Finance No. 2 Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 18th May 2023.
With this it will be convenient to consider that schedule 24 be the Twenty-fourth schedule to the Bill.
The clause and schedule 24 confirm that income tax and corporation tax exemptions will apply to “thank you” payments made to sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme. They also introduce legislation for temporary reliefs from the 15% rate of stamp duty land tax and the annual tax on enveloped dwellings for dwellings owned by companies when they are made available to Ukrainian refugees under the sponsorship scheme.
In March last year, we announced the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, which supports those who generously open their homes to Ukrainians arriving in the UK. As part of that scheme, sponsors receive a monthly “thank you” payment for housing an individual or family. Without specific legislation, those payments could be subject to tax. Likewise, ATED and the 15% may also have presented barriers to those who wish to provide homes for Ukrainian refugees. We therefore committed to legislate to exempt “thank you” payments from income tax and corporation tax, and to provide temporary reliefs from ATED and the 15% rate of stamp duty. We thank those public-spirited people and I commend the clause to the Committee.
As we heard, the clause and schedule introduce income tax and corporation tax exemptions for thank-you payments made by local authorities to sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme. They also introduce temporary reliefs on the annual tax on enveloped dwellings and on the stamp duty land tax in connection with the provision of accommodation under the scheme.
The reliefs and exemptions were announced by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a written ministerial statement on
“those companies that currently qualify for the existing reliefs available from the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) and the 15% rate of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) for dwellings used in a property development or property trading business or let on a commercial basis will continue to be able to claim the relief while the dwellings are being used under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.”
Since March 2022, many people across the country have volunteered to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the war in their home country, and have warmly opened their homes and hosted them accordingly, and it is right that the Government support them.
I draw the Minister’s attention to a recent case uncovered by the BBC—that of Dominik Zaum and his family, who have been hosting a mother from Ukraine and her young daughter in an annexe since June 2022. I understand from media reports that when Mr Zaum’s mortgage came up for renewal, he applied to Halifax and was dismayed to find that he was refused on the basis that he was providing accommodation to a Ukrainian family. Halifax said that there was a significant risk that he would rent out the room commercially in the future. I understand that Halifax has since apologised, and that Mr Zaum has taken up a mortgage offer, albeit with an alternative provider. However, in reports of the story, he expressed concern that the situation was resolved only when the media got involved. He was worried that Halifax’s refusal could have been mirrored by the rest of the lending sector. I would be grateful if the Minister set out the steps that the Government will take to ensure that other Homes for Ukraine sponsors do not find themselves in a similar position when they are seeking a mortgage offer.
I welcome this measure, and it is really important that these provisions be extended, but will the Minister consider extending them to the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme and the Afghan relocations and assistance policy? This morning, we talked about the number of Afghan refugees who have come to the country under those schemes and are currently accommodated in hotels. The Minister may be aware that charitable organisations, such as Refugees at Home, put sponsors in touch with refugees. Will she ask her officials to consider whether there are opportunities for similarly public-spirited people who are willing to use their accommodation to assist Afghan families in this country?
On the case cited by the hon. Member for Ealing North, clearly we would like banks to enter into the public-spirited nature of the Help for Ukraine scheme and other refugee schemes. I will take that issue away and reflect on it with my ministerial compadre in the Treasury, the Economic Secretary, to see what we can do. Of course, the first port of call for anyone in that situation is their constituency MP. We are, I hope, good constituency MPs, and we can draw these matters to banks’ attention and can often get answers that our constituents sadly cannot, but I will take this matter away and mull it over.
The hon. Member for City of Chester mentioned other refugee schemes. I am not aware that the Afghan scheme has quite the same system of payments as the Ukrainian scheme, but I am happy to reflect on that issue. It is probably not a matter for this Bill, but I will think that one over.