Excluded property etc

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 16th June 2020.

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

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 73 stand part. I call the Minister, Kemi Badenoch. [Interruption.] Sorry—Jesse Norman.

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

Thank you, Mr Rosindell. My hon. Friend and I are sharing the duties on the Front Bench today, and it is I who rises to speak to clauses 72 and 73. The clauses make changes to ensure that additions of assets made by UK domiciled or deemed-domiciled individuals to trusts made when they were non-domiciled cannot be treated as excluded property. As that explanation indicates, it is a somewhat technical measure, which means that such additions are within the scope of inheritance tax.

The clauses have been introduced following a decision by the Court of Appeal. To give some background, the inheritance tax treatment of trusts depends on the domicile status of the person setting up the trust when it was made, known as the settlor, and the location of the assets. If the settlor is UK domiciled, inheritance tax is chargeable on their worldwide assets. By contrast, non-domiciled individuals do not pay inheritance tax on assets in trusts situated outside the UK.

The long-established position of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has been that a settlement is made when a trust is created, and that a settlement is also made when assets are added to that trust. That means that assets would be within the scope of inheritance tax if they were added to a trust by an individual who is currently UK domiciled, even if the trust was set up when the same individual was non-UK domiciled. The Court of Appeal decision created uncertainty by ruling that a settlement was made only when assets were first added to the trust. That ruling meant that the domicile of the settlor for later additions to the trust would not matter. In turn, all subsequent settlements of assets into the trust would not be liable for inheritance tax in the UK. The measure was announced in the autumn Budget 2018, and stakeholders have had nearly two years’ notice of the change.

In July 2019, the draft legislation was published, which provided an opportunity to give feedback to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. HMRC received feedback from a range of bodies including the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Tax Faculty and PricewaterhouseCoopers by the deadline for responses. HMRC then made a number of amendments based on the feedback provided, and stakeholders have since provided further feedback regarding the legislation.

Together, the measures will confirm that additions of non-UK assets by UK domiciled or deemed-domiciled individuals to trusts are chargeable for inheritance tax, even when the trust was originally set up while that individual was non-domiciled. The measures will also ensure that transfers between trusts made by a UK-domiciled individual are chargeable for inheritance tax. That will affect UK-domiciled or deemed-domiciled individuals who created an offshore trust when they were previously non-UK domiciled and have subsequently made additions of assets to that trust.

Although the measure will apply only to a small number of individuals, the tax saving for them could have been significant, and there have been claims for tax repayments as a result of the case. The clauses will ensure that the legislation is applied as intended and all tax is collected as expected. The changes introduced by the clauses will add clarity and remove any doubt from the legislation by confirming HMRC’s published and widely accepted views. I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair, Mr Rosindell. We regard the measure as a welcome imposition to provide for a fairer tax system. HMRC figures indicate that the number of individuals who live in the UK but pay no tax on their offshore income has fallen, with the number of UK-based individuals with non-domiciled tax status falling by 13% on the previous year. HMRC believes that that is explained by individuals switching to domiciled status and other individuals leaving the UK tax system. Thus the clauses reflect that particular change. However, there are some issues reported by stakeholders.

Responding to clauses 72 and 73, the Chartered Institute of Taxation states that among its members transfers between trusts are most commonly undertaken for family or related reasons, and without any intention to avoid inheritance tax or to circumvent the excluded property rules. It argues that the main thrust of the legislation should be to limit additions by the settlor after they become deemed or actually UK domiciled.

The institute expresses concern about some scenarios in which property could inadvertently be brought into the scope of inheritance tax because a change is made to a trust, not an addition of assets, that could be treated as a resettlement, or trustees make a transfer between two settlements, both set up when the settlor was non-domiciled. In neither case is inheritance tax avoidance being attempted. There are some situations where trustees, not the settlor, are involved in transferring between two settlements, both set up when the settler is foreign domiciled, or when the second is set up by the trustees of the first. We believe that there should be no loss of excluded property status because of the changing status of the settlor. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s assessment of those concerns.

Secondly, both the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the London Society of Chartered Accountants were critical of the potential for retrospection. The former argued that if clause 72 is

“to be treated as always having been in force, this will result in unexpected IHT charges arising as a result of past events.”

The institute says:

“Given that the clause is not countering avoidance but is changing long-standing rules that are familiar to trustees and are clearly stated in the existing law…new legislation on this point should not affect events that happened earlier than the measure is enacted, ie Royal Assent.”

Similarly, the London Society of Chartered Accountants believes that this

“clause changes the IHT status of trusts to which assets are added. This change will have effect from the time that the trust was set up, so is retrospective. However, as the clause is not an anti-avoidance measure but is just a change to the law, retrospection is not appropriate and the clause therefore does not follow Parliamentary convention.”

I understand that these comments presume that the individuals in question do not seek to avoid tax when transferring assets between trusts, but I would be grateful if the Minister responded to these concerns.

Last, I heard the Minister’s comments, but the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has raised the lack of a consultation period or of any follow-up, despite being led to believe that that would happen after a meeting with HMRC in November 2018. It reported that

“trustees of offshore trusts are unlikely to have considered these changes in the necessary detail” and had concerns that there would be

“insufficient time for trustees to take advice to help them understand the full implications and…whether they want to take any action to unwind structures.”

In working with the intention of the measures the Government have introduced, I would be grateful if the Minister responded to those concerns and addressed the lack of a consultation period.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her questions and for her support on this technical but important measure.

The hon. Lady asks about unanticipated negative effects. I am happy to put on the record that HMRC has given reassurance that it will adopt a cautious approach if there is a case in which a taxpayer may accidently taint a trust that contains a mixture of excluded and non-excluded property. Hopefully, that will address many of the concerns about unexpected consequences that she touched on.

The hon. Lady asks whether this measure is retrospective. As she will be aware, we do not believe that it is retrospective. The key point is that HMRC’s application of the legislation, and therefore the legal position, was widely accepted in practice before the Court of Appeal decision put that position in doubt. The effect of it is going to be that individuals have been liable to the tax owed in the spirit of the legislation. Formally, clause 72 is not retrospective because it does not create any new changes pre-Royal Assent, but we recognise the concern that is raised. It is true that in some cases there may be what I would describe retroactable, and not retrospective, effects. That is precisely because HMRC and the Government are seeking to restore what might be referred to as the position as it had always been understood previously. That is the intended effect of the legislation.

The hon. Lady asks whether there should have been more consultation. As I outlined in my speech, the Government have had this in the public domain for a considerable period and discussed it, with plenty of occasion for people to conform their tax affairs to what is, after all, only a reaffirmation of existing tax law through legislation. There is also the counterpart problem, which the hon. Lady will understand: if the clause is not introduced now, it may allow opportunities for individuals to avoid paying inheritance tax on assets they put into trust or on properties transferred between trusts. I am sure she would not wish to abet or support those opportunities and that she would wish, overall, to join us in protecting revenue and providing certainty to taxpayers.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 72 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 73 ordered to stand part of the Bill.