Transactions in securities: company distributions

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 30 Mehefin 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 34 stand part.

Amendment 7, in clause 35, page 57, line 2, at end add—

‘(4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall, within one year of the passing of this Act, publish a report on the impact of this section on deterring tax avoidance during the procedure of distributions during a winding up.”

Clause 35 stand part.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I will refer first to amendments 7 and 8, which I think we are dealing with in this group.

Order. Amendment 8 is not in this group.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I beg your pardon, Sir—I am shuffling a lot of papers—and I am grateful to you for your guidance.

Amendment 7 is the usual amendment—no doubt the Minister will say the timeframe is too premature—to have a report from the Chancellor of the Exchequer within one year, on how efficient or otherwise the provisions in clause 35 are at deterring tax avoidance during wind-ups.

Clause 33 relates to transactions and securities. We welcome the tax avoidance measures introduced by the Government. I understand from a response from HMRC that guidance is due to be published on these sorts of issues. Can the Minister say when that is likely to be?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Clauses 33 and 34 will amend the transactions in securities legislation, which focuses on transactions where one of the main purposes is to obtain a tax advantage. Clause 35 will introduce a new targeted anti-avoidance rule aimed at preventing an unjustified tax advantage being obtained from distributions in the winding up of a company. Together, these changes will raise £80 million by the end of this Parliament. As well as helping to reduce the deficit, they will protect revenue raised from the reform of dividend taxation by ensuring that those who should pay income tax on dividends cannot convert their income into capital, which is chargeable at lower capital gains tax rates.

Companies usually distribute profits to shareholders by way of dividends, which are subject to income tax when received by individuals. There is an incentive for some people, particularly those running owner-managed companies, to convert this income into a capital receipt, which would attract lower capital gains tax rates. This incentive will be increased by the proposed reform to dividend taxation.

Clauses 33 and 34 deal with the changes to the transactions in securities legislation, strengthening and modernising those rules. They will apply where there is a transaction in securities, such as a disposal of shares, and where one of the main purposes of the transaction is to obtain a tax advantage by manipulating the border between income and capital. They will ensure that people who should pay income tax on distributions do so.

Clause 35 addresses the phenomenon of “phoenixism”, whereby a person carries on the same trade or activity through a succession of companies, extracting the profits as capital by winding the companies up rather than paying dividends. The new rule is carefully targeted and will not affect the vast majority of companies that are being wound up—for example, where a shareholder sells the trade or is retiring—but it will spell the end of companies being wound up by people seeking to obtain an unfair tax advantage.

The changes will introduce additional safeguards, including a connected parties rule, and modernise the way in which the rules are applied. They remove some of the archaic mechanisms that applied to the compliance process. Like the new “phoenixism” rule, the changes will not affect transactions that are undertaken for normal commercial reasons and they will only apply to transactions that have as one of their main purposes the aim of obtaining a tax advantage. Without these changes, the owners of some companies would be able unfairly to reduce their income tax liability simply by changing the form in which they take money out of a company, which would put at risk revenue from the dividend tax reform.

The Opposition’s amendment to clause 35 seeks to explore how the Government will determine the effectiveness of the measures to deter tax avoidance that it contains. I quite understand the hon. Gentleman’s interest in this issue; it is an interest that I share. The Government expect that the clause will be effective in closing off the great majority of tax avoidance in this area, as it involves very specific arrangements that the legislation has been carefully designed to address.

In practice, determining the clause’s deterrent effect will require information from the self-assessment process that would not be available until 2018 at the earliest. [Laughter.] Again, the hon. Gentleman anticipates the point that I was going to make. For that reason, we will be unable to report within a year on its effectiveness as the amendment proposes we should, so I hope that he will understand if we are not minded to accept the amendment. HMRC will publish guidance on the new rules as soon as possible and before the end of the year, when any tax that is due under the new rules will first become due.

In summary, this reform strengthens and modernises the rules that prevent tax advantages from being unfairly obtained by a minority of shareholders who artificially convert income into capital. It also protects revenue accruing from the dividends tax reform and makes the UK a fairer place to do business. Therefore, I hope the clause will stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 34 and 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 36