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TREASURY

Unemployment

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the rates of unemployment of (a) (i) Catholics and (ii) Protestants in Northern Ireland and (b) (1) Afro-Caribbeans and (2) Asians in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [23020]

Mrs. Liddell: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the chief executive of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Tim Holt to Mr. Robert McCartney, dated 27 January 1998:



27 Jan 1998 : Column: 148


ILO unemployment rates

Average of four quarters autumn 1996 to summer 1997
Northern Ireland
Catholics12.0
Protestants6.6
England and Wales
Black(12)20.4
Asian(13)14.5

(12) Black-African, Black-Caribbean and Black-other (excluding Black-mixed).

(13) Indian and Pakistani/Bangladeshi.


Pension Contributions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the revenue from restricting the rate of tax relief on (a) employee pension contributions and (b) employer pension contributions to (i) the standard rate of income tax and (ii) to 20 per cent. [23109]

Dawn Primarolo: Estimates of the full year yield for 1998-99 of restricting income tax relief for employees' and employers' contributions to occupational and personal pensions are given in the table. They do not take account of any behavioural effects which might result from such changes.

£ million
Relief forYield from restricting income tax relief to
23 per cent.20 per cent.
Employees' pension contributions(14)7001,100
Employers' pension contributions(15)9501,600

(14) Based on a projection of the 1995-96 survey of personal incomes and other survey and administrative data.

(15) Based on a projection of figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics from a variety of sources.


Pensioners (Tax Self-assessment)

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Inland Revenue has taken to ensure that pensioners are made aware of the need to return their self-assessment forms in time; and what proposals he has to allow an extension of time for such people. [23458]

Dawn Primarolo: Only a small minority of pensioners are required to complete self assessment tax returns. The Inland Revenue has produced written guidance about people who receive pensions, explaining the time limit for completing their returns, and the Inland Revenue's publicity campaign has included a significant amount of advertisement on national television and radio, designed to raise awareness of the filing date amongst all sections of the population affected by self assessment. As I explained to the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) on 14 January, there are no plans to extend the filing date of 31 January 1998.

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Income Tax

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list for each benefit paid by (a) central and (b) local government (i) whether it is taxable and for what reasons and (ii) his estimate of the amount of income tax raised in the last year for which figures are available. [23456]

Dawn Primarolo: A list of the most readily identifiable non-taxable benefits is as follows:













































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A list of the taxable benefits paid by central government is given in the following table, along with the forecast tax yield from each benefit in 1998-99.

BenefitYield in a full year from taxing benefit (£ million)
Retirement Pension (including SERPS and over 80s additions)2,200
Widow's Pension and Widowed Mother's Allowance150
Invalid Care Allowance20
Contributory Jobseekers Allowance60
Income Based Jobseekers Allowance100
Statutory Maternity Pay90
Incapacity Benefit received for more than 28 weeks of incapacity130
Industrial Death Benefit5

Statutory Sick Pay is a taxable benefit which is mainly paid by employers. It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the tax yield from the benefit.

A complete list of benefits could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Debts

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many and what percentage of outstanding debts to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise were recovered by his Department over the most recent period for which figures are available; what methods were employed; and in what percentage of cases litigation was pursued. [23504]

Dawn Primarolo: Customs and Excise's debt management objective in 1996-97 was to ensure that month end arrears did not exceed 2.3 per cent. of 12 months payment trader liability. This was achieved with a figure of 2.21 per cent. Approximately 5 million separate debts were referred to Inland Revenue local offices in the year ending 31 October 1996, of which approximately 50 per cent. (2.5 million) were paid in that period.

In the first instance, both Departments will issue a letter to the taxpayer. Inland Revenue may also telephone or visit the taxpayer's home or business premises before recovery action is taken.

The method of recovery adopted will depend on the circumstances and nature of any particular case. Inland Revenue local offices will consider granting a period of time in which to pay, taking distraint action, commencing summary proceedings or instigating county court proceedings or similar actions in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If necessary, cases will be referred to the Inland Revenue's special enforcement offices for further action, including winding up or bankruptcy proceedings. Customs, in addition to granting a period of time in which to pay, would levy distress by certificated bailiffs (or sheriff officers in Scotland), or the use of court process which may lead to bankruptcy or winding up. In addition, Customs may, in appropriate cases, support voluntary arrangement proposals received from debtors.

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the expenditure incurred by the Inland Revenue and by Customs and

27 Jan 1998 : Column: 151

Excise in the recovery of debts for the most recent period for which figures are available; and what was the total amount recovered as a result. [23503]

Dawn Primarolo: In the financial year 1996-97, the expenditure incurred by Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue in the recovery of debt was £37 million and £165 million respectively.

It is not possible to quantify the amount recovered as a direct result of that expenditure. In the financial year 1996-97, Customs discharged £2.5 billion of debt, which included tax collected, tax written off as irrecoverable at the time and accounting adjustments. The Inland Revenue does not separately measure the total amount of overdue tax that is collected as a direct result of action taken to pursue it during the year.

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the total value of debts outstanding to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise; what resources are being devoted by his Department to their recovery; and what is the average age of such debts. [23502]

Dawn Primarolo: Customs and Excise estimates that, on average, some £1,400 million of unpaid liability is in the system at any one time. The total value of debts outstanding to the Inland Revenue at 31 October 1996--the latest date for which figures are available--was approximately £4.4 billion.

During the financial year 1996-97, Customs and Excise allocated £37 million to debt recovery, and the cost involved in Inland Revenue recovering debt was £165 million.

At the end of the financial year 1996-97, Customs and Excise estimates that approximately 68 per cent. of unpaid liability was less than six months old. The Inland Revenue estimates that £2.5 billion had been outstanding for more than three months at 31 October 1996.


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