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Finance Act 1987

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2009

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) for what reason HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has decided to close schemes permitted under section 58 of the Finance Act 1987; for what reason the decision was made with retrospective effect; what factors were taken into account in determining that the period of such retrospective effect would be seven years; and what the policy of HMRC is on charging interest on sums owed as a result of retrospective closure; (276192)

(2) what impact assessment HM Revenue and Customs has made of the effect of the retrospective closure of schemes permitted under section 58 of the Finance Act 1987; and if he will assess the effects of the closure on the financial situation of households operating such schemes.

Section 62 Finance (No. 2) Act 1987 retrospectively restored the principle that double taxation treaties do not affect a UK resident’s liability to UK tax on their income or gains. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not believe that any tax avoidance schemes were permitted under that legislation—although the tax avoidance schemes in question here purported to circumvent it.

Evidence emerged that a large number of people were using the scheme and in light of a number of factors (including the widespread use, aggressive nature and artificiality of the scheme, the deliberate attempt to flout the clear intention of Parliament in 1987 and the need to ensure fairness and certainty for all taxpayers), the Government introduced legislation at section 58 Finance Act 2008 to put beyond doubt that none of the schemes worked—and never had done.

Although, like the 1987 legislation, it is indefinitely retrospective, HMRC is not aware of any relevant schemes prior to 2001. Any tax paid late will be subject to interest in accordance with the relevant legislation on late payments.

Formal impact assessments are not published in respect of measures where the impact is only on those who are avoiding tax and thus one was not published for this particular measure. Such decisions on the production of an impact assessment are taken on a case-by-case basis. As indicated in the 2008 Financial Statement and Budget Report, it is estimated that the tax at stake on the schemes that purported to circumvent the 1987 legislation is around £200 million. Those who used those schemes are, like ail other UK taxpayers, required to pay tax on the profits that they earned.