Reduction of relief in cases where losses relieved sideways etc

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 16 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 9:25, 16 Ionawr 2018

Good morning, Sir Roger. As ever, it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

Clauses 30 and 31 will ensure that companies operating overseas cannot benefit from tax relief twice for the same loss. Many UK companies operate overseas through branches. To prevent double taxation on the profits of those branches—tax payable both in the UK and overseas—rules exist that provide relief in the UK for foreign tax paid. However, we are aware that some companies with foreign branches set losses incurred by those branches against the profits of other overseas group companies, rather than against the future profits of the branch. As a result, foreign tax is paid on future branch profits without taking into account past losses. That foreign tax is then used to claim double tax relief against UK tax on the branch profits.

Relieving foreign losses in that way creates an unfair outcome for the UK Exchequer. UK companies effectively get tax relief twice in the UK—once as a deduction from their taxable UK profits for the loss, and again by way of double tax relief. Clause 30 will address that by restricting double tax relief when the losses of an overseas branch have been used to relieve foreign tax paid by other overseas group companies. The clause will stop companies exploiting the UK’s double tax relief system to disadvantage unfairly the UK Exchequer. The measure will apply only to future claims for double tax relief. However, to be effective and protect significant revenues, it will apply where losses have already been relieved against the profits of other group companies.

The Opposition’s new clause 13 calls for a statutory review of the impact of that restriction of double tax relief. I think it would be useful, in response, to review the processes and track record of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in this area. First, the costings of the measure were prepared by HMRC’s central analytical team, which specialises in quantifying the impact of changes to tax legislation. Secondly, HMRC has significant experience in amending tax legislation to restrict opportunities for companies unfairly to reduce the tax they pay. For example, an amendment to the double taxation relief for loan relationships income in the 2014 Finance Act successfully protected tax revenue. Thirdly, HMRC regularly carries out reviews of tax legislation to ensure that it continues to meet its objectives, and the assessment of tax receipts is an important part of those reviews. The Opposition’s proposed review would not add to that analysis, and it is therefore unnecessary.

Clause 31 will amend the targeted anti-avoidance rule, which protects against certain ways of artificially creating or increasing a double tax relief claim. At present, the obligation to apply the TAAR lies with HMRC, not with the taxpayer. That puts HMRC at a disadvantage. In some cases, HMRC does not have sufficient information to identify, within the relevant statutory time limit, whether the TAAR is applicable. To address that, we are updating the double taxation relief TAAR to align it with more recent TAARs. The clause will remove the requirement for HMRC to give notice that the TAAR is being applied. Instead, the onus will be on the taxpayer to consider, during their self-assessment, whether the TAAR is applicable. We are also slightly extending the scope of the TAAR to ensure that it applies to double taxation relief schemes that involve transactions across a group.

Clauses 30 and 31 will ensure that companies pay a fair amount of tax in the UK and will protect significant tax revenue. I therefore urge the Committee to support them.