LIVEBLOG: Finance Bill 2021-22 Public Bill Committee Sittings 3 and 4
Liveblog on sittings of the public bill committee which took place on the afternoon (3.30pm) and evening (6pm) of Wednesday 5 January, covering parts two and four of the bill. Measures debated included the Residential Property Developer Tax, import duty and vehicle excise duty.
A guide and liveblog to the sittings three and four of public bill committee debate on Finance Bill 2021-22 (also known as Finance (No. 2) Bill as it is the second Finance Bill in the current parliamentary session).
You can find a full preview of the day's debates here (and here for the Residential Property Developer Tax), including background on what public bill committee is, and a list of MPs appointed to the committee. Shorter commentaries appear in each section below.
The main contributors to the debate were:
Lucy Frazer (Conservative, Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
James Murray (Labour, Shadow Financial Secretary)
Alison Thewliss (SNP, Lead Treasury spokesperson)
MPs will proceed through the clauses in (more or less) numerical order, excluding the clauses which have already been debated (and agreed) in Committee of Whole House (see below). Schedules are debated and voted on with the clauses to which they relate. Amendments are debated and voted on with the clauses to which they relate. New clauses may be debated with a clause to which they relate, or, if they do not relate closely enough to any existing clause, at the end of the committee stage. Regardless of when they are debated new clauses will be voted on at the end of the committee stage.
Public Bill Committee does not debate clauses and schedules debated at Committee of Whole House, that is (in parts 2 to 5 of the bill): Clauses 53 to 66 (economic crime (anti-money laundering) levy); Clauses 68 to 71 (value added tax); Clauses 84 to 92 and Schedules 12 and 13 (avoidance); Clause 93 and Schedule 14 (free zones).
NB. The live blog below is contemporaneous and not checked against Hansard. We cannot guarantee that no errors have crept in and we advise on checking any passage against Hansard before repeating it.
Finance Bill Public Bill Committee - Sitting Three - Wednesday 5 January , 3.30pm
Part Two – Residential Property Developer Tax
Clauses 32-52 (and schedules 7-9) - Residential Property Developer Tax
From April 2022 a Residential Property Developer Tax (RPDT) will be charged on the profits that companies and corporate groups derive from UK residential property development, at 4% on profits exceeding an annual allowance of £25 million. The money raised will fund measures to address unsafe cladding.
In our representation to the committee, CIOT noted that the government has listened to our call for aligning the new tax with Corporation Tax mechanisms and using existing statutory tax definitions as far as possible. However, we continue to have concerns, principally:
- Short timescale: will HMRC systems, guidance and industry software be ready in time?
- Getting rid of the tax: RPDT is time limited but its closure depends on active repeal. There is a case for a legislative ‘sunset’ clause or mandatory re-authorisation.
- Build-to-rent: uncertainty on whether build-to-rent profits will be brought into RPDT scope in the future.
- Pre-commencement profits: companies with accounting periods that straddle the 1 April 2022 commencement date for the tax may pay RPDT on profits earned before that date.
Clauses 32-33 and 52 - RPDT (Introduction / Charge to tax / Anti-forestalling) (ALL PASSED)
In this group: Clause 32 (Introduction); Clause 33 (Charge to RPDT); Clause 52 (Anti-forestalling: accelerated profits)
With this group are new clauses 3 and 18. The SNP’s new clause 3 would require a Government assessment of the impact of the Residential Property Developer Tax introduced in this Bill, and of its effect on opportunities for tax evasion and avoidance.
Labour's new clause 18 would require the government to review the RPDT each year in order to assess the revenue it has raised and also what revenue it would raise, and the other wider effects it would have, at certain higher levels. (NB. Labour’s new clause 19, seeking a review of the impact of increasing the RPDT to discourage certain charges on holders of long leases, has not been selected for debate.)
Financial Secretary Lucy Frazer opened the debate, explaining the background to the RPDT (see above). She said existing corporation tax (CT) anti-avoidance and evasion measures would apply to the new tax and HMRC would assess it in its annual report on measuring tax gaps, so a further impact assessment as requested by the SNP was not needed. The annual review proposed by new clause 18 is not needed as the revenue will be included in existing HMRC publications, she added.
James Murray, Shadow Financial Secretary, spoke next. He said Labour support the principle behind the new tax but he wants to question the minister on the design of the tax. He noted the disappointment of stakeholders at the truncated consultation process.
He asked why the legislation had not come with a sunset clause when it is intended to be time-limited. He also noted that the £2bn which the tax will raise is 'just a fraction' of the estimated £15bn it will take to deal with the problem of unsafe cladding. What other sources of funding will the government be looking at? Why has the rate been set at 4%, he asked. Would the government be open to raising the level of the tax in some circumstances if it falls short.
Labour's review would assess how much the tax has raised in each year so far. He noted that industry experts had estimated an 8% increase in the costs of dealing with unsafe cladding.
Richard Thomson, for the SNP, warned of the possible unintended consequences of the measure in relation to avoidance and evasion.
Replying, Lucy Frazer welcomed Labour's support for the measure. She said the government had undertaken extensive stakeholder consultation on the new tax, with 40 meetings. She reiterated that this is just a measure to raise £2 billion and it will be repealed once this has been raised. As to whether the rate is sufficient she said it had been carefully considered and the government feel 4% is the right balance to raise £2 billion over a decade. Responding to Murray she said the tax would be kept until £2 billion is raised, and the government anticipate it will be raised within 10 years. Responding to Thomson she said existing CT compliance mechanisms would apply to this tax, including the GAAR.
Clauses 32 and 33 were agreed without any objections.
Clauses 34-38 and 47-51 (and schedule 9) - Key concepts (ALL PASSED)
In this group: Clause 34 - Meaning of “residential property developer”); Clause 35 (Meaning of “residential property development activities”); Clause 36 (Residential property development activities: “interest in land”); Clause 37 (Residential property development activities: “residential property”); Clause 38 (Meaning of “residential property developer profits or losses”); Clause 47 (Non-profit housing companies: exit charge); Clause 48 (Groups); Clause 49 (Miscellaneous provision); Schedule 9 (Miscellaneous provision); Clause 50 (Interpretation etc); Clause 51 (Commencement)
The FST, Lucy Frazer, introduced this group of clauses, explaining that they set out key terms for the purposes of this measure, including who pays the tax and how eligible profits for the tax are calculated. Schedule 9 introduces a rule preventing a developer from gaining an exemption for the tax when calculating profits or losses for income tax or CT purposes, she said. These meanings will be supported by guidance.
James Murray, for Labour, spoke next. He said it makes sense to exclude (as the government have) not for profit housing associations from the RPDT, not least as they have made a more substantial contribution to cladding remediation than private developers have. He asked the minister why it may be necessary to amend the definition of a non profit housing company in the future.
Murray probed on clause 36. He asked what happens when a developer retains an interest in a property. Then he turned to build to rent. HMT had confirmed that build to rent developers would be excluded. He asked the minister to confirm that, if a developer completes a development this autumn and keeps it as build to rent for 10 years and then disposes of it afterwards, they could avoid RPDT in relevant developments altogether. What happens if a developer retains a freehold? Would they be subject to RPDT?
Murray also probed the scope of some of the exemptions, including those around accommodation with personal care and student accommodation. He noted the concerns of the British Property Federation that some build to rent models are within scope of the tax and some are not.
Alison Thewliss, for the SNP, spoke on some of the issues around exemption of registered social landlords (RSLs). She asked the minister if she would keep in touch with the Scottish government if there were any further changes to Scottish legislation which would be impacted by this bill because RSL definitions differ between England and Scotland. In England RSLs are allowed to be for profit, which they are not in Scotland.
She asked what conversations the minister had had with providers of student accommodation, including in relation to cladding issues.
Finally she asked about HMRC's capacity to manage this new tax: what preparations have HMRC made for it given everything else they are dealing with?
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said this measure relates to a charge made only when people have made a significant profit (over £25 million). We need flexibility to come back by way of regulation to change the definitions because the definitions are based on the legislation in devolved administrations' legislation and if those definitions change the government need the flexibility to change them here as well. On disposal of land, the Government has thought long and hard about the exclusions, such as build to rent which is not comparable to the build to sell sector. The Government thinks it would be unlikely there will be change of business behaviour to avoid the tax. (Frazer said she will write to Murray with more detailed answers).
On SNP’s comments, she agreed to speak with Scottish Government. The people caught by this levy are significant property owners, she insists. Everything will be kept under review, such as what to do with student accommodation. She praised HMRC for its work in the pandemic and they have done a tremendous job but accepts they are stretched, not least with the Health and Social Care Levy.
Clauses 39-42 (and schedule 7) - RPDT (Profits and losses) (ALL PASSED)
In this group: Clause 39 (Adjusted trading profits and losses); Clause 40 (Attributable joint venture profits and losses); Clause 41 (RPDT reliefs); Schedule 7 (RPDT reliefs); Clause 42 (Restrictions on RPDT reliefs)
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) says this section relates to how to calculate the tax base for the purposes of this property tax and what is excluded. She does not intend to spend long explaining these. These clauses and schedule set out important mechanics of this tax.
James Murray (Shadow Financial Secretary) said Labour will not oppose these clauses.
Clauses 43-44 - RPDT (Allowance) (BOTH PASSED)
In this group: Clause 43 (Allowance); Clause 44 (Allowance: joint venture companies)
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said these clauses relate to per of £25 million annual allowance available to each group of companies before profits become chargeable to the new tax. Clause 44 allows calculation of annual allowance for the new tax where the profits of a member of a joint venture company are not chargeable to UK corporation tax. It provides for the allowance of a JV company to be reduced and for the exempt member to instead have an annual allowance. This means it is proportionate, administrable and targeted at largest developers.
James Murray (Shadow Financial Secretary) supported the principles of the clauses.
Clause 45 (and schedule 8) - RPDT (Application of corporation tax provisions, management etc) (BOTH PASSED)
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said this provides for RPDT to be treated administratively in the same way as corporation tax. These provisions set out important mechanics for the collection, management and payment of RPDT, she explained.
James Murray (Shadow Financial Secretary) cited CIOT as saying that alignment with corporation tax will reduce administrative burdens. But he repeated his concern about the truncated consultation period. He asked if there would be any additional budget allocation to HMRC to support the rollout of this new tax. Frazer said HMRC 'will be ready' because it will have sufficient funding.
Clause 46 - RPDT (Requirement to provide information about payments) (PASSED)
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said this allows for RPDT receipts to be monitored. It also provides or a penalty if there is a failure to comply.
James Murray (Shadow Financial Secretary) said Labour will not oppose the clause
*Clauses 47 - 49 and Schedule 9 were then PASSED because they have already been debated. Clauses 50-52 were then PASSED because they have already been debated.*
[Part Three of the Bill – Economic Crime (Anti-Money Laundering) Levy – was agreed in Committee of Whole House]
Part Four - Other Taxes
Stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax
Clause 67 - Securitisation companies and qualifying transformer vehicles (PASSED)
This is an enabling power to allow the Stamp Office to introduce an exemption by regulation from stamp duty and SDRT on transfers of notes issued by securitisation companies and insurance linked securities. It’s essentially clarifying – and broadening in some circumstances – an exemption that already existed, rather than creating a new exemption.
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said this measure follows a consultation process which sought views on whether uncertainty as to how existing stamp duty loan capital exemption applies increases costs and complexity of the UK securitisation arrangements. This supports the government ability to react to evolution of securitisation regime remains competitive.
Abena Oppong-Asare (Shadow Exchequer Secretary) said Labour does not oppose more efficiency and flexibility of this sector. The Treasury will be able to make changes to stamp duty as they relate to securitisation via secondary legislation. She asks why the Government could not use Finance Bill or other primary legislation? How will the Government be sure this will not increase the scope of tax avoidance.
Frazer said this is an important sector. She said secondary legislation is needed because it gives flexibility on technical changes.
Oppong-Asare wants to know what measures are in place for Parliament to review and scrutinise these changes? We must have no increase in tax avoidance, she insisted.
Frazer said committees look at secondary legislation. And the Government is committed to tackling tax avoidance.
Insurance premium tax
Clause 72 - Identifying where the risk is situated (PASSED)
This clause relocates the criteria for determining a location of risk for Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) to IPT legislation “to ensure clarity and continuity of treatment”. It does not substantively amend the location of risk criteria.
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary)said this about putting UK insurers on a level-playing field with international competitors.
Abena Oppong-Asare (Shadow Exchequer Secretary) said this seems a straightforward clause and said the CIOT believe it will meets its objective.
Clause 73 - Transitioned trade remedies: decisions by Secretary of State (PASSED)
The government transitioned (kept) 43 trade remedies measures that had been previously implemented by the EU. Transition reviews (being conducted by the Trade Remedies Authority) assess whether the maintained measure is appropriate for the UK market and whether it should be maintained, changed, or terminated. This clause empowers the Secretary of State to notify the Trade Remedies Authority that the Secretary of State will decide the outcome of a particular transition review.
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary) said the 2018 framework is a bit outdated and has shown that there is a clear need for greater ministerial oversight. The Government is also considering in parallel wider changes to trade remedies framework so that it can consistently defend UK industry. Appropriate measures such as varying tariffs under trade remedy framework will be open to the relevant minister under this measure.
Abena Oppong-Asare (Shadow Exchequer Secretary) spoke up the importance of this clause. Labour has campaigned for the Government to support the steel industry. We need transparency on trade remedies, however. We need a proper plan to decarbonise the steel industry.
Frazer will write to Oppong-Asare with details on how the measure will be used.
Clause 74 - Reference documents: amount of import duty (PASSED)
Amends the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 so that technical updates to tariff legislation, which do not alter the rate of an import duty, will made by public notice instead of regulations.
Lucy Frazer (Financial Secretary)aid this ensures routine changes to tariffs can be implemented more easily and quickly and reduces the amount of Parliamentary time needed to do this.
Abena Oppong-Asare (Shadow Exchequer Secretary) said this is a minor change and does not threaten Parliamentary scrutiny.
Clause 75 (and schedule 10) – Restriction of use of rebated diesel and biofuels (ALL PASSED)
To reduce carbon emissions Finance Act 2021 introduced restrictions on entitlement to use rebated diesel and rebated biofuels, which will take effect in April 2022. This clause and schedule contain technical amendments adjusting those restrictions.
Helen Whately (Exchequer Secretary) said these are technical amendments and clarify as to how the new rules work. Some of these changes follow on from feedback received from stakeholders from Finance Act 2021.
Abena Oppong-Asare (Shadow Exchequer Secretary) said this was already discussed in the last Finance Bill. Labour does not oppose these measures but is interested in what industries affected by these changes. What are HMRC's preparations for this change?
Alison Thewliss (SNP Lead Treasury spokesperson) is glad to see amendments include fairs and circus who will be allowed to use rebated diesel after April 2022 because they cannot really adapt their machines.
Whately said there have been substantial consultations on the overall policy.
Tobacco products duty
Clause 76 - Rates of tobacco products duty (PASSED)
Increases excise duty on all tobacco products by the duty escalator (RPI + 2%), adding 54p to the price of an average packet of cigarettes, with bigger increases for hand-rolling tobacco and the cheapest cigarettes (Minimum Excise Tax).
The minister, Lucy Frazer, explained that this clause implements changes made in Autumn Budget 2021 on tobacco duty rates. Smoking rates in the UK are falling but smoking continues to kill about 100,000 people a year.
Abena Oppong-Asare, for Labour, said the funding for an anti-smoking strategy had been repeatedly cut by the government. She noted with concern evidence showing a 25% increase in smoking among young adults since the 2020 lockdown. What work is the Treasury doing to design a levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay for campaigns to stop smoking, she asked.
Lucy Frazer replied that the UK is seen as a leader on tobacco control. She said a 2015 consultation had concluded that a levy on tobacco firms was not the most effective way to raise revenue for protecting public health.
Clause 76 was agreed.
Clause 77 - Rates for light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc (PASSED)
The rate of vehicle excise duty (VED) is chargeable on vehicles dependent on various factors including the vehicle type, engine size, date of first registration, fuel type and CO2 emissions data. This clause increases the rates.
Alongside this clause two opposition new clauses were debated. Labour’s new clause 15 would require the government to publish an assessment of the expected level of revenues of VED from light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc in future years in the context of the expected uptake of electric vehicles. SNP’s new clause 5 would require the government to publish an assessment of the impact of sections 77 to 79 on the goal of tackling climate change and on the UK‘s plans to reach net zero by 2050.
Exchequer Secretary Helen Whately opened this debate. She said the government have uprated VED in line with inflation every year since 2010. She said the new clauses were not needed as the Treasury carefully considers the climate implications of relevant tax measures. She explained: “The government incorporated a climate assessment in all relevant tax information and impact notes which were published at the Budget and will continue to do so for future TIINs. For example, the TIIN for the new plastic packaging tax incorporates an assessment of anticipated carbon savings… In addition HMRC is exploring options to further strengthen the analytical approach to monitoring, evaluating and quantifying the environmental impact of tax measures.”
Shadow Exchequer Secretary Abena Oppong-Asare supported the clause. She noted predictions that revenue from car usage could fall by about £10 billion by 2030 and £20 billion by 2035. The Treasury had recognised that revenue from this source is likely to be eroded as we move towards net zero. She asked whether the Treasury were considering road pricing or other alternative sources of revenue raising from motorists.
Richard Thomson, for the SNP, spoke in support of new clause 5. He thought further incentives would be needed if we are going to drive a shift from petrol to electric vehicles at the pace required.
Further consideration was adjourned until 6pm.
Following the adjournment, Richard Holden (Conservative) spoke in favour of the proposal and its impact on motorhomes, a major industry in his North West Durham constituency.
Responding, Exchequer Secretary Helen Whately said the government was providing 'substantial support' to the development and uptake of low emission vehicles and said that the Prime Minister was aware of the need to ensure that vehicle duties keep pace with changing technologies. Abena Oppong-Asare said she hoped the government could provide further information on how they plan to manage this transition.
Finance Bill Public Bill Committee - Sitting Four - Wednesday 5 January , 6pm
Clause 78 - Vehicle excise duty: exemption for certain cabotage operations (PASSED)
Clause 79 - HGV road user levy: extension of suspension (PASSED)
These two clauses were debated together. Clause 78 temporarily relaxes rules for international HGV journeys within Great Britain to provide greater resilience for supply chains, in the face of acute driver shortages. The Government will allow, until 30 April 2022, unlimited movements of HGVs within Great Britain for a period of 14 days after arriving in the UK on a laden international journey.
The HGV Road User levy is an annual charge for UK hauliers paid alongside their VED, and a daily, weekly or monthly charge for non-UK based hauliers. The levy was suspended for 12 months (to 31 July 2021) to support the haulage sector and pandemic recovery efforts, then for a further 12 months, and now clause 79 will suspend it to 31 July 2023.
Alongside these two clauses Labour’s new clause 16 was debated. This would require the government to publish an assessment of the impact of these provisions on (a) supply chain disruptions, (b) numbers of HGV drivers working in the UK, and (c) shortages of products in UK shops.
Helen Whately outlined the provisions of the clauses, which respond to challenges within the road haulage industry and seek to increase resilience within supply chains. She explained that the provisions in clause 78 have been in force since 28 October 2021. She said the opposition's new clause 16 was unnecessary as the government had consulted widely ahead of introducing its proposals and had published a tax information impact note on its impact. She urged that it be rejected.
Abena Oppong-Asare signalled that the opposition would support the measures but described them as a very small part of the solution needed to resolve supply chain issues. That was why the opposition had tabled its new clause. She added that 'for a nearly half a year', a combination of pandemic and Brexit impacts had 'hit businesses across the economy'. Whately explained in response that the government was robustly responding to the challenges within the road haulage industry.
Clause 80 - Amounts of gross gaming yield charged to gaming duty (PASSED)
Increases gross gaming yield (GGY) bands for gaming duty in line with inflation. Gaming Duty is charged on any premises in the UK where dutiable gaming (eg roulette, blackjack) takes place. The amount of duty is calculated by reference to bands of GGY (i.e. gross profits) for that accounting period.
Alongside this clause the SNP’s new clause 11 will be debated. This would require the government to publish an assessment of the provisions of clause 80 on (a) the volume of gambling, and (b) public health.
Helen Whately set out the details of the clause, which has been expected by the industry and assumed in the public finances. They will take effect from 1 April 2022.
Richard Thomson (SNP) described gambling as a problem for many, causing financial, health and economic harms. He said an impact assessment would help MPs to understand the impact of gambling to set wider policies in relation to gambling in the future. Shadow Exchequer Secretary Abena Oppong-Asare contrasted the government's support for the gambling industry with threshold freezes for income taxpayers. She also spoke about the wider harms caused by gambling and its impact on the public finances. She asked if the government would bring forward further, future levies on the industry to help tackle gambling's social impact.
Whately said that issues around wider regulation of the gambling industry were outside of the scope of the Financial Bill and handled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Penalties relating to excise duty
Clause 81 - Excise duty: penalties (PASSED)
This clause enables the excise wrongdoing penalty regime to be applied to free ports.
Helen Whately said the measure would update regulations and provide a consistent approach to the wrongdoing penalty regime. Abena Oppong-Asare said the government would not oppose the measure and spoke about Labour's wider concerns with the freeport regime and HMRC's ability to monitor for signs of illicit activity such as smuggling and tax evasion. She asked the Minister to explain the government's approach to tackling this in England's 8 freeport zones. Whately said that freeports were an 'important part' of the government's levelling up agenda. She said that this clause would give HMRC the power to adequately enforce rules in freeport zones and would follow-up with further details in writing.
Clause 82 - Rates of landfill tax (PASSED)
Landfill tax is a levy on waste disposal at landfills. There is a lower rate of tax, which applies to less polluting qualifying materials, and a standard rate which applies to all other taxable material. This clause increases both in line with inflation. This applies in England and N Ireland (the tax is devolved in Scotland and Wales).
Helen Whately said that landfill tax had been a hugely successful policy and that the changes would maintain the disincentive to dispose of waste via landfill. Abena Oppong-Asare described the proposal as 'straightforward'. She referenced the CIOT's Climate Change Tax Policy Roadmap (published in October 2021) and its call on the government to deliver a strategic approach to the role of the tax system in achieving net zero ambitions. She said that many businesses and stakeholders had voiced concerns that the government's plans did not go far enough.
Liz Twist (Labour) asked about the use of enforcement action by HMRC, noting problems with enforcement in her constituency. The Exchequer Secretary acknowledged the challenges with waste crime and waste tourism but noted that the landfill tax gap had decreased in recent years. These improvements had helped with enforcement but she acknowledged the need for further action to strengthen enforcement. Whately said that the government's net zero review had been a substantial piece of work in identifying the challenges of decarbonisation and had highlighted the Treasury's thinking for the future.
Clause 83 (and schedule 11) - Plastic packaging tax (PASSED)
Plastic Packaging Tax has already been legislated for and comes in on 1 April 2022. These amendments to that legislation appear to be just tidying up to ensure that the tax meets previously announced policy objectives and works as intended.
Alongside this clause will be debated Labour’s new clause 17. This would require an annual review of the impact of the plastic packaging tax.
Helen Whately explained that these measures would ensure that the legislation works as intended, ensures the UK meets international obligations and gives HMRC the information needed to operate the tax. These are technical amendments.
Abena Oppong-Asare said Labour supported the introduction of the plastic packaging tax. She said that new clause 17 could assist in ensuring that the tax meets its aims and objectives. She also shared the concerns of environmental campaigners who have warned that the tax may not act as an incentive for businesses to reduce their use of non-recyclable plastic.
Alison Thewliss (SNP) said she was concerned that Ministers needed to amend the law a year after its introduction. She asked whether the tax would apply to freeport zones and spoke more widely about the Scottish Government's aspiration to deliver 'green ports'. She said that further work could have been carried out to differentiate between different forms of plastic to deliver a more rounded and effective regime.
Liz Twist expressed concern over the use of secondary legislation to make changes to the tax.
Helen Whately welcomed the opposition's support for the plastic packaging tax but said that the government had already undertaken significant research into the impact of the tax, making new clause 17 unnecessary. She assured Thewliss that there were no exemptions from the tax for freeports and said the government remained committed to establishing freeports in Scotland and the other devolved nations. Responding to Liz Twist, the Minister said secondary legislation provided flexibility to amend legislation.
The committee adjourned at 7.02pm.