Clause 8 - Miscellaneous amendments relating to REITs

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 16 January 2024.

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

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

With this it will be convenient to discuss that schedule 7 be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Clause 8 and schedule 7 make changes to enhance the tax rules for real estate investment trusts, or REITs; to alleviate certain constraints and administrative burdens; and to ensure that the rules keep pace with commercial practice.

The Government launched a review of UK investment funds, taxation and regulatory rules at Budget 2020 with the aim of making the UK a more attractive location to set up, manage and administer funds. We have already made great progress, introducing the qualifying asset holding company and long-term asset fund regimes, which will help support a wide range of more efficient investments better suited to investors’ needs and to provide jobs across the UK.

The changes we are introducing for REITs regimes today in the clause and schedule 7 build further on that work. REITs are a specific form of property investment company. The tax rules have the effect of allowing investors to be taxed on their share of a REIT’s income and gains in a way that is broadly the same as if they had invested directly in property. The regime has proven popular since its introduction in 2006, with approximately 140 REITs currently established in the UK.

The Government have already brought forward several reforms to the REIT rules under the Finance Act 2022 and the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023. Following further engagement with industry, this clause and schedule 7 bring forward a third and final tranche of targeted changes to complete the work of better meeting the needs of investors while ensuring that the right tax is paid.

The changes made by clause 8 and schedule 7 include updates to the conditions that ensure a REIT is always widely owned, and that the UK retains effective taxing rights over the rental income distributed by REITs to foreign investors. Those are in addition to a number of further technical and clarificatory changes. The Government are also taking the opportunity to make further changes to related tax rules, including a technical correction to the corporate interest restriction as it applies to REITs, and a consequential change in the related non-resident capital gains rules for collective investment vehicles.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

As the Minister explained, clause 8 makes a number of amendments to the real estate investment trust rules. The Government’s policy paper on the matter set out that, since 2006, the number of UK REITs has grown to approximately 130, with the real estate sector evolving to increase the number of large institutional investors in REITs. We understand that the objective of the Government’s changes is to modernise the regime and alleviate constraints and administrative burdens through various measures, which include allowing insurance companies to hold group REITs, changing the profit/finance cost ratio, amending rules relating to holding a single property, extending the exemption for gains on disposal of UK property-rich entities, and amending the definition of a holder of excessive rights.

The Opposition agree that it is important to keep pace with changes in the UK’s investor landscape. We welcome measures to make the regime more appealing for real estate investment, and we will not oppose the technical changes that seek to do so in this Finance Bill. We note, however, that the Government recognise the scope for more businesses to enter the UK REIT regime, which entails one-off costs to businesses and greater demands on HMRC’s capacity. At a time when HMRC is already under significant pressure, will the Minister explain what assessment he has made to ensure that businesses that want to enter the REIT regime will be supported by HMRC without other aspects of HMRC’s work suffering?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He will be aware that, while HMRC is operationally independent, I have oversight as part of my ministerial role. We have regular conversations about resources and capabilities, and I am more than confident about its capabilities in this and indeed many other areas. We always keep resources under review.

These changes are reasonable, and I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support; indeed, they have wide support from industries. They will improve the operation of the REITs rules, aligning them with current commercial practices and enhancing the regime’s competitiveness. I therefore commend clause 8 and schedule 7 to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7 agreed to.