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Fiscal Deficit

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the level of fiscal deficit in the current financial year. [19253]

Mr. Gordon Brown: Following today's announcement by the Bank of England that Sir Andrew Large is to retire as Deputy Governor (Financial Stability), the Queen has been pleased to appoint, under the Bank of England Act 1998, Sir John Gieve to succeed him. This appointment will take effect in January 2006.

Budget 2005 set out the Government's forecasts for the public finances up until 2009–10. These showed that the Government are meeting their strict fiscal rules over the economic cycle. Updated economic and fiscal projections will be provided in the pre- Budget report later this year.

National Insurance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to aggregate earnings where people are
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doing more than one job and earning less than the lower earnings limit for national insurance contribution purposes; and if he will make a statement. [18644]

Dawn Primarolo: Each employment is treated separately for national insurance contributions purposes. The aggregation of the earnings of people doing more than one job who are earning below the lower earnings limit, would therefore be administratively extremely complex for employers.

NHS Trusts

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the NHS trusts which owe sums in respect of PAYE and national insurance contributions relating to August or earlier to HM Revenue and Customs, indicating the amount by which each of these trusts is in arrears. [17957]

Dawn Primarolo: For reasons of confidentiality Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are unable to comment on individual customers.

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total sum outstanding from NHS trusts to HM Revenue and Customs is in respect of PAYE and national insurance contributions deducted which relate to August or earlier. [17958]

Dawn Primarolo: Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs monitors employers' performance at local level but does not collate information about particular categories of employer so the overall figures requested are not readily available.

Online Tax Collection

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what target time has been set by HM Revenue and Customs to process online tax returns for the main categories of taxpayers; and what the (a) average and (b) maximum time taken was in the latest period for which figures are available. [17664]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC do not have a specific target for processing online tax returns. For the vast majority of SA taxpayers who submit their returns online their return will be processed within 24 hours of them submitting it. However, on occasions (e.g. when maintenance work needs to be carried out on the system) this may extend to a few days. All SA taxpayers submitting their returns online get an electronic notification when their return has been received into the HMRC system. We do not hold information on the maximum time taken to process an online return.

Scottish Charity Title Unit

Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what guidance his Department issues to the staff of the Scottish Charity Title Unit to assist them in determining whether a body can be deemed to be established for charitable purposes only; and whether this guidance is available to the public; [17753]

(2) what human resources his Department has allocated to the function of charity recognition in Scotland in each of the last five years, expressed as full-time equivalents and broken down by grade; [17754]
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(3) what mechanism exists for (a) appeal and (b) review of applications that have been rejected by the Scottish Charity Title Unit; and how many such reviews have taken place in each of the last five years; [17755]

(4) how many applications for charity recognition the Scottish Charity Title Unit has received in each of the last five years; and how many of these (a) have been approved, (b) have been rejected and (c) are still pending; [17756]

(5) what the average length of time taken is from receipt of an initial set of documents by the Scottish Charity Title Unit in application for charity recognition to notification of approval or rejection; and how many applications are pending; [17757]

(6) what the most common reasons are for rejection of applications for charity recognition by HM Revenue and Customs Scottish Charity Title Unit. [17758]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: No formal guidance is issued to the staff of HM Revenue and Customs (Charities Title Group). Decisions on determining whether a body is charitable for tax purposes are made by reference to legal precedent and case law.

Over the past five years a team of five staff have handled the recognition of charities in Scotland for tax purposes.

Where HM Revenue and Customs determines that an applicant is not entitled to charitable tax reliefs, the applicants can appeal through the law courts. The outcome of any such appeal will form a legal precedent.

It is not possible to determine the number of applications received, as the available data does not relate exclusively to applications for charitable status. Statistics on approvals and rejection are only available from January 2003 and are reproduced in the following table:
Applications for charity recognition

2005 (January to 12 October)65382

It would not be cost-effective to identify the number of applications pending.

There are no statistics available for the average time taken from receipt of an application for recognition to notification of approval or rejection of that application. HM Revenue and Customs responds to first-time applications in an average of 27 days. In most cases additional information is required before a decision can be made on whether the application is approved or rejected. It is not possible to identify the total number of applications pending.

If an application is rejected it will be because the objects as expressed, or the underlying activities are nor exclusively charitable and/or the application fails the public benefit test.
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Self-Assessment Tax Returns

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the average cost of administering a self-assessment tax return in the latest year for which figures are available. [18629]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC's estimate of the cost of administering self-assessment is set out in the NAO report: Filing of Income Tax Self Assessment Returns (published 20 June). Paragraph 4.2 shows the direct costs of administering the return for 2002–03 as £220 million or an average of £22 per return issued. The cost for 2003–04 increased marginally to £223 million reflecting increased customer support, the average cost per return issued remains £22.

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many UK PAYE taxpayers receive a notice of coding from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs but do not receive a self-assessment return. [17965]

Dawn Primarolo: For the tax year 2004–05 it is estimated that some 11.7 million taxpayers received a notice of coding but were not issued a tax return.

Stamp Duty

Adam Price: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the difficulties experienced by solicitors and homeowners with the scanning of stamp duty land tax forms at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. [17237]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Following concerns from the Law Society that a percentage of land transaction returns were rejected because of scanning errors, HMRC agreed to carry out in-depth research into the issue of forms SDLT8 (requests for further information relating to incomplete or incorrectly completed returns). This 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 identified a number of modifications which would quickly reduce the percentage of cases in which there is a scanning error. All of the recommendations from the report have now been implemented. As a result of these changes we estimate that about 1 per cent. of cases will now have SDLT8s issued because of scanning issues. HMRC are continuing to work with the Law Society and other stakeholders in order to further reduce these incidents.

Virtually all of these exceptions arise because of handwriting quality. The report can be found on HMRC's website at

Since 26 August 2005, it has been possible to file SDLT returns on-line directly into the SDLT automated system. Using this service removes the need to use post, and (because of the in-built checks) has a very high probability of returns being correct first time. If complete information is supplied, on-line filing produces an instant acknowledgement that the return has been accepted. HMRC is working with representative bodies to encourage the use of the service.
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