Clause 34 - Corporate interest restriction

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 16 May 2023.

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Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury) 11:00, 16 May 2023

As we have heard, clause 34 and schedule 3 make amendments in connection with the corporate interest restriction and predecessor legislation, to ensure that the rules work as intended. As we know, the corporate interest restriction rules superseded part 7 of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010, commonly referred to as the debt cap. The aim of the rules has been to restrict the ability of large businesses to reduce their taxable profits through excessive UK finance costs. Amendments were made to the corporate interest restriction rules in the Finance Acts of 2018, 2019 and 2021, to address various technical issues in order to ensure that the rules operated as intended. In July 2022, a working group was formed to consider proposed amendments to the rules, following further representations from customers, tax advisers and representative bodies regarding unfair outcomes. It was announced at the Budget that the Government would make a number of modifications to the rules, and clause 34 implements those modifications.

We will not oppose clause 34, but I would be grateful if the Minister could give some sense of the scale of the benefit that the changes are likely to bring to businesses or the Exchequer. The policy paper for the measure begins:

“This measure addresses a number of issues to protect the Exchequer and reduce unfair outcomes or high administrative burdens.”

However, in the detail, it states:

“This measure is expected to have a negligible impact on the Exchequer…This measure will have a negligible impact on an estimated 6,800 groups,” and

“This measure is expected overall to have no impact on business’ experience of dealing with HMRC as the proposals do not significantly change any processes or administrative obligations.”

The policy paper therefore sets out at several points the view that the measure has no impact or, at most, a negligible impact. I would be grateful if the Minister could help us to square those statements with the aim of the measure. For instance, can she explain how the policy paper can claim at one point that the measure will “reduce...high administrative burdens,” yet also conclude that

“the proposals do not significantly change any processes or administrative obligations”?

Clause 35 and schedule 4 update the rules governing the tax treatment of certain investment vehicles. The qualifying asset-holding companies regime was included in the Finance Act 2022 and came into effect from April last year. Amendments to the regime were initially announced in July 2022, with further amendments announced in March 2023. The amendments seek to make the regime more widely available to investment fund structures that fall within its intended scope.

As we have heard, clause 35 and schedule 4 also affect the rules for real estate investment trusts—companies through which investors can invest in real estate indirectly. In a written statement on 9 December 2022, the Chancellor announced changes to the property rental business condition and three-year development rule within the real estate investment trust rules. Schedule 4 gives effect to those changes, and we will not oppose clause 35.