Skip to main content

Tax Avoidance

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Government continue to make strong progress on tackling tax avoidance. Following on from our announcement at Budget 2013, we have introduced the UK’s first general anti-abuse rule, which will act as a significant deterrent to abusive avoidance. We have completed our consultations on avoidance using partnership rules and the use of offshore intermediaries, and we have just launched a consultation on new information requirements and penalties for the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.

I would like to wish the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) good luck for his forthcoming wedding. I trust all will go as smoothly as his question.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I welcome the measures that the Minister has announced. My constituents want to see everyone paying the tax they owe on their income. Does the Minister think that any measures are required to make sure that trade unions do that as well?

First, I add to the words of Mr Speaker and, perhaps, wish good luck to my hon. Friend’s future wife. He draws attention to a story that we have seen in the last few days: allegations of tax avoidance against Unite and against Labour. Maybe the links between the two are closer than we realised.

While it is right that we all press down on active tax avoiders, a number of small businesses that find themselves categorised as such are simply unable to pay the correct amount. Does the Minister think that the average of 29 minutes that it can take for the Revenue to answer a telephone call, the fact that the tax code has reached 11,500 pages, the closure of local offices and the reduction in Revenue headcount—things for which he is responsible—might be contributing to this, at least in some way?

On support for small businesses, HMRC has in place a time-to-pay arrangement. On the service that is provided by HMRC, it is always seeking to improve and deal with telephone calls and letters as efficiently as possible. But we have to bear in mind that the yield that HMRC is bringing in is increasing by £10 billion over the course of this Parliament. HMRC’s performance on phone calls and letters is better than it was when we came to office. It has made considerable progress and that should be acknowledged.