax on chargeable gains. A by-product of that is that a chargeable gain could be chargeable on a further restructuring of the company, with the old shares of the securities treated as new ones, despite the same corporate group continuing to own them. The new clause seeks to track that unintended change.

Clearly, the Government’s case is that the unintended tax change creates barriers, particularly for financial sector businesses that have traditionally operated through a network of foreign branches and need to restructure, for example to meet changing regulatory requirements in the territories where they conduct their business. That seems perfectly reasonable, but will the Minister give us a few examples, now or in due course?

While we accept the Government’s argument about the unintended consequence of correcting the tax change, we do not necessarily accept the costings put out by the Treasury, which argues that the change would in effect have zero impact on its finances. In our view, there is a lack of information from the Treasury and the OBR about the revenue that the unintended tax change has raised. I press the Minister to, if possible, publish those figures.

That is why we have put forward new clause 11, which would require the Minister to report back to Parliament on the revenue implications, on the impact on the Exchequer and on the restructuring of UK companies’ overseas business. If the Opposition are to accept the Government’s case that the current measures are a barrier to restructuring, leading to lost revenue for UK companies and lost investment in the UK, it is only reasonable that the Minister should produce evidence to that effect.

We are also interested to know whether there are any losses of revenue to the Exchequer. The Minister says they are “negligible”. It is not that I do not accept that; I am just trying to be clear about this. The Minister should explain, if there is a loss of revenue, how that loss will be filled, how much it is, whether he will be clear in keeping tabs on the process—for example, through the review we want—and how the measure will be implemented.

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

The first point to make is that the measure will affect an extremely small number of businesses. We are talking a multiple of handfuls. That is one of the drivers for the negligibility of the costs. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman appears broadly to welcome the thrust of what we are doing. On the issue of cost that he raises, the figures have been verified by the Office for Budget Responsibility, so an independent organisation has had a look at them, and we are not relying on the Treasury. By “negligible”, I mean that we are looking at an impact of less than £5 million in any one year across the scorecard period.

The figures would be relatively negligible not just because of the small number of businesses involved, but because, in the absence of the changes, we would expect those companies either not to restructure in the way we are now facilitating, or to find different ways of approximating the same thing without incurring the tax disadvantages that we seek to remove through this clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29