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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I shall gladly outline the reasons for the proposed change. It is undeniably rather complex but I shall describe it as simply as I can. I shall be pleased to go into further detail if any hon. Members of a technical disposition wish me to do so. The essence of the new clause is the grouping provisions and their abuse. The House may know that the provisions were introduced when VAT was first introduced to simplify accounting by associated companies. Supplies between members of a VAT group are disregarded for VAT purposes. Only one VAT return has to be submitted by the representative member of the group instead of separate returns for each company. That is a long-standing, deregulatory measure that we would not normally wish to change.
Unfortunately, some groups--more exactly their professional advisers-- believe that they have found a lawful way of manipulating the relevant provisions to avoid VAT, which individual members, if they were not grouped, would otherwise have to incur. That is the subject of litigation. The potential loss to the Exchequer is so serious that the Government have decided to bring forward the proposals that are set out in the clause to ensure that the clear intention of Parliament is respected for the future.
In the example of the scheme that has reached the VAT tribunal so far, the group concerned, knowing that VAT that is paid on cars is not normally deductible, used two subsidiaries to purchase cars and other goods. It seems that 90 per cent. of the price was paid VAT free in advance to the two companies. They promptly left the VAT group, purchased the cars and other goods and delivered them to a company that remained in the group. Apart from the VAT on the remaining 10 per cent. of the price, which was paid later, the group had obtained the cars tax free. The group freely admitted to the tribunal that the only reason for arranging the purchase in that way was to avoid tax.
Column 1414Other groups have already put similar schemes on the starting blocks. About £50 million-worth of revenue is at stake awaiting the outcome of the current case, which is being appealed by Customs and Excise.
The new clause will amend the group legislation provision by preventing the type of supply that I have described--this answers the question of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo)--between members of a group being disregarded for VAT purposes. Therefore, VAT will have to be accounted for on its full value and the group will be able to recover only such part of the VAT as is properly deductible. That, again, was the clear intention of Parliament.
We are also taking this opportunity to extend the powers of Customs and Excise so that not only schemes of this kind, but any similar schemes which may seek to exploit the ability to move companies in and out of groups, can be rendered ineffective. Only the first change, which is aimed at the specific avoidance measure we found, is retrospective to the day after we announced the changes--1 March this year. The second change is not retrospective, but will give Customs and Excise the additional powers from Royal Assent.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South asked me why we were introducing the new clause so late. It was only when the VAT tribunal decision was released, just before Christmas, that it was realised that action was necessary. We then had to evaluate precisely what that action should be. We had to take legal advice about whether our action would conflict with EC law; I can confirm to the hon. Lady that it does not. When all those things were done, we introduced the measure. We announced it to the House on 28 February, the draft new clause was made available and a press release was issued. As the hon. Lady has said, I wrote to the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). Now, at the first opportunity, the measure is being brought before the House as a whole for confirmation as part of the Finance Bill. When an avoidance scheme is admitted as such by the company concerned, the House does not need to ask itself whether it is really dealing with a legitimate business activity in accordance with parliamentary intention, as it is clear that this is not just an avoidance scheme, but an extremely expensive one which could undermine revenue to a wholly unacceptable extent. Given those remarks, I hope that the House will endorse the Government's decision.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
`. After section 51 of the Taxes Act 1988 there shall be inserted the following section--
"Giltedged securities held under authorised arrangements 51A.--(1) Subject to the provisions of any regulations under section 51B, where gilt-edged securities of an eligible person are for the time being held under arrangements that satisfy the applicable requirements--
(a) those securities shall be deemed to have been issued subject to the condition that the interest on them is paid without deduction of income tax; and
Column 1415(b) that interest shall be so paid accordingly, but shall be chargeable under Case III of Schedule D.
(2) For the purposes of this section gilt-edged securities are securities of an eligible person so long as--
(a) they are in the beneficial ownership of a company, local authority or local authority association or of any health service body (within the meaning of section 519A) and that company, authority, association or body is beneficially entitled to the interest on them;
(b) they are in the beneficial ownership of a person who does not fall within paragraph (a) above but is of any such description as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Treasury and that person is beneficially entitled to the interest on those securities; (c) the circumstances in which they are held are such that any income from them is eligible for relief from tax by virtue of section 505(1)(c), or would be so eligible but for section 505(3); (d) the circumstances in which they are held are such that any income from them is eligible for relief from tax by virtue of section 592(2), 608(2)(a), 613(4), 614(2), (3) or (4), 620(6) or 643(2); (e) they are assets of any such trust fund as is referred to in section 83 of the Insurance Companies Act 1982 (premiums trust funds of members of Lloyd's); or
(f) the circumstances in which they are held are such that any income from them falls to be treated as the income of, or of the government of, a sovereign power or of an international organisation.
(3) For the purposes of this section the arrangements under which any gilt- edged securities are held shall be taken to satisfy the applicable requirements if--
(a) such conditions as may be imposed by or under any such regulations as may be made by the Treasury are satisfied in relation to those arrangements; and
(b) a declaration with respect to the satisfaction of those conditions has been made in accordance with any such regulations by such person having an entitlement to or in respect of the securities as may be determined under the regulations.
(4) The conditions that may, for the purposes of subsection (3)(a) above, be imposed by regulations under this section in relation to arrangements for the holding of any gilt-edged securities shall include--
(a) conditions as to the accounts in which the securities are to be held under the arrangements and as to the accounts into which interest on the securities is to be paid;
(b) conditions requiring persons holding the securities, or otherwise having functions under or in connection with the arrangements, to be persons of a description specified in the regulations or to be approved in accordance with the regulations; (c) conditions requiring persons who, for purposes connected with the arrangements, act directly or indirectly--
(i) on behalf of the person beneficially entitled to the securities, or
(ii) on behalf of the person who holds them,
to be persons registered with the Board in accordance with the regulations; and
(d) conditions as to the provision about transfers of securities held under the arrangements that is to be contained in the arrangements.
(5) Regulations made by the Treasury for the purposes of this section may-
(a) impose requirements in relation to any such persons as are mentioned in subsection (4)(b) and (c) above with respect to the manner in which their functions under or in connection with the arrangements are exercised;
Column 1416(b) require such persons--
(i) to consider the accuracy of any declaration made for the purposes of subsection (3)(b) above; and
(ii) themselves to make declarations as to the extent to which conditions or other requirements imposed for the purposes of this section appear to be, or to have been, satisfied or complied with; (c) make provision--
(i) about the making of applications for approval or registration under any such regulations;
(ii) for the circumstances in which any approval or registration is to be or may be given or refused;
(iii) for the withdrawal or cancellation of any approval or registration;
(iv) for appeals against any refusal to grant an approval or to register any person, or against the withdrawal or cancellation of any approval or registration;
(d) make provision for the publication of information showing the effect of any determinations in pursuance of regulations made by virtue of paragraph (c) above;
(e) make provision for notices to be issued by the Board to such persons as may be described in the regulations where the Board are satisfied that this section has effect, or does not have effect, in relation to any gilt-edged securities;
(f) impose obligations--
(i) on persons having any rights in relation to gilt-edged securities held under arrangements described in the regulations, (ii) on any such persons as are mentioned in subsection (4)(b) and (c) above, and
(iii) on persons who are applying to be approved or registered for the purposes of this section,
as to the provision of information, and the production of documents, to the Board or, on request, to an officer of the Board; and
(g) impose requirements, framed wholly or partly by reference to the opinion of the Board, as to--
(i) the contents of any declaration to be made in accordance with regulations under this section,
(ii) the form and manner in which any declaration or information is to be made or provided in accordance with any such regulations, and
(iii) the keeping and production to, or to an officer of, the Board of any document in which any such declaration or information is contained.
(6) Any person who--
(a) contravenes, or fails to comply with, any requirement imposed on him by or under any regulations under this section, or
(b) fraudulently or negligently makes or produces any incorrect declaration, information or document in pursuance of any such requirement,
shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £25,000.
(7) In this section `gilt-edged securities' means any securities which--
(a) are gilt-edged securities for the purposes of the 1992 Act; or
(b) will be such securities on the making of any order under paragraph 1 of Schedule 9 to that Act the making of which is anticipated in the prospectus under which they were issued. (8) In this section `international organisation' means an organisation of which two or more sovereign powers, or the governments of two or more sovereign powers, are members; and if, in any proceedings, any question arises whether a person is an international organisation for the purposes of this section
Column 1417a certificate issued by or under the authority of the Secretary of State stating any fact relevant to that question shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
(9) Regulations made by the Treasury for the purposes of this section may--
(a) make different provision for different cases; and
(b) contain such supplementary, incidental, consequential and transitional provision as appears to the Treasury to be appropriate.
(10) This section shall not apply to any interest paid before such day as the Treasury may by order appoint, and different days may be appointed under this subsection for different purposes."'.-- [Mr. Nelson.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris): With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following: Government new clause 11-- Periodic accounting for tax on interest on gilt-edged securities. Government new clause 10-- Treatment of price differential on sale and repurchase of securities .
Government new clause 9-- Manufactured interest on gilt-edged securities .
Government new clause 7-- Power to make special provision for special cases .
Government new clause 8-- Stock lending: power to modify rules . Government amendment No. 15.
Mr. Nelson: The introduction of these new clauses comes after an informed and thorough debate in Committee on the issue of the gilt repo market. The six new clauses make the tax changes necessary to facilitate the introduction of an open market in the sale and repurchase of Government securities. It may be helpful to the House if I refer briefly to each of the new clauses and say a few words about their intent.
New clause 12 enables interest on gilt-edged securities, which at present is normally paid after deduction of tax, to be paid gross under arrangements to be set out in Treasury regulations and brought into effect on an appointed day, which is expected to be at the beginning of 1996.
New clause 11 enables regulations to be made to introduce a system of quarterly accounting for tax on gilt interest received gross. It is to be brought into effect on an appointed day, reflecting the date on which gilt interest first becomes payable gross under the arrangements provided for by new clause 12. This quarterly accounting system is necessary to contain the effect that paying gilt interest gross would otherwise have on the public sector borrowing requirement. The arrangements will reduce the cost from about £1.2 billion over two years to about £100 million in total.
New clause 10 ensures that the tax rules for the treatment of repos reflect the underlying economic reality of the transaction. It also prevents the risk of tax being lost by repos being used to turn income into capital. Because of the risk of loss of tax, the provisions will come into effect from Royal Assent.
New clause 9 makes the necessary amendments to existing legislation to enable manufactured payments of gilt interest to be paid gross in all circumstances, which will simplify the position considerably. It should in
Column 1418particular assist the operation of the gilt repo market as participants will be able to make manufactured payments of gilt interest gross, regardless of the circumstances or identity of their counterpart.
The main purpose of new clause 7 is to provide regulatory powers to enable the operation of legislation affecting repos to take account of the detailed workings of the agreements under which these transactions are carried out. New clause 8 enables regulations to modify the circumstances in which transfers of security under stock lending arrangements are disregarded for tax purposes in computing the profits of the trade or in computing capital gains.
The new clauses will facilitate the introduction of an open gilt repo market by enabling gilt interest to be paid gross in a much wider range of circumstances than before. The Exchequer will be protected by the auditing regime for the new arrangements and by the new quarterly accounting system. The new clauses also provide for the price differential under a repo to be treated as interest for tax purposes and for consequential adjustments to be made to the capital gains tax rules. The new clauses provide regulatory powers to cater for the technical details of repo transactions and enable the tax rules to be modified in the light of market developments.
Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central): This is a far from satisfactory way in which to legislate on this or any other matter. Although, as we made clear in Committee, the Opposition generally support the introduction of a repo market, we are concerned that the Government have introduced at this late stage some complex new clauses which provide for further regulations to be made to deal with matters which may be technical, but which are crucial to a number of taxpayers. That is not a satisfactory way in which to legislate, especially when one considers that in the next two days we have to consider 28 different groups of amendments and new clauses. Inevitably, the new clauses dealing with the repo market will not get the attention that they would otherwise have had.
That said, I accept that the Government are anxious to get the market under way at the beginning of next year and we shall not vote against the new clauses. However, the difficulties raised by legislating in this way are perhaps summed up by new clause 12, which provides that anyone who
"contravenes, or fails to comply with, any requirement . . . under this section . . . shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £25, 000."
That is a very stiff penalty. Taxpayers may come to the view that it is not fair for Parliament to pass legislation with little consideration and then expect taxpayers to comply with it, with a penalty of £25,000 if they get it wrong. As was said time and again in Committee, the Government should think long and hard about the approach that they are increasingly adopting towards legislating in areas where there are complications and where far greater consideration should be given to ensuring that the regime is correct.
Can the Minister tell us whether unit trusts come within the new regime as it is not entirely clear whether they do? Point 7 of the annexe to the Treasury press release makes it clear that bodies which hold gilts but have no intention of entering into repos will be permitted to transfer their gilts to the new regime to obtain a cash flow advantage.
Column 1419If that is right, what will the cost be to the Treasury? There is a suggestion that that might be a generous, perhaps unintended, consequence of the legislation.
As I have said, we generally support the thrust of what the Government are trying to do, but we believe that they must think long and hard about the way in which they have approached the matter. The introduction of so many complex new clauses and the prospect of complex regulations cannot be happy, especially for all those who will have to make the system operate.
Mr. Nelson: I am at least grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) for giving what I took to be a welcome for the intent behind the new clauses and, therefore, implicitly for the considerable saving that will arise for the taxpayer who will, we hope, have to pay a far lower amount of interest on the overall amount of the national debt and on the issuance of new gilts. We should not be introducing the new clauses unless we thought--indeed, the market concurs--that there would be very considerable savings for the taxpayer.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman finds the new clauses complex, but we had an opportunity in Committee to discuss in considerable detail the intent behind them. I acknowledge that the translation of that intent into practice, not only in the new clauses but in subsequent regulations, the code of practice and the legal agreements, involve some complexity. That is probably inevitable in a developing, innovative market of this nature where substantial amounts of interest and, therefore, potential tax are involved.
The consultations on the introduction of an open gilt market did not end until the end of January this year. The Government then needed to consider the responses made and decide whether to go ahead and what changes were needed. By that time, it was too late for the necessary legislation to be introduced during the Committee stage. It is essential that tax changes are made in the Bill if an open repo market in Government securities such as already exists in many other countries is to be introduced early in 1996.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman's specific point about the £25,000 penalty, the Inland Revenue will have to audit the scheme to ensure that gilt holders make the proper declarations and that they are eligible before the central gilts office member can hold their gilts in a special account. Those holding gilts directly through a CGO member will make their declaration to that CGO member. Otherwise, the declaration is made to a registered intermediary, who in turn makes a declaration to the CGO member.
The Inland Revenue will audit the scheme to check that only eligible persons are obtaining gilt interest gross and that all the requirements of the scheme have been met. In view of the large amount of interest which may be involved, there will be a mitigable penalty not exceeding £25,000 for any failure to comply with the legislation. I hope that the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) and his party, which professes concern to defend revenue, prevent loopholes and crack down on those who seek to exploit them, will support a sensible penalty regime which is consistent, commensurate with the size of the transactions taking place and sufficient to provide real deterrence in relation to operation outside the scheme.
Column 1420The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about unit trusts is yes, unit trusts are involved. The hon. Gentleman asked about bodies which could join the repo market to register with starred special accounts in the CGO which did not necessarily intend to participate in the repo market but thereby obtained gross payments purely for cash flow purposes. The answer is that the cash flow cost of that is included in the overall assessment of £100 million made for the cash flow cost of players and non-players in the repo market. The amount of interest or the tax forgone for a short while on interest in respect of non -players and players in the repo market is, frankly, a guesstimate. The figure of £100 million is an estimate rather than a guesstimate, but it will be within the total already announced. While I have not provided an exact answer to the last point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I hope that I have reassured him that we have already taken his point into account in the cost. I emphasise that it is a cash flow cost and not a real cost. We hope that at the end of the day the measure will be an extremely positive sum gain for the taxpayer.
Question put and agreed to .
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
`.--(1) After the section 51A of the Taxes Act 1988 inserted by section (Interest on gilt-edged securities payable without deduction of tax) above there shall be inserted the following section-- "Periodic accounting for tax on interest on giltedged securities
51B.--(1) The Treasury may by regulations provide for persons to whom payments of interest on relevant gilt-edged securities are made without deduction of tax to be required to make periodic returns to an officer of the Board of--
(a) amounts of any payments of such interest made to that person, and
(b) amounts of tax for which, assuming the payments to bear tax at the basic rate for the relevant year of assessment, that person is to be accountable under the regulations in respect of those payments; and any such regulations may further provide for the amounts of tax required to be included in any such return to become due, at the time when the return is required to be made, from the person required to make it.
(2) Regulations made by the Treasury for the purposes of this section may--
(a) specify such periods as the Treasury may consider appropriate as the periods for which returns are to be made, and in respect of which any person is to account for tax, under the regulations; (b) make provision for enabling returns under the regulations to be combined with returns under Schedule 16 and for requiring particulars of claims and calculations made for the purposes of the regulations to be set out in the returns;
(c) provide, in respect of any period for which a return is to be made by any person under the regulations, for that person to be obliged, before the end of the period, to make a payment on account of amounts that may become due from him in respect of that period; (d) impose a requirement for a special return to be made for the purposes of any obligation imposed by virtue of paragraph (c) above;
Column 1421(e) provide for the amount which, under the regulations, is to be due from any person in respect of any period to be reduced by reference to amounts which--
(i) are paid by or on behalf of that person under contracts or arrangements relating to transfers of gilt-edged securities; and (ii) are or fall to be treated as representative of interest on those securities;
(f) authorise amounts in respect of which there is an obligation to account for tax under the regulations to be treated for specified purposes of the Tax Acts as payments on which a person has borne income tax by deduction;
(g) make provision for the assessment of amounts due under the regulations and for the repayment in specified circumstances of amounts paid under the regulations;
(h) make provision for interest to be payable, at such rate as may be determined by or under the regulations, on amounts that have become due under the regulations but have not been paid;
(i) make provision, where payments of interest on any relevant gilt-edged securities would be comprised in the income of a member of Lloyd's, for obligations that may be imposed by regulations under this section on the person to whom the interest is paid to be imposed, instead, on such other person as may be described in the regulations.
(3) Regulations made by the Treasury for the purposes of this section may--
(a) include provision which for the purposes of the regulations makes any provision corresponding, with or without modifications, to any of the provisions of Schedule 16;
(b) make provision modifying the operation of Schedule 19AB in relation to cases where payments of interest on relevant gilt-edged securities are made without deduction of tax to companies carrying on pension business;
(c) include provision which requires obligations and liabilities under the regulations to be treated as obligations and liabilities to which provisions of Schedule 23 to the Finance Act 1995 (UK representatives) apply; and
(d) include provision which, for any of the purposes of the regulations, applies provisions of sections 118 and 119 of and Schedule 23 to that Act in relation to times before those provisions otherwise come into force.
(4) Regulations made by the Treasury for the purposes of this section may--
(a) make different provision for different cases; and
(b) contain such supplementary, incidental, consequential and transitional provision as appears to the Treasury to be appropriate;
and subsection (3) of section 178 of the Finance Act 1989 (extent of powers to set rates of interest) shall apply for the purposes of the power conferred by virtue of subsection (2)(h) above as it applies for the purposes of the power to make regulations under that section.
(5) In this section `relevant gilt-edged securities' means securities which are gilt-edged securities within the meaning of section 51A, other than any to which a direction of the Treasury under section 50 relates.
(6) In this section `relevant year of assessment'--
(a) in relation to a manufactured payment, means the year of assessment in which it is received by the person to whom it is paid; and
(b) in relation to any other payment of interest, means the year of assessment in which the payment is made;
and in this subsection `manufactured payment' means any payment which for the purposes of Schedule 23A is a payment of manufactured interest."