Petroleum revenue tax: elections for oil fields to become non-taxable

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 24 Hydref 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

It is welcome that the Government are looking to reduce the administrative burden in relation to elections for oilfields to become non-taxable. That is positive news. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has mentioned in two Budgets that there will be changes in the taxation system to make it easier for late-life assets to be transferred. I have heard noises from the Chancellor in recent times that he may not introduce that in the autumn statement this year, and I will just make this pitch to the Minister. This issue is incredibly important. The oil and gas industry is not asking at this moment for significant changes, but for the change in relation to the transfer of late-life assets. I would very much appreciate it if, in the context of reducing the administrative burden and making things easier for companies dealing with the very mature field in the North sea, the Minister would hear my case on that and make the case to the Chancellor.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I must admit to being slightly confused about the purported impact of this change. Some of the inputs from stakeholder bodies seem to imply that there will be some kind of Revenue impact as a result of the changes in relation to procedures for elections for oilfields to become non-taxable. For example, Oil & Gas UK has welcomed the change, saying that the move will reduce the headline rate of tax paid on UK oil and gas production. In contrast, Friends of the Earth has expressed disappointment at the tax cut. As I understand it, petroleum revenue tax was permanently zero-rated in 2016, and the Government’s assessment of the measure’s impact on the Exchequer is that it will be negligible. Therefore, can the Minister enlighten us on why some people appear to view the measure as potentially having an Exchequer impact, but the Government do not appear to have that view?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

Perhaps I should set the scene that I would have set had I realised that others were going to contribute to this debate, because I think that that will pick up some of the questions that have been raised. However, before I do that, I shall turn immediately to the question raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North about the transfer of long-life assets. I will take her remarks as a Budget representation, but I am sure that she understands that at this moment, in the run-up to the Budget, I will not comment further on specific taxes or arrangements relating thereto.

Clause 44 makes changes to simplify the process for opting oil and gas fields out of the petroleum revenue tax regime, reducing the administrative burdens on affected companies. To ensure that participators could take advantage of the changes as soon as possible, the legislation had effect from the date of its announcement, on 23 November 2016. I shall provide Committee members with some background to the measure.

At Budget 2016, as part of a £1 billion package of measures to support the oil and gas industry, the Government announced that PRT would be permanently zero-rated. That was to simplify the tax regime, to level the playing field between older fields and new developments and to increase the attractiveness of UK investment opportunities. It was decided that the tax should not be abolished completely, because some companies still require access to their tax history for carrying back trading losses and decommissioning costs. As a result, participators still have to submit returns, which many find complex, time consuming and expensive. Following consultation with industry, the Government are therefore simplifying the rules for opting fields out of the PRT regime. The changes made by clause 44 will allow the responsible person for a taxable oilfield to remove the field from the PRT regime simply by making an election to do so and then notifying HMRC. When coupled with the Government’s removal of other reporting requirements, these changes will save companies an estimated £620,000 in total ongoing costs per annum.

The clause builds on the Government’s support for the UK oil and gas industry, including the £2.3 billion package of fiscal reforms announced in the 2015-16 Budget. I therefore hope that the clause will stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 44 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 45 to 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 48