Banking companies: excluded entities

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 5 Gorffennaf 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 clause 53 stand part.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Clauses 52 and 53 relate to the taxation of banking companies. Clause 52 amends the excluded entity test that forms part of the definition of a bank for tax purposes, and clause 53 makes provisions to restrict corporation tax loss relief.

Following the financial crash in 2008, specific taxes were imposed on the banking sector, and a definition of “banking companies” was required. The excluded entity test forms part of this definition. Clause 52 revises the legislation so that undertaking a second activity is possible, provided that the entity undertakes one of the specified regulated activities in the excluded entities test, and that the other activity, when considered by itself—that is, without taking into account the regulated activity that is specified in the excluded entities test—would not require the firm to be both an IFPRU 730K investment firm and a full-scope IFPRU firm as defined by reference to the Financial Conduct Authority handbook.

As the British Bankers Association has explained in far more articulate layman’s terms,

“Effectively there is a list of permitted activities which do not cause you to be treated as a bank and brought into the various bank-specific taxes, even if you meet all the other conditions. The change to the rules allows you to carry on more than one of those activities and still be excluded.”

This measure clarifies the rules and has been welcomed by industry. We therefore have no issue with agreeing the clause today. We also welcome clause 53, which, to quote the explanatory notes to the Bill,

“further restricts the proportion of a banking company’s annual taxable profit that can be offset by brought forward losses to 25%. The further restriction will apply to accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2016.”

At autumn statement 2014, it was announced that the amount of taxable profit that could be offset by banks’ historical carried-forward losses would be restricted to 50% from April 2015. However, this clause further restricts the proportion of a banking company’s annual taxable profit that can be offset by brought-forward losses from 50% to 25%. The restriction will remain subject to a £25 million allowance for building societies, and an exemption for losses incurred by new entrant banks. The Government estimate that this will generate over £2 billion in extra revenue between the current financial year and 2020-21. They also state that the measure should be revenue-neutral in the long run for any one bank, but the timing of the measure may well have negative implications for cash flow.

The British Bankers Association has indicated that further restricting bank losses from the financial crisis to 25% of profits rather than 50% primarily brings about a timing difference; it effectively accelerates payment of £2 billion in tax into this Parliament and out of the next one. Combined with the previous changes, it means £5 billion is being brought forward to this Parliament.

Can the Minister say why the Chancellor needed to accelerate this windfall in tax revenues? Was it part of his desperate attempts to ensure a budget surplus by 2020? I suspect it might have been. However, that argument is now redundant, given the recent suspension of that aim, and I am really glad that the Chancellor is finally listening to the experts and my hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor. Nevertheless, we welcome this new requirement on banking companies to increase their contribution to the Exchequer in the light of their role in causing the current economic situation.

I am glad that the Government are taking steps to address the casino banking sector. However, the policy should be seen in the wider context of the Government’s new settlement with financial services, as announced by the Chancellor, which includes the shift in emphasis from the bank levy to the banks’ tax surcharge as a result of lobbying by the sector, and watering down promised regulatory provisions in the Bank of England Act 2016.

In the 2016 Budget, the introduction of a general restriction on carried-forward losses was announced. That will come into effect on 1 April 2017, and the Opposition support it. In the meantime, we are more than happy to agree to the further restriction set out in clause 53.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 9:45, 5 Gorffennaf 2016

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support for clauses 52 and 53, which will ensure that the exceptional tax treatment of banks’ crisis-related losses is maintained in the light of the wider changes to the UK loss relief regime announced in the Budget. They will also amend the definition of a bank used in tax legislation to ensure that bank-specific tax measures are targeted as intended.

Clause 52 will change the definition of an investment bank to ensure that legislation is appropriately targeted. We have been clear that banks should make a fair contribution to reflect the risks they pose to the UK economy, and we have taken several steps to ensure that they do make that contribution. The Chancellor introduced the bank levy—a tax on banks’ balance sheets—in 2011 and removed tax relief for banks’ compensation in relation to misconduct and mis-selling from July 2015. We restricted the amount of profit that banks can offset with historical corporation tax losses, and we introduced a new supplementary tax of 8% on banking sector profit from 1 January 2016.

Those policies, which are forecast to raise more than £28 billion between 2015 and 2021, rely on there being an appropriate definition in tax legislation of a bank. That definition is based broadly on the extent to which a company is regulated and the nature of the activities that it undertakes. Concerns have been raised that the existing definition has the potential to go further than intended and bring into scope companies that are not undertaking retail or investment banking activities. We seek to address that through clause 52, which will make a minor technical change that is expected to have a negligible cost to the Exchequer and will ensure that legislation is fair and appropriately targeted. The clause will ensure that banking taxes are targeted appropriately at banks and that legislation remains simple, certain and effective.

Clause 53 will reduce from 50% to 25% the amount of profit that banks can offset with historical losses for corporation tax purposes from 1 April 2016. When a company makes a loss for corporation tax purposes, it is able to offset that loss against the profit of a group member in the same year. If that is not possible, companies are able to carry forward their losses and offset them against future profits. Companies’ ability to carry forward losses is an important feature of the corporation tax system. It means that companies with volatile income streams are not subject to higher effective rates of tax on their long-term profits. In the 2014 autumn statement, the Chancellor announced that the proportion of taxable profit that could be offset by banks’ pre-April 2015 losses would be limited to 50% from 1 April 2015. That exceptional treatment recognised the significant losses that banks had carried forward from the financial crisis and the subsequent misconduct scandals, and the impact that those losses were having on banks’ corporation tax payments. It was forecast to increase corporation tax receipts by £2 billion between 2015 and 2020.

In the March 2016 Budget, fundamental reforms were announced to the treatment of carried-forward losses across all industry groups, to take effect from April 2017. First, there will be greater flexibility regarding the profits against which carried-forward losses can be offset. Secondly, the amount of profit that can be offset by carried-forward losses will be restricted to 50% from April 2017, subject to a £5 million allowance. Those reforms will create a more modern loss relief regime in the UK that is competitive with those in other G7 countries and better aligned with how businesses operate.

The changes made by clause 53 will maintain the exceptional treatment of banks’ historical losses by reducing from 50% to 25% the amount of profit that banks can offset with historical carried-forward losses from 1 April 2016. That will increase banks’ corporation tax payments by around £2 billion over the next five years. The existing reliefs for losses incurred by new entrant banks and building societies will be maintained; those will continue to be treated in the same way as losses in other industry groups.

On the hon. Lady’s question about timing, these measures, taken together, will raise about £5 billion in 2016-17 alone. It is important that the banking sector’s tax contribution is made when it is most needed during this period of fiscal consolidation. I take the point about the changed circumstances in the light of the vote to leave the European Union. It is also important that we make progress in reducing the deficit, and that we demonstrate that the Government are fiscally responsible. That is what we are doing. This measure is part of a plan to make progress to reduce our deficit further. Having given the Committee those points of information, I hope that these clauses can stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 52 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 54