VAT refunds to public authorities

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm 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 2:15, 16 Ionawr 2018

The clause makes a number of changes to section 33 of the VAT Act 1994, which allows certain bodies to recover normally irrecoverable VAT. First and foremost, the clause fulfils the commitment made in autumn Budget 2017 to legislate to provide VAT refunds to Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

The Committee will be aware that in 2012, the Scottish Government chose to restructure Scottish police and fire services to create national bodies. At the time, the Scottish Government understood that those bodies would not be entitled to VAT refunds as they were no longer locally funded. They none the less continued with the change on the basis that VAT costs would be outweighed by potential savings.

A number of representations have been made to the Government on the issue and the Government have listened carefully to the concerns expressed. I am pleased that the provisions in clause 39 will enable the Scottish services to fully recover VAT, in effect providing £40 million additional financial support each year.

The clause also makes minor changes to the legislative basis by which combined authorities and English and Welsh fire authorities receive VAT refunds. Those bodies are currently eligible for VAT refunds but each authority is added to section 33 individually by statutory instrument, which takes up parliamentary time. The clause removes the need for statutory instruments and ensures that English and Welsh fire authorities are automatically entitled to VAT refunds. It does not substantially affect the VAT treatment of combined authorities or English and Welsh fire authorities. It simply removes an unnecessary administrative barrier, freeing up parliamentary time by allowing authorities to access refunds automatically.

Finally, I will touch on the VAT treatment of police services in Northern Ireland. Northern Irish police services have always had the right to reclaim VAT refunds and it is absolutely right that that is the case. However, it is a complex area of VAT law and the Government have decided to clarify the legislation to put the matter beyond doubt. The clause therefore makes explicit the right of the Northern Irish policing bodies to receive VAT refunds.

The clause makes a number of changes to the treatment of public bodies in the VAT Act, as well as making procedural amendments. It delivers on the Chancellor’s Budget announcement on Scottish police and fire services, providing VAT refunds worth around £40 million a year to support the delivery of frontline services. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.