Employment income provided through third parties

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 9 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 10:45, 9 Ionawr 2018

I am very clear on my instructions. Thank you, Mr Owen.

Clauses 11 and 12 make changes to ensure that businesses and individuals who have used or continue to use disguised remuneration tax avoidance schemes pay their fair share of income tax and national insurance contributions. Disguised remuneration schemes are used to avoid tax and national insurance contributions by paying individuals and taking profits through third parties in ways that are claimed not to be taxable, such as loans. Such schemes are highly artificial. In the Government’s and HMRC’s view, they do not produce the declared tax advantage, but that has not stopped their use entirely. The coalition Government first introduced legislation to stop such schemes in 2011. The legislation was successful, and since 2011 HMRC has collected more than £1.8 billion in settlements from scheme users.

Of course, more always needs to be done. The Government continue to tackle disguised remuneration avoidance schemes. The changes announced at Budget 2016 included the 2019 loan charge, which treats all outstanding disguised remuneration loans as taxable income on 5 April 2019. The 2016 package followed the tax avoidance industry’s aggressive response to the 2011 changes: it has created and sold more than 70 new schemes. It is claimed that those schemes achieve the same outcome through the addition of even more contrived steps. The Budget 2016 package will bring in more than £3 billion by 2020-21, and will ensure that scheme users pay their fair share of tax.

The changes made by clause 11 will make clear how the disguised remuneration anti-avoidance rules apply to schemes used by the owners of close companies. The clause also introduces a requirement for scheme users to provide information on disguised remuneration loans outstanding on 5 April 2019 to HMRC, which will help HMRC to enforce the 2019 loan charge. The new information requirement includes an additional penalty regime, which is consistent with existing HMRC information powers.

The clause also includes a clarification to the disguised remuneration rules. It puts beyond doubt the fact that anti-avoidance rules apply even if an earlier income tax charge arises. It will prevent any attempts to avoid paying the tax by claiming that HMRC is out of time to collect payment. The disguised remuneration rules prevent any double tax charge on the same income.

Finally, the clause will make a change to ensure that any employee who has benefited from a disguised remuneration avoidance scheme is liable for the tax arising on the 2019 loan charge where the avoidance scheme used an offshore employer. Clause 12 will also introduce a new requirement for self-employed individuals, and partners who have used disguised remuneration schemes, to provide information about loans that are outstanding on 5 April 2019 to HMRC. That will help to ensure that HMRC is able to enforce the loan charge.

Let me turn to the Opposition’s amendments. Amendments 34 to 37 seek to include penalties linked to the loan amount for those who fail to comply with the reporting requirement. Amendment 38 seeks to introduce a review to consider the impact of the measure on taxpayers—particularly basic rate taxpayers. It would be inappropriate to introduce a penalty based on the loan amount, as it would be inconsistent with HMRC’s other information powers, and a separate penalty regime already does that where a taxpayer does not correctly report the tax due from outstanding loans.

On the proposed review, the Government do not think it is appropriate that avoiders should get a discount, compared with the vast majority of taxpayers, who pay the right tax at the right time. However, the clause may have a significant impact on the users of disguised remuneration schemes. HMRC aims to contact those who are affected and encourages those who are concerned about their ability to make timely and full tax payments to contact HMRC. The Department has an excellent track record of supporting people with financial difficulties who may be finding it hard to pay immediately. The Government believe that the proposed review would not provide any additional benefit, so I urge the Opposition not to press the amendments.

It is right that everyone should pay their fair share of tax and make their contribution towards public services, and the changes will ensure that users of disguised remuneration schemes pay their fair share. I therefore commend clauses 11 and 12 to the Committee.