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Mr. Ivan Lewis: Currently most pension funds may invest in residential property, and many do. Pension tax simplification, which replaces the numerous existing tax regimes with a universal regime for tax-privileged pension savings, will also allow Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) and Small Self-Administered Schemes (SSASs) to invest in residential property from 6 April 2006. This new regime will provide greater flexibility to some 15 million pension savers.
Creating a single set of allowable investments across all pension schemes fits the requirement to create a single regime for tax privileged pension saving and corrects an existing distortion by giving investors greater choice.
Paragraphs 55 and 56 of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) Simplifying the Taxation of Pensions" published in April 2004, which can be found at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ria/simplifying-pensions.pdf deal specifically with the potential consequences of allowing residential property into SIPPs and SSASs.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of theExchequer how many staff at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are engaged in the handling, processing and analysis of information returned on form IHT205. 
Dawn Primarolo: No staff spend their whole time dealing with form IHT205, but the department estimates that it occupies the equivalent of about five full-time units. This compares to eight units dealing with the smaller number of excepted estates" under the pre-2004 arrangements, plus further staff dealing with estates which were then required to submit a full IHT return but would now be able to use form IHT205. The new arrangements are designed to help executors get things right first time and have eliminated most of the follow-up inquiries which used to be necessary. Burdens on executors have reduced accordingly.
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 7 July 2005, Official Report, column 620W, on science investment, by what amount private sector investment would need to (a) increase and (b) decrease to cause him to change the projected real-terms average annual growth of 5.8 per cent. in public sector funding for the science base over the next three years as outlined in the 2004 Spending Review. 
The spending plans for the next three years are as stated in the 2004 Spending Review. The 2004 Spending Review increased funding for the public science base, through the DTI and DfES, at an average annual rate of 5.8 per cent. in real terms over the Spending Review 2004 period (200405 to 200708). The Government have no plans to change its commitment to the public science base over the 2004 Spending Review period, irrespective of levels of private sector investment in R&D over the same period.
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many seal skins were (a) imported into and (b) exported from the UK in each of the last five years, broken down by species; and how much marine mammal oil was (i) imported into and (ii) exported from the UK in each year. 
Dawn Primarolo: Figures on the imports and exports of seal skins and marine mammal oil are published in the Overseas Trade Statistics by HM Revenue and Customs which are available in the Library of the House and via www.uktradeinfo.com, which includes latest information. HM Revenue and Customs strongly suspects trade recorded against 43031010 in recent years has arisen as a result of miscoding by the importers concerned. Ongoing activities to ensure the quality of the trade statistics have resulted in some adjustments to the data; some further amendments may be necessary.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of self assessment tax payers paid their tax liability by (a) the due date and (b) within 12 months of the due date in each of the last five years for which information is available. 
Dawn Primarolo: Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs only hold the information requested from year 200102. The following table shows the number of balancing payments paid by the due date expressed as a percentage of the number of self assessment taxpayers who have filed their returns.
|Tax year||Percentage of taxpayers who pay by the due date||Percentage of taxpayers who pay within 12 months of the due date|
|Due 31 January 2003||89.3||98.6|
|Due 31 January 2004||89.8||98.7|
|Due 31 January 2005||88.6||98.7|
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate the Department has made of the aggregate annual cost to those required to complete stamp duty land tax returns of solicitors' work involved in completing such returns (a) in respect of all land transactions and (b) in respect of those land transactions in which no stamp duty land tax is payable. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: HM Revenue and Customs does not have an estimate of the compliance costs of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on solicitors, conveyancers and other practitioners, nor of the costs passed on to purchasers in respect of completion of land transaction returns, regardless of whether SDLT is payable.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many transactions in (a) England, (b) Wales, (c) Scotland, (d) the UK and (e) each Government office region Stamp Duty was paid in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The estimated number of residential transactions, where Stamp Duty was payable, is given in the following table for the years and regions for which the information is available. Stamp Duty was payable for these years if the value of the transaction was above the £60,000 threshold, except for transactions from 30 November 2001 with values above £60,000 and up to £150,000 in certain disadvantaged areas, which were relieved from Stamp Duty.
|Yorkshire and the Humber||32||32||39||46||44||51||47|
|East of England||70||70||87||96||109||121||97|
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of stamp duty land tax returns has been rejected as incorrectly completed by HM Revenue and Customs since the introduction of the form; and what percentage of those so rejected have subsequently been accepted as correct without amendment. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
In 2005 the percentage of returns received in which HMRC sought additional information or clarification of information included in stamp duty land tax returns has averaged approximately 33 per cent. A recent review suggested that in approximately 5 per cent. of cases received, one or more fields were either not captured or were misinterpreted during the scanning process. This figure includes returns where the handwriting results in information being captured incorrectly. As a result of this review, HMRC have identified a number of modifications which will quickly reduce the percentage of cases in which there is a scanning error.
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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many copies of note TC 602 have been printed; what the instructions are for circulation thereof; and how many tax credit recipients have received a copy with each (a) payment and (b) assessment. 
Dawn Primarolo: Form TC 602 is a computer-generated notice (accompanied by guidance notes) issued by HMRC under section 23 of the Tax Credits Act 2002. Its purpose is to set out the amount of tax credit entitlement and how that entitlement will be paid.
An award notice is issued whenever the award or payment details change. Legislation requires that separate notices be issued to each individual in a joint award. Where a claim is made, or a change of circumstance is notified, via the internet an additional copy of each notice is provided for claimants to sign and return to confirm that the details shown are correct.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information on (a) official error in payment of and (b) overpayment of tax credit is collated on a (i) quarterly, (ii) half-yearly and (iii) annual basis; and if he will make a statement. 
In general, overpayments can only be established at the end of year, when families report their finalised income and circumstances. Information about overpayments is published in the spring of each year under National Statistics.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the computer problems which have been experienced by the Inland Revenue Tax Credits department over the last two years. 
Dawn Primarolo: It is still the case that the system is stable in terms of speed and accessibility. As I have made clear in recent statements and debates, there has been IT problems which have affected system performance, some of which were mentioned during the PAC hearing on 24 January 2005. Others which have come to light more recently were mentioned in HMRC's contribution to the Ombudsman's recent special report on tax credits. These problems are being resolved as they arise, and none is currently leaving claimants without payment.
Information about the number of people employed to handle overpayments and underpayments in HM Revenue and Customs is not available, as it is not organised along these dividing lines.
19 Jul 2005 : Column 1700W
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been paid out to tax credit claimants in compensation for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs errors in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what his latest estimate is of the number of compensation payments due to errors and delays in the Tax Credit Office in (a) 200304, (b) 200405 and (c) 200506; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what decisions his Department made in (a) 2002 and (b) 2003 about notifying tax credit claimants of their compensation entitlements following incorrect payments of the credits due to official error and IT problems; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: The circumstances in which HM Revenue and Customs will make compensation payments to its customers are explained in the Department's Code of Practice 1 Putting things right" which is available at www.hmrc.gov.uk. The Department will pay compensation for reasonable costs incurred as a direct result of their mistakes or delays and to recognise worry and distress caused by those mistakes and delays. They do not keep separate details of compensation payments made specifically due to errors or delays.
For details of compensation payments the Department made to tax credits claimants in 200203, 200304 and 200405, I refer the hon. Members to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 4 July 2005, Official Report, columns 9596W.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) number and (b) value was of overpayments of (i) working families tax credit and (ii) family credit for each year from 199596 to 200203; and if he will make a statement. 
Dawn Primarolo: Working families tax credit and family credit awards were fixed for 26 weeks. They were based on a snapshot of income and circumstances around the time of claim, and were not amended in any circumstances for the length of the award, regardless of a rise or fall in income or addition of, for example, another child. The fixed award period meant that it is not possible to calculate under or overpayments.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment his Department has made of the (a) costs and (b) effects of returning to a fixed system of tax credit awards; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government carefully examined the issue of how tax credits could respond to changes in families income and circumstances, and consulted on it when designing the child and working tax credits. A consultation document, 'New Tax Credits Supporting families, making work pay and tackling poverty', was published in July 2001. In the light of that consultation exercise, the April 2002 publication
19 Jul 2005 : Column 1701W
The Child and Working Tax Credits: The Modernisation of Britain's Tax and Benefit System Number Ten" set out how the system would work.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of reforming the tax credits system to provide benefits for carers; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 15 June from the right hon. Member for Birkenhead regarding the tax credits of his constituent, Mrs. Smith. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his latest estimate is of the total number of staff members involved in all forms of tax credit administration; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average time taken to resolve a dispute over therecovery of overpaid tax credits was in (a) 200304 and (b) 200405; and what the figure is to date in 200506. 
Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many changes have been made to child and working tax credit award notices and the information included with them; and if he will place samples of each in the Library. 
Dawn Primarolo: HMRC review and update all of the main tax credits forms, including the award notice, each year. For April 2006, they plan to introduce an improved version of the notice that has been developed in conjunction with representative groups. Copies of the new design have been placed in the Library today.
Dawn Primarolo: Estimates of the number of in-work families (broken down by families with and without children) in each region, local authority and constituency with tax credits for 200304 awards, based on final family circumstances and incomes for 200304, appear in the HMRC statistical publication Child and Working Tax Credits Statistics. Finalised Awards 200304. Geographical analyses." More recent provisional estimates for in-work families, as at selected dates in 200405, in each such area appear in the publication Child and Working Tax Credit Statistics Geographical analyses." The estimates are based on samples and are subject to significant sampling uncertainty.
Dawn Primarolo: On average for 200304 5.7 million families benefited from child tax credit and working tax credit and initial analysis suggests that in its first year, child tax credit achieved an estimated take-up rate of 80 per cent. by caseload. Further work to produce final take-up rate estimates for child tax credit and working tax credit for 200304 is continuing and we expect this analysis to be completed towards the end of 200506.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of (a) new claims, (b) renewals and (c) changes of circumstance within the tax credit system were decided accurately in 200304. 
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