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Purchase Tax

Volume 446: debated on Tuesday 27 January 1948

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50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sum is represented at any given time by Purchase Tax paid to the Treasury and awaiting reimbursement to retailers by the public; and whether, where the rate of Purchase Tax is reduced, he will refund to retailers the amount which retailers have invested in the payment of tax.

The amount in question is not ascertainable. There is no legal authority for refunding it, and it would be impracticable to attempt to do so.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is a very substantial sum, running into many millions, involved, and is it beyond the ability of the Government to devise some scheme by which equity may be ensured?

I do not agree with the hon. Member's proposition. We made very careful inquiries into this, and we found that, in the vast majority of cases, the retailers recovered.

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware of the financial hardship imposed on officers of the Indian Army returning to this country by the imposition of Purchase Tax on household effects, which they bought for use in India before they knew that their services in India were likely to be terminated in the early future; and if he will grant free admission for such imports.

Household effects which are imported on a bona fide transfer of residence to this country by the owner are admitted free of duty and Purchase Tax provided that the articles are shown to the satisfaction of the Customs to have been in the owner's possession and use abroad for a reasonable period and that they are not intended to be disposed of in this country. In general, this concession should be adequate for the Indian Army cases referred to by the hon. Member. But the Customs are ready to give further consideration to any special case which may be brought their notice.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what is a "reasonable period"? I have a case of an officer who bought rugs about a year before he knew that he was leaving India, and he had to pay Purchase Tax on them.

It would be a question of being reasonable in the particular circumstances. If there is a special case, and the attention of the Customs is drawn to it, no doubt they will deal with it.

It was brought to the notice of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I was told that there was no power to grant an exemption.

I am not suggesting that there is any power to grant an exemption. Under the existing system, the goods could be exempted if they qualified in the way I have stated.