Data-gathering powers: providers of payment or intermediary services

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 7 Gorffennaf 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Those categories are identified as electronic stored-value payment services—or digital wallets—and as other business intermediaries operating offline. The Financial Times recently reported research by Worldpay that asserted that the rise of digital wallets would mean that credit cards and debit cards would fall from accounting for two thirds of all payments to just half by 2019.

The same report found that $647 billion of consumer payments to businesses will be made globally through digital or e-wallets that year. It is in that context that the Government wish to cast their data-gathering net wider to include that growing sector. I am particularly interested in the Minister’s view of the possibility of increasing tax revenue through these powers. The economic impact in the policy paper suggests an increased take of approximately £200 million per year once these powers are embedded.

Roy Maugham, tax partner at UHY Hacker Young, said:

“The new powers HMRC are seeking indicate that they believe there is large-scale tax evasion in the ‘app economy’.”

Is the expectation that these powers will reveal new instances of tax evasion or tax avoidance? Will the Minister indicate what initial scoping or research has been possible to determine the likelihood of that? In the light of the consultation response from the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, will the Minister guarantee that the powers will not be used in a way that disadvantages those on low incomes who run owner-managed businesses and who will find them a significant new administrative burden?

A number of submissions to the consultation and responses to the draft legislation, including from the Chartered Institute of Taxation and Payments UK, expressed concern about the definition of the two new categories. I believe that the comments from Payments UK on the definition of “providers of digital wallets” have largely been taken on board, with them now being referred to as

“providers of electronic stored-value payment services”.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation would like further clarification on the definition of “business intermediaries” as it is concerned that that will catch not only websites such as eBay, Etsy and Airbnb but traditional businesses such as insurance brokers and letting agents. Can the Minister shine some light on that today?

We are also happy to support clause 165, which addresses HMRC’s power to levy daily penalties on data holders that do not comply with a data information notice request. Under existing legislation, if a person fails to comply with a data holder notice, they are liable for an initial fixed penalty of £300 and daily default penalties of up to £60 a day. If that is unsuccessful, a tribunal can decide the amount of an increased daily default penalty, which cannot be more than £1,000 a day. The clause clarifies that the tribunal will be responsible for determining the maximum amount of an increased daily penalty, but HMRC will determine the penalty that applies.

Our main concern, once again raised by the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, is that the proposed change to the law in clause 165 might move significant numbers into the scope of data holder notices and a penalty regime intended for large companies involved in established modes of transaction, such as companies that facilitate credit card transactions. Under the current data request regime, the requirement for the parties subject to a notice to produce the information demanded within 30 days, under threat of instant penalties, may be particularly demanding for lower-resourced parties. On that basis, I hope the Minister can give such companies some reassurance.

Aside from the points that I have outlined, we are more than happy to support clauses 164 and 165.