Clause 72 - Identifying where the risk is situated

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 5 January 2022.

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

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

Clause 72 relocates into IPT legislation the criteria to determine the location of an insured risk for the purpose of insurance premium tax. IPT is charged on most general insurance, where it provides cover for risks located within the UK.

Insurance for risks located outside the UK is exempt from UK IPT. That exemption prevents double taxation across different tax jurisdictions and puts UK-based insurers on a level playing field with overseas insurers. Legislation sets out how to determine the location of a risk in order to establish whether the IPT exemption applies. Regulations previously used to determine the location of an insured risk were replaced in 2009, and the new regulations did not include an equivalent provision. Instead, reliance was placed on directly effective European Union legislation. To ensure clarity for the insurance industry, this measure relocates the criteria into primary legislation. This is a technical change and does not reflect a change in IPT policy.

The changes made by clause 72 will remove references to inoperative regulations in the Finance Act 1994, introducing criteria to the same effect directly into the IPT legislation. The measure ensures that insurance for risks located outside the UK remains exempt from IPT, providing clarity and continuity for the insurance industry and supporting the maintenance of an effective and fair tax system.

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

I thank the Minister for her explanation of clause 72; it does seem like a straightforward clause that simply moves the criteria for determining where the risk is located into primary legislation. The Chartered Institute of Taxation has stated that the legislation does meet its stated objectives. For that reason, we do not oppose the clause.

I note that there has been wider consultation on the insurance premium tax, including on how to address the avoidance of the tax and how to reduce the administrative burden on HMRC and the industry. That is particularly important as HMRC has been under a lot of pressure—particularly during the pandemic. In the Government’s response to the consultation on the issue of IPT avoidance, they said that, on reviewing the responses,

“neither of the proposed options provide a proportionate solution to the issue this chapter sought to address. As such, neither option will be taken forward at this time.”

That seems like the Government have given up at the first hurdle. Why, if the proposed measures are not appropriate, are the Government not considering other measures to prevent avoidance in this sector?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I do not have any major objections to what is being proposed, but I would be doing the Association of British Insurers a disservice if I let the clause go through without mentioning its concern, which I share, that insurance premium tax is quite a regressive tax. We are about to discuss tobacco duty; the ABI points out, through some research by the Social Market Foundation, that insurance premium tax now raises more revenue than beer and cider duty, wine duty, spirits duty, or betting and gaming duties.

Since 1994, the standard rate of IPT has increased more rapidly than tobacco duty. Those are all things that we want people not to do; we would prefer it if people did not drink as much, smoke as much or gamble as much, so we tax those things. It seems ludicrous to tax people on insurance, which we would like people to have and which benefits them and society, so I ask the Minister to consider further whether insurance premium tax is something sensible that we want to keep doing.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central for her broader points about the subject matter. I do not think she raised a particular point in relation to the clause under consideration, but this is an area that, like others, we will keep under review. I undertake to get back to the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead in writing on the specific point that she raised in relation to the consultation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 72 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.