Call-off stock arrangements

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 16th June 2020.

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I turn to the specifics of clause 78. The Financial Secretary’s speech seemed to me to address some of the concerns expressed by businesses and chartered tax advisers, but I will raise them for the sake of clarity. Writing in Taxation, Angela Lang-Horgan, a German and British chartered tax adviser and lawyer, said:

“If businesses have continued to operate under the old simplification rule after 31 December 2019, VAT returns must be corrected once the new legislation is in place. This will add additional confusion to the situation. So far, HMRC has not indicated whether it would apply a soft-landing period. There is no transition period either because under EU law the UK was obliged to introduce the changes from the beginning of this year.”

Could I get some clarity from the Financial Secretary on those points? Will HMRC provide a soft landing period for the implementation of the new rules, or is a soft landing period not even necessary? If I understood him correctly—I may have misunderstood, in which case he will clarify—it seems that there is a degree of flexibility and choice on the part of businesses over whether to adopt this approach. Some clarity in direct response to the concern expressed by Angela Lang-Horgan would be welcome.

What efforts have the UK Government made to communicate with affected businesses in anticipation of the rules, which are effectively already in place? It is worth saying, although it is a mild digression from clause 78, that concern has been expressed—particularly by colleagues in the shadow Business team—that the Government are not communicating with businesses in a timely way with respect to changes in Government policy and their impact on businesses. I think that for some time there has been a cultural problem in government of not giving businesses long enough to anticipate and adjust to new rules; I wonder whether in this case that communication has been a bit more proactive.

The explanatory notes state that

“businesses could structure transactions to remain outside the scope of the new rules if businesses found them onerous.”

What proportion of businesses are expected to exercise that discretionary power?