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New Clause—(Appeals To The Special Commissioners)

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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Section one hundred and forty-eight of the Income Tax Act, 1918, which provides that appeals in certain cases may be made to the Special Commissioners instead of to the General Commissioners, shall apply also to an appeal against an assessment made under the rules of Schedule E as amended by this Act.—[Mr. G. Locker-Lampson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This is a result of Clause 12, which the Government have included in the Bill. Under Clause 12 the Chancellor of the Exchequer has transferred a great many people from Schedule D to Schedule E. This Clause suggests that all persons transferred from Schedule D to Schedule E shall have the right of appealing to the Special Commissioners instead of the General Commissioners. Under Schedule D there is a right of appeal to the Special Commissioners, but under Schedule E the only right of appeal is to the General Commissioners. That did not really very much matter under the former system, because Schedule E only comprised a comparatively small number of people—employés of the Government, of Corporations and of companies, and it only applied really to the chief employés in those three categories. Now it is proposed to transfer to Schedule E practically all the employés even of private employers, so that in the future Schedule E is going to comprise a very large proportion of the population of this country. I do not believe the General Commissioners are really qualified to deal with a great many of the appeals which will arise. After all the General Commissioners are appointed by the Land Tax Commissioner; they are very often local people, and generally know nothing whatever about Income Tax law. With the exception of some parts of Wiltshire and the City of London, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London the other day, in most parts of the country the General Commissioners have no expert knowledge. They are entirely in the hands of the local Inspector of Taxes. They are local people, and very often an appellant does not like his private affairs to be known by his neighbours who are General Commissioners. He would prefer that his appeal should be dealt with by people entirely outside his own locality whom he can trust not to pry too much into his private affairs. All I am asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do—the right hon. Gentleman has not listened to one single word I have been saying. May I, on a point of Order, Sir Edwin Cornwall, ask, if the Minister in charge does not really pay the slightest attention to what a speaker is saying, if it is possible to repeat the whole of one's speech over again?

I am sorry the hon. Member should think that his remarks have not received sufficient attention.

I do not apologise, because I have been listening to all that the hon. Member has said. It is possible sometimes, and even necessary, for a Minister to be getting information from the Bench behind and yet to listen to what is being said by an hon. Member who is addressing the Chair, and I am rather surprised at the hon. Member's reproach because, indeed, it was not deserved.

I quite realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has treated the Committee with great courtesy throughout the Debate. I hope I have made myself clear that I want to give these people who have been transferred to Schedule E from Schedule D the right to maintain the privilege, which they have had in the past of appealing to the Special Commissioners, if they so desire, instead of to the General Commissioners.

In order to show that I fully appreciated the speech of the hon. Member, I may say that I approve what he has said and am prepared to adopt his suggestion, but not in the precise words which he has put on the Paper. If he will allow me, I should like to bring up another Clause dealing with the point on the Report Stage.

I very much appreciate the kindness of my right hon. Friend, arid what I said before was not, of course, in any way personal.

I understand it is the ruling of the Chair that a Clause in my name on the Paper, which I have put down at the instance of the Income Tax Payers' Society, and which is on somewhat the same lines as that now before the Committee, cannot be discussed when we come to that point, but must be dealt with now?

In the event of the Clause now before the Committee being withdrawn, that does not prejudice the hon. Member on a later Clause, but there is no reason why he should not put his point now, in order to save, the time of the Committee.

I will shortly put the point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My Clause is rather a wider one than that of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Locker-Lampson), and it simply provides that, notwithstanding anything in the Income Tax Act, 1918, except in the case of railways, which are in every respect dealt with by the Special Commissioners, every appeal against any assessment to Income Tax or Super-tax may be made to the Special Commissioners or to the General Commissioners, at the option of the taxpayer. At the present time a company, firm, or individual assessed by the General Commissioners can appeal either to the General Commissioners or to the Special Commissioners, as he or they think fit, but a company, firm, or individual assessed by the Special Commissioners must appeal to the Special Commissioners and cannot appeal to the General Commissioners. All that I ask is that this anomaly should he removed and that there should be a right of appeal to either the Special Commissioners or the General Commissioners in either case. It is a very simple and reasonable point, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to agree to it. It is very much desired by the Income Tax Payers' Society, whose attention has been drawn to it by a large number of persons, and as it will cost nothing I hope the Chancellor will agree to it.

I am sorry to say that I cannot, as at present advised, agree to what my hon. Friend has suggested, for, as he said, his Clause is very much wider than that now before the Committee. It would include every possible assessment, including assessments under Schedule A, which at present I should not regard as at all suitable for appeal to the Special Commissioners, and accordingly I would suggest to my hon. Friend that he should not insist on this matter now, but should wait until his Clause is called and make his Motion then, and I will perhaps have an opportunity in the interval of considering if by any chance I am able to meet him.

I think we had better understand that this question, having been raised now, cannot be raised again.

On a point of Order. I understood my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) only got up in deference to a statement from the Chair, and as the Chancellor expressed a desire that he should make his statement when his Clause comes on, would it be possible for the Chair to allow it?

It would be possible, but, having regard to the large number of Amendments on the Paper, and the fact that the subject-matter has been before the Committee, I only intended to indicate, for the convenience of the Committee, what I thought would happen.

I understand the Chancellor has accepted my Clause in principle. Would he like me to withdraw it now?

I would prefer that the hon. Member should withdraw it now, in order that it should be put on the Paper on the Report stage in a form which we could approve.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.