House of Commons
|Session 2007 - 08|
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General Committee Debates
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Alan Sandall, James Davies, Committee Clerks
attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 6 May 2008
[Frank Cook in the Chair]
(Except clauses 3, 5, 6, 15, 21, 49, 90 and 117 and new clauses amending section 74 of the Finance Act 2003)
Personal allowances for those aged 65 and over
Question proposed [ this day ] , That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Question again proposed.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy): I welcome you to the Committee, Mr. Cook. I was on the point of making a final response to the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge. He asked two detailed questions on the clawback for the higher amounts of personal allowances for individuals aged 65 and above, and at what points the higher amounts of personal allowances were taken away. He was also looking for a signpost to where the measures could be found.
The income limit for the taper for higher amounts of personal allowance for individuals aged 65 and above is subject to an annual statutory increase by indexation, as is provided by paragraph 57(1)(h) of the Income Tax Act 2007hon. Members can see that I have the detail. For 2007-08, the limit is £20,900, as set in the Income Tax (Indexation) (No.2) Order 2006, and for 2008-09, the limit is £21,800.
On the hon. Gentlemans second question, for 2008-09, the points at which the higher personal allowance for individuals is tapered away is £28,990 for individuals aged 65 to 74, and £29,290 for individuals aged 75 and over. If further details are admitted, I would be more than happy to return to the matter, and certainly to write to the Committee when it has had time to consider Hansard.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Abolition of starting and savings rates and creation of starting rate for savings
Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 11, in schedule 1, page 98, leave out lines 6 to 8.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 12, in schedule 1, page 98, line 13, at end insert
(6) The starting rate for savings is to be applied only on the making of a claim..
Mr. Hammond: The schedule deals with the detailed implementation of clause 3, which we already discussed in the Committee of the whole House. I shall speak to the amendments separately, and to amendment No. 12 first, because it is the simpler of the two.
By tabling amendment No. 12, I seek clarification from the Government and ask them to make explicit what is implicit in the arrangements, namely, that the starting rate for savings will be available only on the basis of claim. In other words, savers will see tax deducted at source at 20 per cent., and will then have to claim back to recover the difference between the starting rate for savings and the basic rate that has been deducted.
Proposed new section 7 of the Income Tax Act 2007, titled, The starting rate for savings, will mainly benefit low income savers. I do not believe that anybody has a problem with the principle of the measure, but the concern is that many people who are intended to benefit from it will not routinely make income tax returns or be familiar with the process of making a claim for recovery of overpaid tax on form R40. Many people, even when they become aware of the process, may feel that it involves a lot of bureaucracy for what might be a relatively small amount. What assessment have the Government made of the situation with regard to the likely take-up of the starting rate for savings on the basis that a claim will have to be made? The amendment would include in the Bill a reference to the fact that the relief is available only on the basis of a claim, for the sake of clarification. What steps do the Government intend to take in order to increase awareness of the starting rate for savings and the process by which it has to be claimed? There will be some quite complex calculations to be done.
I have a note here from one of the major accountancy firmsan internal training note setting out examples of how the starting rate for savings will work for different groups of individuals. I will just give the Committee a flavour of some of the complexity. Example 6 is:
Taxpayer aged 74, married, earned income £12,000, savings income £3,000. Earned income exceeds personal allowance by £2,970, so according to rules, no 10% band on savings income allowed. Therefore all taxed at 20%. So tax on pension income equals £594. Add tax on savings at 20% of £600. Total tax due: £1,194. But married couples allowance reduces tax bill by £653, so tax bill only £541. Therefore, this is likely to be a repayment case at year end as taxpayer would fail the R85 registration test for gross interest.
Now we are not talking here about a multinational corporation. We are talking about a 74-year-old taxpayer, with an earned income of £12,000 and a savings income of £3,000someone with quite modest affairs, unlikely to be professionally advised and likely to do his own tax return. I am sure the Minister will agree with me that, in the case of that particular taxpayer, it is quite likely that he would either fail to recognise that he is entitled to the relief, or at some point in that calculation, would simply give up and decide that life is too short and it is not worth bothering to pursue the claim.
John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that, following his earlier comments about incentives to save, anything which is this complicated would make it virtually impossible for the man in the street to understand whether or not he was going to be better off with savings and inevitably reduce incentives to save and the rate of saving?
Mr. Hammond: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the great problems as the Government wrestle with the micro-tuning of the tax relief and support system. I suspect that we will see some more of this when we hear the Governments intended response to the compensation proposals for the loss of the 10p rate. There tends to be a complex process around them, and it tends to become more and more difficult for individuals to identify whether or not they are eligible for reliefs and how they go about claiming them. It is that combination of complexity of calculation, the existing culture of low take-up and the very low absolute value of claims that often means that very few will actually benefit. That is why it seems to us on this side that this arrangement is unlikely significantly to mitigate the loss of the main 10p rate. Therefore, it will not be a major part of the package that the Governmentwe hearare going to put together as a solution.
Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): Is it not illustrative of precisely the point he is making that the Government almost invariably budget for less than 100 per cent. take-up when they introduce measures of this type?
Mr. Hammond: Indeed it is, and I was about to ask the Minister what take-up is budgeted for in the figures that have been put before the House, and on what basis the Treasurys costing of this measure has been done. We know that we get different levels of take-up in different parts of the system. This measure is likely to be particularly important to elderly people. We know that pension credit take-up is low, so we know that we are dealing with a group of people who, typically, are disinclined to take up benefits or tax relief even when they are available to them. That is a very important point for the Committee to consider in thinking about how this measure will work in practice.
Amendment No. 11 seeks to leave out lines six to eight on page 120. This is very much a probing amendment. We are trying to understand what the Government are seeking to do. There are two questions arising from the deleted lines. Lines six to eight effectively replace subsection (2) of section 12 in the Income Tax Act 2007. The words in that Act are:
(2) This is subject to
Chapters 3 to 6 of Part 9 (which provide for some income of trustees to be charged at the dividend trust rate or at the trust rate),
section 504(3)(treatment of income of unauthorised unit trust), and
any other provisions of the Income Tax Acts (apart from sections 10 and 11) which provide for Income to be charged at different rates of income tax in some circumstances.
The Bill before us today simply refers to any provisions of the Income Tax Acts, so deleting all reference to chapters three to six of part nine and section 504(3). It goes on to refer specifically to an individual, so clearly the intention is that the
I would therefore be grateful if the Minister would explain to the Committee why that decision has been taken, and what impact the exclusion of trustees will have on small trusts. Is there any reason in equity why trusts should not be entitled to the same relief that is available to individuals. Once again, this is a stealth tax on trusts. It has been slipped into the small print here without any fanfare or announcement, and I think that the Committee is entitled to an explanation from the Minister. After all, the income of trustees is eligible under the current regimethe pre-Finance Bill 2008 regimefor the savings rate, and is now not eligible for the starting rate for savings. That seems illogical and inequitable, so I would be grateful for the Ministers comments on that.
The second part of the inserted subsection makes the starting rate of savings subject to any other provisions of the 2007 Act. I would just like to hear clearly from the Minister that this is not a denial of starting rate for savings in any other cases, or a protection of a more generous treatment. I am not expressing myself terribly well. It is unclear to me whether the words in this section are intended to deny privileged treatment to some individuals, or to protect an otherwise more privileged treatment. Where we see references to provisions elsewhere,
which provide for income of an individual to be charged at different rates of income tax in some circumstances,
the explanatory notes refer to the lower rate for dividends. Are there any other circumstances in which this provision will be disapplied in order to apply a provision elsewhere, in other statutes? In those cases, are we denying a more favourable treatment by denying the starting rate for savings; or are we protecting a treatment that is more favourable than the starting rate for savings? I hope that that is clear. Will the Minister tell us whether there are circumstances, other than dividends taxed at the dividend ordinary rate, in which the provision of this subsection bite?
Jane Kennedy: This schedule, together with schedule 3, removes the 10 per cent. starting rate on income tax for non-savings income, it abolishes the now unnecessary savings rate of 20 per cent.I shall say in a moment why that is sensibleand it creates a new starting rate of 10 per cent. for savings income, which effectively reverts to the way it was. It also makes consequential amendments to other legislation affected by the changes.
For many years, savings income has been taxed at 10 per cent., 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. Before this year, the income tax system taxed non-savings income at 10 per cent., 22 per cent. and 40 per cent. The 40 per cent. band therefore applies to savings and non-savings income. A separate rate of 20 per cent. existed that applied only to savings. Since the new non-savings income tax rates are 20 per cent. and 40 per cent., the special savings rate is no longer necessary, as the 20 per cent. band applies also to savings income. However, as the 10 per cent. starting rate has been abolished, it is necessary to introduce a new provision to ensure that a 10 per cent. starting rate for savings income is available. That is the purpose of the changes that we are making.
Mr. Hammond: Is the 20 per cent. rate that existed under the previous arrangement available to trustees?
Jane Kennedy: I will come to that in a moment. I have some information that will help, but it is a complex area and I want first to deal with the amendments. They are fair and raise sensible points about the complexity of the arrangements that people have to make when claiming tax rebates.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): I wish for a bit more clarity. The Minister said that the 10 per cent. rate would still be available for savings. However, if I understand it correctly, that is not simply up to the limit of £2,320. If the non-savings taxable income exceeds that starting rate limit, the 10 per cent. rate does not apply; it is taxed at 20 per cent. Am I correct?
Jane Kennedy: I am not sure that I entirely understand the question. There are a number of bands of income, and there are rules about which are selected first before the thresholds apply. It depends on whether it is earned income or savings income.
Jane Kennedy: I appreciate that, but I am trying to answer the question. If it helps, he is correct.
The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge tabled two amendments. He and I both recognise the importance of savings in providing people with independence throughout their lives. Savings also provide security should things go wrong, and comfort in retirement. The Government want more people to enjoy those benefits. About 3 million people, mostly those on low incomes, are eligible for the 10 per cent. rate on savings income. We maintained the savings rate in order to continue to reward saving; we also make available vehicles to encourage others to save, including individual savings accounts and the child trust fund.
I shall deal first with amendment No. 11. I wanted to hear what the hon. Gentleman had to say on both amendments, because it was difficult to understand their purpose. As I understand it, having heard him and read the amendments, amendment No. 11 would effectively remove a signpost to provisions that apply different rates of tax to certain types of income falling within the starting rate limit for savings, particularly dividend income, which is taxable at special rates. Where dividend income falls within the basic rate band, it is taxable at the 10 per cent. dividend ordinary rate, as I said earlier.
The only result of removing the signpost would be to create confusion and uncertainty about which rate of tax applies where there are special rates. It might also be seen as seeking to widen the availability of the 10 per cent. starting rate for savings beyond savings income, creating further uncertainty. Therefore, I see no benefit in the amendment.
Mr. Hammond: I understand what the Financial Secretary is saying about the lower dividend rate. She says that the amendment would remove a signpost and thereby reduce the clarity. If the signpost that I propose to remove said, This does not apply where the lower dividend rate applies, I would agree with her, but it does not. It says that it does not apply where individuals are to be
charged at different rates of income tax in some circumstances.
Are there any circumstances other than the lower dividend rate in which that will not apply, and if so, what are they and what will be the impact on taxpayers in those circumstances?
Jane Kennedy: No new circumstances are being introduced as part of these changes, so no further people will be caught in the way that the hon. Gentleman appears to fear they might be. The new starting rate for savings protects the position of individuals and does not deny anyone a 10 per cent. rate of income tax. In other words, nothing is broadly changing the arrangements that are already in place. He asked about the position of trustees and whether the starting rate for savings was not available for trusts. The starting rate for savings is for individuals. Trustees are not individuals, so the rate for trusts are unchanged, and that is covered by section 11 of the Income Tax Act. He asked me about the rate for trustees, and I can confirm that 20 per cent. is the rate.
Amendment No. 12 would include an additional provision for the starting rate for savings.
Mr. Hammond: I am not sure that I have understood what the Minister said. Was she confirming that the 20 per cent. savings rate is available to trustees, but that the 10 per cent. starting rate for savings will not be available to trustees? If that is the case, can she explain to the Committee why the treatment of trustees has changed?
Jane Kennedy: I am not aware that there is a change in the treatment of trustees. We are talking about the savings rate as it applies to individual taxpayers, as opposed to trustees. That is the advice, as I have it, and I will want to test that against the hon. Gentlemans further challenge to it. That is certainly my understanding of the position.
On amendment No. 12, I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the complexity and about the need for an individual to make a formal claim. The amendment seeks to include the additional provision from the starting rate for savings, so that it would be applied only where such a formal claim is made. Individuals are not required to claim a rate of tax. The phrase formal claim has a particular meaning. The rates of tax that apply are statutory and mandatory. However, the starting rate of savings only applies to a relatively small number of individuals whose non-savings income does not exceed their personal allowances, plus £2,320. Given that relatively unusual combination of different incomes, it is not possible for Her Majestys Revenue and Customs to put in place a way of deducting 10 per cent. income at source from savings income that is liable at that rate.
Stewart Hosie: I appreciate the complexity of the issues that the Minister is describing, but I am at a loss on dividend income, which is taxed at 10 per cent. up to the basic rate and at 32.5 per cent. thereafter. There is no abolition of the 10p rate if the dividend income exceeds the basic rate at which it would apply, which is the case with savings income. I am not sure why that can be achieved with dividends, but not with non-dividend savings income.
Jane Kennedy: Dividends are subject to tax at both the corporate and shareholder level, but the shareholder is provided with a 10 per cent. non-payable tax credit to reduce the second layer of tax in recognition of the tax already paid at the corporate level. So dividend income is treated differently. The initial corporate tax is therefore partly mitigated by the tax credit. Individuals are entitled to the 10p rate on all or some of their savings income and will receive it when they complete a self-assessment tax return or if they claim a repayment on an informal claim form.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Is not the problem that most people in such a situation will not fill in self-assessment tax returns, which are extremely complicated? Most people will not bother.
Jane Kennedy: I am not advised that that would apply to most people, and I want to answer some of the specific questions on this point. Those eligible for the 10 per cent. rate claim back their money from HMRC using R40 forms, which, along with a comprehensive guide, are published on the HMRC website, but they are also available through the Directgov website. HMRC has promoted, and will continue to promote, the ability to claim through communications with taxpayers, advertising and its website. As I have said, it has recently provided further guidance on the new savings starting rate on its website, and it publishes a detailed leaflet available to banks and building societies to give to their customers. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge would probably reply, That is fine, as long as the guidance is clear.
Mr. Hammond: The Committee will understand my concern. It is great to put guidance on websites, but some of the people about whom we are talking might not pursue such matters vigorously. For example, older people who might be unfamiliar with the world of Government websitesa fascinating subject in itselfmight not pursue them. However, I should like to respond to the Minister on a specific point: a few moments ago, she said that HMRC cannot give that relief at source for a variety of reasons. However, I understand that, under the R85 procedure, it is possible for some classes of individual to have that rate applied to them at source. For the Committees benefit, will she clarify what R85 is and how it works?
Jane Kennedy: A very small number of people qualify for the rebateif we want to call it that. They will be those whose incomes fall below the threshold and whose savings income, therefore, will be taken into account. A few people will have a very small savings income representing their entire income. The main way in which the claim is made is through the R40 form. I shall want to review the availability of the advice and
Mr. Hammond: I understand why the Government are reluctant to go down that route, but it strikes me that there are two ways of doing iteither give the relief automatically, then claim it back, or do not give the relief automatically.
Sitting suspended for Division s in the House.
Jane Kennedy: I was finishing my response to the amendments and was particularly interested to know the thinking behind amendment No. 12 of the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge. I have made note of some of his suggestions. I hope to answer a couple of questions to his assistance. He was probing around the issue of HMRC and asked why arrangements cannot be made for tax to be deducted at source. I said that that was because, generally, the payment of interest on savings is subject to tax for a small group of taxpayers. Bank and building societies deduct tax at 20 per cent. It is not possible for banks to predict a customers income and to deduct at 10 per cent. or, indeed, at 40 per cent., so the R85 form to which the hon. Gentleman referred is used by non-taxpayers to self-certify that they are non-taxpayers. In those circumstances, the bank does not deduct the tax at source.
Mr. Hammond: I have just remembered what I was saying to the Minister in my intervention. The way in which to ensure that people receive the relief would not be to deduct 10 per cent. at source and then recover the additional amounts. We would not have the problem of potentially large numbers of people failing to claim the relief to which they were entitled. I am sure that the right hon. Lady can also imagine the cacophony of objection to such a suggestion from HMRC, but it is important that we recognise that we have two players of unequal strength: on the one hand, there is HMRC and, on the other hand, is the individual low-income taxpayer. Matters are so structured that the taxpayer must do all the running to get what he is entitled to, while it should be possible, at least in theory, to structure matters the other way round, so that HMRC had to do the running to recover the additional tax when it was due.
Jane Kennedy: How would the banks distinguish whose savings income was to be taxed at 10 per cent. or otherwise? We would get into the situation where the banks could not distinguish between those who owed more tax because their thresholds did not apply and were not part of the small group that was entitled to a rebate. We would have just as difficult a relationship between HMRC and the taxpayer, as HMRC sought to recover the tax that it was owed.
Mr. Hammond: I do not seek to play down the difficulties, but it could be possible to have a self-certification regime along the lines of that outlined by the right hon. Lady for non-taxpayers. Presumably, someone who self-certifies as a non-taxpayer will be subject to HMRC compliance checks and will be required to pay tax retrospectively if it turns out that they were, in fact, liable to pay tax on the amount. It is a theoretical possibility. I am seeking to help her, because I assume that she shares our objective of ensuring maximum take-up of the relief by those who are entitled to it. That is perhaps a thought to throw into the pot.
Jane Kennedy: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we share the same objective, although there is a problem with tackling the issue along the lines that he suggested. Although it is theoretically possible, it would draw more people into having to make a self-assessment return than applies at the moment. Furthermore, it is not advisable for a bank or building society to accept a taxpayers self-certification that they are in a particular band. That would put a greater administrative burden on banks and building societies. Would they be responsible for determining whether the individual had provided a correct self-certified assessment? Where does the responsibility lie? I believe that banks and building societies would be somewhat nervous of that approach. As he suggests, it is theoretically possible. However, it is probably better to encourage HMRC to advertise to people who are in receipt of savings income that such relief is available and seek the good offices of banks and building societies to do that.
Amendment No. 12 seems to make no change to the long-established position, other than to put the requirement for a formal claim on the statute book. I therefore fail to see any benefit in either of the amendments that the hon. Gentleman has proposed. I hope that they were proposed as probing amendments to get on the record some of the Governments thinking and how HMRC is dealing with the issues that he rightly raises.
I hope that members of the Committee will recognise that the 10p rate is a valuable aid to saving for those on low incomes. I assure hon. Members that the rules have not changed. Individuals who had savings income taxable at the 10p starting rate in 2007-08 are likely to have savings income taxable at the same rate in the next year.
Mr. Hammond: If I understand the Minister correctly, she is saying that those who had income taxable at the starting rate in 2007-08 are likely to have income taxable at the starting rate for savings in 2008-09. That is not my understanding, for the very reason that the hon. Member for Dundee, East has set out in the debate. The starting rate for savings is applicable only to the first £2,350 of savings income, where the individual does not have other earnings up to the personal allowance limit. Many people who would have benefited from the 10p income tax rate and who have savings income will not benefit from the starting rate for savings because the savings income will be taken as the top tranche of income. I think that that is correct. The Financial Secretary will correct me if I am wrong.
Jane Kennedy: Notwithstanding the intervention that the hon. Member for Dundee, East made earlier, the description that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge has just given is not how I understand the position. I will double check that because I understand that the rules have not changed. Individuals who had savings income taxable at the 10 per cent. starting rate for 2007-08 are likely to have savings income taxable at the 10 per cent. starting rate in 2008-09.
Stewart Hosie: That is true only in circumstances where they do not earn any money that would accrue normal taxation. As soon as they breach the threshold, the 10p rate goes, even up to £2,320, and they pay at the higher rate thereafter. For the record, that is in table A3 of the Red Book.
Jane Kennedy: I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right. We are not in contradiction. Having had a useful debate about this group of proposals, I hope that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge will withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Hammond: The Minister is correct that the amendments were tabled as probing amendments. I said explicitly that amendment No. 12 was tabled with a view to seeking clarification from the Government. I should like to place on the record that any suggestion that the introduction, by way of amendment, of an explicit requirement to make a claim was not intended to change the current situation, but merely to make explicit the current situation and to probe the Minister on the consequences.
On that last point, I think I am right in saying that we do not disagree, but the Minister was in danger at one point of inadvertently misrepresenting the situation. Somebody who earned £12,235 last year, of which £10,000 was earned and £2,235 was savings income, would have paid 10 per cent. on part of their income. That personagain earning £10,000 and having £2,235 of savings incomewill not, as I understand it, pay 10 per cent. on any of their income this year. So that it is a significant change.
I did not quite hear the Minister clarify two points in her response. I asked her what the Treasurys estimate of the uptake of the relief is. This goes to the central point that we have been discussing: what percentage of people entitled to the relief does the Treasury expect to claim and has it used as the basis of its modelling of the likely cost of the measure? The Minister did not answer that question. Although I accept the difficulties of devising a system that gives the relief automatically, in the absence of an indication of what the expected uptake is, it is very difficult to see whether this is a real, big problem or just a real, small problem. It would have been helpful if the Minister had given us some figures for the Treasurys uptake.
I am also still entirely missing clarification on whether any other form of savings income, other than dividend income, will not be subject to the starting rate for the savings taxation regime. The Minister was slightly ambiguous in her answer. She made clear that dividend income was such a form of income. However, the Committee would find it interesting and useful to know what other form of savings income, if there is any, will not be subject to the starting rate for savings.
Jane Kennedy: The hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to say that I would be happy to provide the information, and I will do so in writing if he agrees. As some detail is involved, I think that he would find it helpful if I sent it in writing.
Mr. Hammond: I am grateful to the Minister for that, and given that these are probing amendments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
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