Disguised investment management fees

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 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:

Amendment 8, in clause 37, page 58, line 26, leave out from “is” to end of subsection and insert “100%”.

Government amendments 43 to 49.

Clauses 37 and 38 stand part of the Bill.

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

With your permission, Mr Howarth, my remarks will cover clauses 36, 37 and 38, and amendments 43 to 49. I will also touch on amendment 8.

These clauses introduce a test to limit the circumstances in which performance-based rewards paid to asset managers will be taxed as chargeable gains. The main test will be introduced by clause 37. Clause 36 will change some related definitions in the disguised investment management fees rules. Clause 38 sets out how the rules will work with regard to individuals coming to the UK. Taken together, these clauses will ensure that only fund managers engaging in long-term investment activity pay capital gains tax on their performance-related reward or carried interest; otherwise, that form of remuneration will be fully charged to income tax.

In 2015, we legislated to ensure management fees are always subject to income tax. Where carried interest is taxable as a chargeable gain, the full amount will be taxable without reduction through arrangements such as base cost shift. These clauses build on the previous legislation. They will ensure that capital gains treatment for carried interest is reserved only for those managing funds that are genuinely long-term investments. Treating carried interest as a capital gain rather than an income is the right approach and keeps the UK in step with other countries. It is also the approach that has been adopted consistently by previous Governments in this country over a long period. However, to ensure the regime is fair and not open to abuse, these changes limit capital gains tax treatment to those managers who can demonstrate long-term investment activity by the fund they manage.

Clauses 37 and 38 will insert a test that applies to all payments of carried interest. On receipt of carried interest, asset managers will be required to calculate the average holding period of the investments in the fund. If the average holding period is less than 36 months, the payment will be subject to income tax. If the period is more than 40 months, the payment will be subject to capital gains tax. There is a taper in between those two time limits, and targeted anti-avoidance rules to ensure that the rules cannot be exploited. The rule is slightly different for managers of debt funds, turnaround funds or venture capital funds, reflecting the specific investment strategies of those kinds of funds.

Clause 38 specifically sets out how individuals who move to the UK will be taxed in certain situations. It will apply in the first five years after an individual moves to the UK when he or she receives a reward that is taxable to income under the time held test, which I referred to earlier. Where the reward relates to services performed outside the UK, before they were resident in the UK, it will be charged to UK tax only when it is remitted to the UK. That reflects the fact that the reward relates to work done before the individual lived in this country, and it will help to ensure these rules do not make it harder for UK asset managers to attract the best talent in the global labour market.

Clause 36 will amend definitions in the disguised investment management fees rules to ensure the rules introduced by clauses 37 and 38 work as intended, especially in relation to more complicated investment fund structures.

The Government tabled seven amendments to clause 37. They are technical changes to ensure the provisions operate as intended. Amendments 43, 46 and 48 make the same technical change in three of the specialised rules we have included in clause 37. Each rule will apply a targeted calculation rule to a particular type of fund investment strategy—for example, a fund that invests in real estate or provides venture capital—thus ensuring that the average investment holding test accurately captures a fund’s underlying activity.

A fundamental concept in all these rules is that of a relevant disposal. A relevant disposal is, in effect, a disposal that is taken into account when calculating a fund’s average holding period. These changes will ensure that the legislation uses a consistent definition throughout the various specialised regimes that is clear and understood by industry and its advisers.

Amendments 44, 45 and 47 will correct a technical error that would have prevented the relevant provisions from working in practice.

Amendment 49 will expand the definition of a secondary fund to include the acquisition of investment portfolios from unconnected investment schemes. Stakeholders have informed us that many secondary funds undertake that type of activity, and that amendment is necessary to ensure that the relevant rules still apply to those funds.

The Opposition’s amendment 8 would remove the taper rule that I have described. The decision to introduce a taper rule followed extensive engagement with interested parties to examine the impact of such a measure on the market. Removing that rule would create a cliff edge—a concern that the Opposition raised in another context—so that marginal differences in the average time for which a fund held its assets could lead to radically different tax treatment for its managers. That cliff edge would lead to a market-distorting incentive for fund managers to dispose of assets earlier than was optimal, to the detriment of investors and with no policy benefits. For those reasons, I urge that that amendment is not pursued.

Clauses 36 to 38 will ensure that only those managers engaged in genuinely long-term investment activity pay capital gains tax on their performance-related rewards, and I therefore hope that those clauses stand part of the Bill and amendments 43 to 49 are made.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

This series of clauses is an interesting mixture of the technical, the conceptual and the political. Technically, the clauses are complex and lengthy, and the Government have been forced to table several amendments because of the complexity of these issues and the way that they have gone about dealing with them.

The conceptual point is about whether we go for a simpler and more rough and ready approach or a lengthy one. Professor Sol Picciotto at Lancaster University said about these clauses that instead of going for a broad provision to allow carried interest to be treated as income, the Treasury and HMRC had, typically for them, preferred long and complex statutory provisions that would keep tax lawyers happy and spawn more avoidance. These provisions are very lengthy.

The political point is highlighted by amendment 8. Our wording of that amendment may well be deficient, but it is not designed to create a cliff edge; it is designed to remove the table on page 58 completely, so that there is no taper and all carried interest is treated at 100%—that is, taxed as if it were income. As I understand it, that is in line with the OECD recommendations. Ministers properly say that when we engage in double taxation agreements, which the Minister and I have discussed on several occasions in different Committees, Her Majesty’s Government’s starting point is the OECD model, and I quite understand that, but suddenly we are not going along with an OECD suggestion when it comes to carried interest. That is obviously guidance and has no direct statutory relevance, but it is issued by the OECD, which is made up of our sister advanced countries. Instead of going for a simpler approach in which carried interest is straight income—that is what amendment 8 is designed to introduce—we have ended up with 21 pages of complex provisions in the Bill, which necessitate 10 pages of explanatory notes.

I hope that the Minister will say a little more about that conceptual point and why we do not just follow the OECD guideline. To those of us who are politicians and not tax experts, it appears quite just for carried interest, which has on occasions been used for legitimate tax avoidance, to be knocked on the head simply by being treated and taxed as income, as the OECD suggests.

As far as my excellent researcher Imogen Watson could find, there is no tax information and impact note. If that is the case, I hope that the Minister will outline—or perhaps write to members of the Committee to outline—what the Government think the impact on the Exchequer will be, and the number of taxpayers the Government expect to be affected by the provisions.

Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Howarth. I will be brief. We on the Scottish National party Benches support the amendment. The issue of carried interest has also been of interest to us, as the Minister knows only too well. I commend the amendment, and if the Labour party wishes to press it to a vote, we will certainly support it.

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

Let me address the issue of complexity; I hope I can be helpful to the Committee on that. The new rules replace the badges of trade that previously outlined the tax treatment of carried interest. The badges of trade are based on complex case law, which means that the law was determined by a wide range of varied and outdated judicial decisions. Bringing these new rules into legislation removes ambiguity and makes the tax code easier to follow. Furthermore, much of the detail of the legislation comprises bespoke rules that apply to specific types of funds. Those specialised rules will help reduce the compliance burden for funds in practice. Asset managers are sophisticated taxpayers who often have personal advisers; we therefore anticipate it being easy for those individuals to follow these rules.

Very often, the measure of tax complexity is taken to be the length of the tax code. I confess that I have sat where the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West is sitting and made that point myself; he has heard me make it. In this example, there are additional pages of legislation; however, they are replacing legislation that took up fewer pages but was based on case law, which can be very complicated. It is worth pointing out the limitations of pages as a measurement of complexity.

On the OECD recommendations, treating carried interest as a capital gain rather than income is the right approach. It keeps the UK in step with other countries and, as I said, it is the approach adopted consistently by previous Governments in this country over a long time. There is nothing particularly unusual about the way in which we treat carried interest in this country. I am conscious that this is a matter that we debate on a fairly regular basis; it is the second time we have debated it in a week. We are being consistent with what we have done in this country for some time and with what other countries do. I hope those points are helpful, but if the hon. Gentleman presses amendment 8, I will urge my colleagues to oppose it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 36 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 37