Election for loan charge to be split over three tax years

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 2:30 pm, 4th June 2020

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 15, page 9, line 8, at end insert—

‘(11) The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may by regulations provide that sub-paragraph (7)(a) applies to a specified class of persons as if the reference to 1 October 2020 were to such later date as is specified.

(12) In sub-paragraph (11) “specified” means specified in the regulations.’.

This amendment will allow HMRC to extend the deadline for making an election to split the loan charge over three years for particular classes of person liable to the loan charge by virtue of Schedule 11 to the Finance (No.2) Act 2017.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 2 and 3.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The clause allows taxpayers to make an election to spread their outstanding disguised remuneration loan balance evenly across three tax years. The effect is to give to taxpayers greater flexibility on when the outstanding loan balance is subject to tax. In some circumstances, that will mean that the loan balance is subject to lower rates of tax than if taxed only in the 2018-19 tax year.

As I described, the Government accepted all but one of Sir Amyas Morse’s recommendations, which included that taxpayers should be able to choose not to stack their outstanding loan balances into a single year. In deciding to allow individuals to elect to spread the loan charge over three years, the Government balanced the aim of reducing the number of people affected by higher marginal rates of tax against the administrative burden on individuals, employers and HMRC.

The Government wanted to ensure that people have a choice about whether to make an election. Some taxpayers may prefer to settle their loan charge liability in one year, providing certainty for them going forward. For many individuals, however, the option to spread the loan charge balance over a three-year period will allow for the amounts to be repaid over a longer time than otherwise required, and potentially with a tax advantage, had they paid the loans in the years received

Part 1 of schedule 1 provides consequential amendments to schedules 11 and 12 to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 to give effect to clause 14 of the Bill. The changes amend further references to the date of 6 April 1999 to remove references to approved fixed-term loans, which related only to loans made before 9 December 2010 and so are no longer affected by the loan charge—they have essentially been taken out of scope. Those consequential amendments are necessary to give effect to the legislative changes introduced following the recommendations by the independent review into the loan charge.

Part 2 of schedule 1 makes the consequential amendments to the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 necessary to give effect to clause 15 of the Bill, which allows an individual to make an election to spread their loan charge balance over three consecutive years: specifically, the years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21. Furthermore, part 2 sets out consequential amendments to the Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001— S.I. 2001, No. 1004—to ensure that the liability to national insurance contributions can also be spread over three years. Part 2 also introduces amendments to ITEPA to ensure that where a person dies before 5 April 2019, the schedule 11 loan charge will not apply.

Government amendments 1 and 2 to clause 15, and Government amendment 3 to clause 17, seek to achieve the same aim of giving Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs the flexibility to defer the dates set out in those clauses. Clause 15 deals with the date by which an election must be made by an individual subject to the loan charge where that person wishes to split their tax liability over three years. Clause 17 deals with the date by which an individual subject to the loan charge must submit a complete and accurate 2018-19 self-assessment tax return and pay the balance of their 2018-19 tax liabilities if they are to avoid paying interest.

Recognising the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the potential ability of some loan charge taxpayers to finalise their affairs in time to meet those dates, as raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, the Government think it prudent to enable HMRC to defer those dates for particular classes of loan charge taxpayers, should that prove necessary. Accordingly, the amendments will enable HMRC by laying regulations to defer the dates for a specific class of loan charge taxpayers. For many individuals, clause 15 will reduce the amount they need to pay. It will also reduce the administrative burden on individuals, employers and HM Revenue and Customs.

Schedule 1 makes the changes to prior legislation necessary to give effect to clauses 14 and 15 and ensures that the loan charge does not apply if a person died before 15 April 2019. In addition, Government amendments 1, 2 and 3 enable HMRC to respond positively to challenges that may be faced by some loan charge taxpayers, to ensure that they are not prejudiced due to factors beyond their control. For those reasons, I commend clause 15, schedule 1 and Government amendments 1, 2 and 3 to the Committee.

Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury) 2:45 pm, 4th June 2020

As the Financial Secretary has outlined, these relatively straightforward Government amendments allow for flexibility in making the election to spread the loan charge possible. I have some questions for the Minister about that, but I also want to raise several issues about his earlier remarks, which are relevant to this clause and the Government’s amendments, as well as some of the other issues that we will consider this afternoon.

First, in relation to the all-party parliamentary loan charge group, of course we are aware that the secretariat is the Loan Charge Action Group and that it contains lots of people who are subject to action by HMRC and have a direct personal interest in changing the law and affecting the course of Government policy. The Minister has done a real disservice to Members on both sides of the House, however, by suggesting that the all-party parliamentary group is not independent and does not exercise independent judgment.

It is common practice in this place for external organisations to provide the secretariat for all-party parliamentary groups, but if it were the case that any of those secretariats, whose work is funded to support the work of parliamentarians, were in any way directing the work of Parliament or of Members, that would be an issue for the Committee on Standards. No Member should be exercising their voice or their vote because of outside financial pressure or well-funded lobby groups. We are always expected to exercise our independent judgment.

The co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group are Sir Edward Davey, with whom the Minister previously served in Government, albeit he was a yellow Tory, rather than a blue one; my hon. Friend Ruth Cadbury, who I would never suggest was anything other than independent, otherwise I would feel the physical force of her independence around the back of my ear; and Sir Mike Penning, who is widely respected on the Conservative Benches and was respected across the House as a Minister. The group also has widespread support from more than 200 MPs on both sides of the House, including the former leader of the Conservative party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. It is important to distinguish between that and the lobby group, which is perfectly entitled to its views, and is not always wrong, by the way.

That brings me to my second point. The Minister would have more of a leg to stand on in robustly criticising the all-party parliamentary group or the Loan Charge Action Group if they had not found the Government banged to rights. I did not labour the point during our previous exchange, but it is embarrassing for the Government and HMRC to have been landed with a report such as the report by Sir Amyas. We were told several times by Ministers at the Dispatch Box, and by HMRC in Select Committee hearings, that, “There is nothing to see here. There is no problem. HMRC is exercising its functions and discharging its responsibilities appropriately.” Yet, through Sir Amyas’s report, we have found that that was not the case.

We are now having to legislate for changes, and the Government are making changes that do not require changes to primary legislation, because the Government and HMRC were found not to have their affairs properly in order in relation to the application of the loan charge and the way the policy has panned out. The Government ought to be a bit more humble about some of those issues.

On the Government amendments, the Chartered Institute of Taxation thinks that the 30 September 2020 deadline for making an election to spread the loan charge should be amended. It considers that an extended deadline of 31 January 2021, which is the normal deadline for amending 2019 self-assessment tax returns, should apply. We are all aware of the impact of the current covid-19 pandemic, and the chartered institute recently pointed out that some taxpayers will require additional time in some cases because the records and documents that taxpayers need to access are not currently or readily available to them. With businesses in lockdown, it might not even be possible for them to access offices, particularly shared offices, even if they wish to do so. Will the Minister address that point, and might the Government consider a change along the lines requested by the chartered institute at a later stage? Also, why is it not possible to revoke an election to spread the loan charge or to be able to amend the election up until 30 September 2020 by submitting an amended return? Will the Minister address that point, too?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I thank the hon. Member for Ilford North for his remarks. To be clear, I am not suggesting for a second that the APPG’s members are in any sense dependent. Let me put that on the record. There is no impeachment or attempt of any such kind from me in relation to individual Members of Parliament. I was making a different point, which is that the APPG itself has come under an enormous body of concentrated and often extremely forceful pressure from people affected by the measure. There is therefore a contrast between their position and the position of Sir Amyas Morse, who is able to take a view that is independent in the sense that it is not aggressively constrained by one side or the other, but with the capacity to make a decision based on expert guidance and advice.

On whether the Government are always right, I would not suggest that for a second. We commissioned the review because the Government recognised that there was widespread public concern. Far from seeking to ignore that or brush it under the carpet, they retained a very high quality person and fully supported an independent process, thoroughly influenced and infused with both consultation and expert advice, to address the concerns. They were also suitably humble in accepting all but one of the recommendations, with the exception that I have indicated. It is absolutely not the case that it has been the view of the Government that any party to the dispute has a monopoly on correctness or rightness, and certainly the Government do not see themselves in those terms.

On the core thrust of the policy, Sir Amyas was clear. He accepted the principle of the policy and the validity of the loan charge as an approach to the concern about disguised remuneration, which takes enormous amounts of money out of the potential support of our public services. It is important to recognise that that was his position.

The hon. Member for Ilford North mentioned the Chartered Institute of Taxation and its call for an extended deadline. The deadline at the moment is the end of September and there is a period still to run before that. We understand the concern and of course we continue to reflect on the position, but that is the deadline and there is no overwhelming case at the moment for moving it. Therefore, it is important to give certainty to people who are in this position that that is the deadline for the submission of information and settlement of the loan charge. There can be no movement on that front, and it is important to be clear about what the status is at the moment. With that said, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment made: 2, in clause 15, page 10, line 14, at end insert—

‘(3F) The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may by regulations provide that sub-paragraph (3B)(a) applies to a specified class of persons as if the reference to 1 October 2020 were to such later date as is specified.

(3G) In sub-paragraph (3F) “specified” means specified in the regulations.’

This amendment will allow HMRC to extend the deadline for making an election to split the loan charge over three years for particular classes of person liable to the loan charge by virtue of Schedule 12 to the Finance (No.2) Act 2017.

Clause 15, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.