Clause 54 - The register

Finance (No.2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 22nd April 2021.

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

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

With this it will be convenient to discuss that clauses 55 to 58 stand part.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary, Minister for Equalities

Clauses 54 to 58 make provision and set out the registration requirements for businesses liable to plastic packaging tax—or PPT, as it will henceforth be known—including the threshold that businesses must exceed before they are required to register for the tax. As I set out in my previous remarks, the tax applies to UK manufacturers of plastic packaging and importers of packaging. The Government announced at Budget 2020 that PPT would exclude businesses that manufacture or import less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging. The Government believe that, by taking this approach, we will retain the vast majority of plastic packaging within the scope of the tax, while limiting the disproportionate burden on small business. The Government still expect businesses below the de minimis threshold to work towards increasing the recycled plastic content in their packaging.

Clauses 54 and 55 require HMRC to keep a register for the purposes of administering the tax, and establish the circumstances in which manufacturers and importers are liable to be registered. These clauses set out two tests to determine whether a person will exceed the de minimis threshold in either the coming 30 days, the forward look test, or over the past 12 months, the backward look test. This is a similar approach to that for other taxes, for example the VAT de minimis threshold, which is well tested. Packaging imported or manufactured in the UK before 1 April 2022 will not count towards either test.

Clause 56 provides for the period within which a person must notify HMRC of their liability to register for the tax. It also allows HMRC to make regulations about the information required and how it is provided. Clauses 57 and 58 provide for when a registration can be cancelled and corrected. HMRC may deregister a person if it is satisfied that the person was never liable to the tax, or has not been liable for 12 months. Clause 58 also allows HMRC to make further regulations regarding corrections of the register.

These clauses provide the essential framework for the administration and registration of businesses liable for the tax. The inclusion of a de minimis threshold ensures that the tax captures businesses only where the revenue and environmental benefit exceed the administrative burden of the tax. I therefore urge that the clauses stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

Again, I have relatively little to say on the clauses, which in this case relate to registration. I do note that firms do not have to register or pay the tax if they manufacture or import less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging. Is the Minister concerned that that is quite a sharp threshold, whereby producing just over 10 tonnes could bring a firm into the scope of the tax? Has the Treasury given any consideration to a more gradual threshold? Also—I am struggling to talk, because I have a mask on my face—let me ask the Minister what monitoring will be undertaken to ensure that all the individuals and firms that are required to be on the register are in fact registered?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

In practical terms, how many additional staff will be brought into HMRC to deal with compliance? Does the Exchequer Secretary have an estimate of the cost to the Government? Is there any estimate of the cost to firms of complying with the additional paperwork? Firms are already having to do quite a lot of additional paperwork following Brexit.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary, Minister for Equalities

I believe that the first question from the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead was about avoidance risk because of where we have set the de minimis threshold. As with other taxes, the Government intend to implement measures to prevent abuse—including anti-avoidance measures covered in later clauses, which I will come to—and, where appropriate, to enable HMRC to take action to tackle the artificial splitting of a business. Connected persons will also be treated as a single organisation in assessing whether they exceed the de minimis threshold.

On business readiness, awareness and the amount of support and guidance provided, which the hon. Member for Glasgow Central referred to, we have consulted extensively to ensure that businesses are ready. We have been discussing the measure for several years now, as the hon. Lady will remember from previous Finance Bills; it will be introduced in 2022. We are raising awareness through consulting on the tax, including through the technical consultation on draft legislation and through work with industry, which will help us to ensure that the regulations are fit and ready.

On administrative cost, we think that 20,000 manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging will be affected by PPT. For plastic packaging manufactured in the UK, the manufacturer must register for and pay the tax; for plastic packaging imported into the UK, the person on whose behalf the packaging is imported must register and pay. They will usually be the consignee on import documentation, but where a consignee or co-signee can demonstrate that they are acting on behalf of another business that owns the goods, as in the case of freight forwarders, the owner must register an account for the tax.

We have looked at all the measures to ensure that businesses are ready and that costs are proportionate, and we feel that we have struck the right balance.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

I appreciate that the Government are looking into this to ensure that businesses are ready, but I would like a bit more clarification on what they are doing to monitor that businesses are registered.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary, Minister for Equalities

That is a point that we will come to in later clauses.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 54 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 55 to 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.