Insurance companies carrying on long-term business

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 5 Gorffennaf 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

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

I will be brief. The provision raises some seemingly technical questions on the taxation of loan relationships and derivatives—concepts that are closely linked in tax law. As with the other clauses, it requires deeper thought as the UK prepares to leave the EU. What precise changes, which HMRC has presumably observed in the financial markets, have prompted the reforms proposed in clause 63?

The role of insurance companies, particularly naive participants such as AIG before 2008, in derivatives markets must give us all pause for thought when considering how to regulate and tax them in the future. Those enormous insurance companies are involved in vital financial services for our citizens as well as extraordinarily complex financial instruments, such as credit default swaps. We must therefore be concerned that the reforms to the treatment of insurance companies are considered necessary. Will the Minister confirm what work the Treasury has done on assessing the future treatment of derivatives and similar markets and their impact on the UK economy? It is important for the future health of the UK economy that careful analysis of those markets is conducted as we prepare to leave the EU.

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

Clause 63 makes changes to ensure that corporation tax rules applying to insurance companies carrying on long-term business produce the appropriate policy results. A new regime for the taxation of life insurance companies was introduced in the Finance Act 2012 and was widely welcomed. However, putting that into practice has uncovered some specific issues that must be resolved for the regime to operate smoothly and effectively. HMRC has worked with industry to identify those issues, which relate to three main areas: intangible fixed assets, deemed income and trading losses.

Clause 63 will make minor technical changes to that legislation to ensure that it operates as intended. The cost to the Exchequer is negligible. For intangible fixed assets, clause 63 will allow debits to be set against the income for the accounting period in which they are incurred. That will bring the rules into line with those for companies that are not life insurers. For deemed income, clause 63 will prevent unused interest expenses from being set against the minimum profits charge in any circumstances. That will mean that any such charge is always fully taxed. For trading losses, clause 63 will mean that their use is no longer restricted to a company’s net position on its derivative contracts in the same period, which will bring stability into that calculation. The changes are relatively minor in nature and will have a small impact on insurers’ profits. However, they are important as they will ensure that the legislation delivers the intended policy objectives.

As I said, the Finance Act 2012 introduced a fundamental rewrite of life insurance company taxation. Such major reforms are always likely to necessitate some minor adjustments when put into practice and HMRC has worked with the industry to identify a handful of issues where the legislation does not work as intended. The changes will simply ensure the legislation operates as initially intended, which is why we are making them. Of course, all these matters are kept under review. Again, the hon. Lady raises the point about EU membership and so on. I am not sure I have much to add to what I previously said on that matter. I hope that the clause stands part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 63 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mel Stride.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.