Clause 33 and schedule 6 would make changes to UK corporation tax payment plan rules so as to provide a deferred payment option for tax on certain transactions with EEA residents. Again, this is a small and technical matter.
A recent decision of the tax tribunal found that the requirement for a taxpayer to pay tax immediately following certain transfers of assets from a UK company to an EEA company within the same group did not conform with EU law. UK rules provide for tax-neutral transfers of assets between two group companies within the charge to UK tax, meaning that there is no immediate tax charge. If assets are sold or transferred otherwise, tax is payable immediately based on a disposal of the assets at market value.
The risk to the Exchequer arises from the fact that the tax tribunal decided that these rules could only be justified if transfers to group companies in the EU did not give rise to an immediate tax charge. In the absence of any mechanism for deferral, the tribunal decided that tax-neutral treatment must be applied to such transfers. Effectively, that would mean that the UK would completely lose its right to tax any profits on such assets. The case is under appeal, but resolution could be some years away. In response to that decision, the Government are acting to provide taxpayers with the option to pay tax on such transfers in instalments, which the judgment says would ensure compatibility with EU law. The effect of this is to remove the uncertainty caused by the decision and provide protection to the Exchequer.
This new facility to defer payment of part of a company’s corporation tax bill for an accounting period is modelled on an existing scheme for so-called exit taxes. Schedule 6 provides that corporation tax due on transfers of assets from a company in the UK to an EU company in the same group can be paid in instalments over five years, subject to interest at the usual rate for late-paid tax. We are making this change not to comply with European law, but to provide certainty to UK businesses and ensure that there is no risk to the Exchequer while the case before the UK courts remains unresolved. Once the risks and the uncertainty are resolved, this deferred tax payment facility will no longer be required.
Certainty could come either through a successful conclusion to the litigation in favour of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, or at such time as the EU treaty freedom of establishment rules no longer apply to the UK. To that end, schedule 6 includes a power for the Treasury to repeal this facility by regulation; the Government intend that this power should be used once there is no need for the facility. These changes will provide greater flexibility for UK businesses, remove uncertainty and protect Exchequer revenues. I therefore commend both the clause and the schedule to the Committee.
Clause 33 and schedule 6 represent a welcome and sensible response to the decision taken by the first-tier tribunal in the case of Gallaher v. HMRC. The only question I have for the Financial Secretary is about the fact that the Treasury can withdraw the facility to enter into CT payment plans by statutory instrument, as he alluded to at the end of his remarks. The explanatory notes to the Bill state that the power of repeal
“is intended to be used if the Government determines that CT payment plans are no longer required.”
Could the Financial Secretary give us some sense of the circumstances in which the Government may determine that CT payment plans are no longer required?
I am grateful for the question. If we get certainty in the legislation, the effect would be that the provision was no longer required. Certainty could come, as I said, at the successful conclusion to litigation in favour of Revenue and Customs, or when the EU treaty freedom of establishment rules no longer apply to the UK. Those are the circumstances under which we would expect the Treasury to repeal the facility. It is done by regulation simply because it is completely uncontroversial and would be much better handled that way, rather than through the primary legislative process.