Intangible fixed assets: pre-FA 2002 assets etc

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 9th June 2020.

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

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

Almost as if it had been perfectly choreographed to illustrate the underlying nature of a Public Bill Committee on a Finance Bill, clause 30 concerns corporation tax intangible fixed assets relief for pre-Finance Act 2002 assets, thereby supporting UK investment in intangible assets.

Intangible assets include intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents and design rights. The intangible fixed assets regime provides tax relief to companies for the cost of acquiring intangible assets. Relief is given either as the cost is written off in a company’s accounts or at a fixed rate. Not all intangible fixed assets are in the regime; there is a restriction, known as the pre-FA 2002 rule, that excludes certain older assets so that relief for the cost of such pre-FA 2002 assets is usually deferred until they are sold and the capital gains rules apply. This deferral, along with the administrative cost to companies in identifying whether an asset is within the regime, reduces the UK’s attractiveness, compared with other jurisdictions, as a location in which to hold intangible assets.

The changes made by clause 30 will make it more attractive for businesses to develop, manage and exploit intellectual property in the UK. They will simplify the taxation of such assets by bringing all intangible assets into the single regime where they are acquired on or after 1 July 2020. The clause will amend the commencement rules in part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2009, which prior to 1 July 2020 would have prevented pre-FA 2002 assets acquired by a company from a related party from coming into the regime. Intangible assets held by a company that is not within the charge to corporation tax as at 1 July 2020 will all be brought within the intangibles regime without distinction, should that company subsequently come into charge. The tax treatment for pre-FA 2002 assets already within the charge to corporation tax prior to 1 July 2020 will be preserved to protect those companies that already benefit from the existing rules.

There are further rules to apply the restriction to transactions that stop short of an outright acquisition of a pre-FA 2002 asset, but that nevertheless transfer its substance and value to a related party, such as in the form of a licence or some other new asset. The costs that can initially be relieved on such an acquisition will be restricted by reference to the market value of the asset; the company will not obtain full relief for the cost until it disposes of the asset. There are further rules to prevent arrangements between related parties that are intended to sidestep this restriction by creating or transferring what are notionally new assets instead of pre-FA 2002 assets.

The most immediate impact of this measure is likely to be on international businesses importing valuable intangible assets to the UK from overseas. These businesses will no longer have to perform the complex task of identifying excluded pre-FA 2002 assets, and will instead receive tax relief on all the assets that they acquire. Domestic companies, however, will also stand to benefit over the longer term from the reduced administrative burdens brought about by this measure. An estimated 1,000 companies a year acquire pre-FA 2002 assets. There will now be less need to distinguish between these pre-FA 2002 intangible assets and new intangible assets when companies enter into transactions involving such assets.

The clause enhances the availability of UK tax relief for the costs of acquiring intangible assets. It brings those acquired assets into a single tax code. That reduces the effects of an arbitrary distinction between older and newer intangible assets, and in so doing increases the attractiveness of the UK to innovative, IP-intensive businesses. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

The Financial Secretary said that Finance Bills cannot be exciting and fun, but I am riveted by this particular clause—I have been looking forward to it all afternoon. I rise not to take umbrage at what the Financial Secretary said but to give voice to the concerns expressed by the London Society of Chartered Accountants and to ask the Minister to address those concerns.

As the society has acknowledged, this change will benefit many taxpayers. However, there will also be taxpayers who have capital losses or non-trading deficits and would have anticipated using them against any gain on pre-2002 intangible assets. There will be taxpayers who, having been through the transition to the new rules in 2002, are now quite happily running the two regimes side by side. For them, a compulsory change to the system would be more disruptive than maintaining the status quo, and as a result they might be disadvantaged. I wondered whether the Minister, speaking directly to that point, could clarify how those taxpayers will be impacted.

By way of slight digression, Ms McDonagh, and in response to the point that the Financial Secretary made during our discussion of the previous clause, I should say that I do not remember the Labour Government doing a great deal of tinkering between 1997 and 2007.

Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

The word that the Financial Secretary was looking for was “transformation”.

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

That was an unexpected intervention from the Chair, Ms McDonagh, but no less welcome for that. I thank the hon. Member for Ilford North for his question. He slightly galloped through the particular concern, and I am afraid I did not fully catch it.

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

That is absolutely fine. What I will do is ask the hon. Gentleman to give me the letter; I will write to him separately with a response that addresses the detail of the concern.

I can say to the hon. Gentleman that we do not believe that companies will be worse off because of these changes, which will not affect IP already held by any company. If a company does dispose of its IP, it will be taxed on the same basis as it would have been before the changes. The company will still be able to make use of reliefs that they may have been expecting to use. Any tax change can have an impact in some particular cases, of course, but overall we do not expect companies to be worse off. I am very happy to take up and respond to the specific question that the hon. Gentleman raised, but I will do that outside this Committee Room, if I may.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 30 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.