Clause 25 - Tonnage tax

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

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary 2:00, 14 December 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher.

Clause 25 reforms the UK’s tonnage tax regime from April 2022, with the aim that more firms will base their headquarters in the UK, using the UK’s world-leading maritime services industry and flying the UK flag. The UK tonnage tax regime was introduced in 2000 to improve the competitiveness of the UK shipping industry. It is a special elective corporation tax regime for operators of qualifying ships. Now that the UK has left the European Union, the Government will make substantive reforms to the regime for the first time since it was introduced, to help the UK shipping industry grow and compete in the global market. The reforms will make it easier for shipping companies to move to the UK, make sure that they are not disadvantaged compared to firms operating in other countries and reduce administrative burdens.

Clause 25 will make changes to the tonnage tax legislation contained in schedule 22 to the Finance Act 2000 to reform the regime from April 2022. Specifically, it will give effect to the following measures announced at the autumn Budget in 2021. The Government will give HMRC more discretion to admit companies to the regime outside the initial window of opportunity, where there is a good reason. The Government will reduce the lock-in period for companies participating in the tonnage tax regime from 10 to eight years, aligning the regime more closely with shipping cycles.

Now that the UK has left the EU, the Government will remove the consideration of flags from EU and EEA countries. Following this legislative change, HMRC will update its guidance to encourage the use of the UK flag by making it an important factor in assessing the value that companies who want to participate in tonnage tax will bring to the UK in the strategic and commercial management test. Finally, following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Bill will simplify a rule that may include distributions of related overseas shipping companies in relevant shipping profits.

These changes to modernise the tonnage tax regime will make sure that the UK’s maritime and shipping industries can compete in the global shipping market, bringing jobs and investment to nations and regions across the UK. I commend the clause to the Committee.