Clause 24 - Cross-border group relief

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 14 December 2021.

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

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

With this, it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 4 be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Clause 24 makes changes to abolish cross-border group relief to ensure that loss relief is limited to UK losses, thereby providing relief only for companies that the UK can tax. It also amends the rules restricting the amount of losses foreign companies with a UK branch can surrender to UK companies, bringing companies resident in the European economic area in line with companies resident in the rest of the world.

Cross-border group relief provides UK companies with the ability to claim relief for the losses of their EEA resident group companies, even though the UK is unable to tax any profit made by those companies. The UK cross-border relief rules were introduced in 2006, owing to a 2005 decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union that found the previous rules to be incompatible with the EU freedom of establishment principle.

Under the current system, the UK Exchequer bears the cost of giving relief to UK companies for losses of EEA companies, as the latter pay no tax to the UK Government. The rules for restricting surrender of losses of a UK branch of a foreign company were also amended to be more favourable to EEA companies as a result of CJEU judgments. Favourable treatment for losses of EEA companies or UK branches of EEA companies is not right, and is inconsistent with our approach to the rest of the world, especially now that the UK has left the EU and is no longer bound by EU law.

Clause 24 will principally affect large, widely-held corporate groups, and will ensure both equal treatment of losses of companies in EEA and non-EEA countries and protection for the UK Exchequer against unfair outcomes. Historically, group relief was available only for losses of UK companies or UK branches, so the abolition of cross-border group relief and the alignment of branch rules is a reversion to a previously accepted position. Other countries generally do not give cross-border loss relief, so abolishing it would be very much in line with the international mainstream.

In summary, the change will allow the UK to depart from this historic position and more effectively pursue its fiscal policy objectives. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

As we have heard, clause 24 concerns cross-border group relief and is accompanied by schedule 4. The clause and schedule repeal legislation that provides for group relief for losses incurred outside the UK and amend legislation that provides for group relief for losses incurred in the UK permanent establishment of an EEA resident company.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government are bringing group relief relating to EEA resident companies into line with relief for non-UK companies resident elsewhere in the world. Claims involving companies established in the EEA are currently subject to more favourable rules in the UK relating to relief for non-UK losses and losses incurred by the UK permanent establishment of a foreign company.

These rules were introduced to give effect to the UK’s obligations as a member state of the EU. Having left the EU, the UK is no longer required to maintain those rules, and it is inconsistent to treat groups with EEA resident companies more favourably than those with companies resident elsewhere in the world. The clause therefore removes that inequality by aligning group relief rules for all non-UK companies.

The changes to legislation made by the clause broadly restore the group relief rules to what they were before separate rules were introduced for EEA resident companies in line with EU law. We do not oppose this measure, as it rightly removes an inequality between companies and contributes towards a level playing field.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I thank the hon. Lady for indicating her support for clause 24, and I commend it to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.