Taking over payment obligations as lessee of plant or machinery

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm 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 covered most of the points relating to this clause when discussing previous clauses. I am concerned that it is another example of complex arrangements being created for the purpose of, among other things, avoiding liability to pay corporation tax. Will the Minister confirm what specific activity has prompted these proposals?

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

It is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Chair, Mr Howarth. Let me say a word or two about the clause in response to the hon. Lady’s question.

Clause 64 makes changes to prevent tax avoidance by ensuring that tax is chargeable upon any consideration received in return for agreeing to take over tax-deductible lease payments. Leasing of plant and machinery plays an important role in UK business by providing a means of access to assets for use in commercial activities. There may be a number of different reasons for choosing to lease plant and machinery—for example, where the assets are required for only a relatively short period, where a lease meets the requirements of the business’s cash flows, where the business does not have the funds to buy the asset outright or where the asset is of a type typically leased rather than bought.

The person who leases plant and machinery—the lessee—for use in their business is entitled to tax deductions for the rents payable under the lease. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has become aware of arrangements relating to the transfer of a lessee position in an existing lease. In those arrangements, the existing lessee transfers its right to use the leased plant or machinery, together with the obligation to make the lease payments, to another person. The new lessee will use the plant or machinery in its business and claim tax deductions for the lease rental payments.

However, the arrangements for transfer also involve the new lessee or a connected person receiving a consideration in return for the new lessee agreeing to take over from the existing lessee. That is done in such a way that there is no charge for tax on that consideration. The new lessee is able to get tax deductions for rental payments, some or all of which are funded by the non-taxable consideration received. That is an unfair outcome, and in a number of examples seen by HMRC it is clearly part of a tax avoidance scheme.

It is right that where a person meets tax-deductible payments not from their own resources but out of an otherwise non-taxable consideration received for agreeing to take over those payments, that consideration should be taxed in full. The changes made by the clause will ensure that where a person takes over a lessee under an existing lease, obtains tax deductions for payments under that lease and, in return, receives a consideration, such consideration is chargeable for tax as income.

The changes proposed will ensure a fair outcome for tax purposes for such arrangements. No longer will it be possible for tax-deductible lease payments to be funded by untaxed considerations received for the transfer of responsibility to make those payments. The expected yield to the Exchequer over the scorecard period from the changes is £120 million. I therefore hope the clause will stand part of the Bill as a way of preventing businesses from gaining an unwarranted tax advantage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 64 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 82