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New Clause—(Amendment Of S 159 Of Income Tax Act, 1952)

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

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Section one hundred and fifty-nine of the Income Tax Act, 1952, shall be amended by the insertion after the words "his residence and his work," of the words "or

(c) that no public transport services normally operating and usable by the claimant operate immediately before or immediately after the claimant's working hours, and that as a result the claimant operates a vehicle or motor-cycle in order to get to or from his place of work."—[Mr. Snow.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I hope that the present mood of the Chancellor will persist and that this Clause also will be accepted. It arises out of a case which was recently drawn to my attention. An employee of a big industry was, on alternate weeks, on duties which necessitated his reporting for work after public transport had stopped, and coming off duty before public transport had started. The man sought, through his employer, the advice of the local tax inspector. He was advised that although he was subject to an expense in travelling to his place of employment—which happens to be a railway—he did not fall within the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1952, because there is no allowance for travelling expenses from home to work.

In point of fact, this type of worker does not get any sort of comfort from the existing provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1952. For the reasons which I have given he cannot claim wear and tear and obsolescence allowance for any vehicle which he may have to purchase and use, nor can he claim any sort of allowance under the replacement or renewal provisions of the same Act.

10.30 p.m.

There is a third and rather more delicate and obscure system for which, again, he does not appear to be eligible. That is to say, certain industries, as I am given to understand, rather than upset the existing wage structure, have come to an arrangement with the Board of Inland Revenue whereby any additional expense in travelling, which is incurred because the place of employment is further distant from the home than originally was the case, is borne by the employer and the employer pays the taxation due direct to the Inland Revenue. That is all very comforting to employees whose industries have come to such an arrangement with the Board of Inland Revenue, but it does not apply in the case of British Railways.

The Chancellor and the Financial Secretary have had a very long day—two days, in fact—and I do not want to labour this point or to read a long extract from a letter on this case, but it seemed to my hon. Friend and myself that this difficulty might be overcome by the suggested new Clause which would be an addition to the existing provision of the Income Tax Act whereby if, through causes of war, a residence has become further away from the place of work than would normally be the case, there is an allowance of £10 a year. It is thought that this modest suggestion, to give this type of employee relief, would meet with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman.

I should explain also that in this case it is rather a far-fetched argument—and, therefore, I would not attempt to use it—that this is a result of war. In this case a man was transferred to work at Fratton in the Portsmouth area, having previously worked at the Seven Oaks branch, on the same line. By virtue of being transferred he tried to find new accommodation nearer to Fratton, was unable to do so because of the housing difficulty, and his present place of residence is, in fact, approximately nine miles away from his place of work. He goes on duty on alternate weeks before the public transport starts, and comes off duty after it has stopped. Therefore, he has been obliged to purchase a motor-cycle, and under the existing law he can obtain no relief at all. For that reason this new Clause is moved, in the hope that it will meet with the approval of the Chancellor.

The hon. Gentleman has raised once again the theme of an allowance for expenses of travelling from home to a place of employment. We have debated that theme, I think, on a number of occasions, and I should think the arguments are fairly well known on both sides of the Committee. I do not propose to go into it in detail tonight, but merely to point out that it would be a radical alteration of the Income Tax law to allow such expenses, which are really personal expenses, to be deducted.

This new Clause makes an addition to Section 159 of the 1952 Act—the provision whereby £10 a year might be allowed to taxpayers assessable under Schedule E for travelling expenses. That allowance was introduced to deal with the cases where additional costs were incurred because either the residence or the place of work had changed through circumstances connected with the war. Therefore, the problem which the hon. Member advanced has really no connection with this provision.

Whatever may or may not be done in the future about expenses of travelling to and from work, I hope I shall carry the hon. Member with me when I say that it would be wrong to make changes piecemeal. To adopt this proposal in the new Clause would create anomalies and lead to demands that the relief should be extended to what may be claimed to be analogus cases, or cases where the hardship is said to be of the same order.

The Clause proposes to limit the relief to cases where the claimant cannot use the ordinary public transport services because of his working hours and, in consequence, has to use a vehicle or motorcycle, but a similar claim could be put forward for relief by a man who works quite normal hours but lives in a remote part of the country not well served by public transport even during normal hours. It would be proved difficult, logically, to resist such a claim.

I feel that it would be wrong to deal with these cases on their own. If there are to be changes made in the long-established principle of tax law that personal expenses in getting to and from work are not deductible it would be much better that that should be made as a general change rather than as a piecemeal change, as put forward in this suggestion. I hope that with that explanation the hon. Member will withdraw the new Clause, although I appreciate the reasons why he has put it forward with such clarity.

There are many difficulties about this new Clause and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has dealt with quite a number. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) will not wish to press it because we understand that it would have repercussions which would be extremely difficult to control without making other provisions. But I think we can impress on the Committee and on the Chancellor the need for looking very seriously later on this whole troublesome question of expenses of getting to and from work, and its connection with Income Tax.

There are many aspects which need to be examined. Probably the Radcliffe Committee will be devoting some study to this matter. While it is true that the proposal is a radical one it has the merit of being only a little cost because of the limit of £10 which has been mentioned. Secondly, although I agree that Section 159 deals mainly with matters arising out of the war, my hon. Friend and I thought there was no harm in bringing the war to an end for the purposes of accommodating the addition of this new Clause.

May I ask the Solicitor-General whether, in the public interest, he will confirm or deny one piece of advice which I am given to understand was intimated to this employee by the local tax inspector? That is to say, that where a car is used by a director to get to his place of business and then used for business purposes during his normal hours, regard is taken, in so far as tax allowance is concerned, not only of the actual mileage while on business but in respect of getting to the place of business? It may be that he misunderstood what the inspector said, but it should be clearly stated that there is not one category for the employer getting the allowance whereas the employee does not get it.

I can answer that quite briefly, because recently I was engaged in a case which dealt with car expenses. The law is that the expenses of taking one's car to one's place of employment are not deductible.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

First Schedule agreed to.

Third to Sixth Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported with Amendments; as amended to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 137.]