Skip to main content

Tax Avoidance

Volume 587: debated on Tuesday 4 November 2014

The Government have taken a wide range of actions to tackle tax avoidance over the Parliament, including introducing the UK’s first ever general anti-abuse rule. This year’s Finance Act introduced a tougher monitoring regime and penalties for promoters of high-risk tax avoidance schemes. We have also given HMRC the power to collect disputed tax bills up front. That removes the incentive for tax avoiders to delay and frustrate HMRC’s efforts to settle disputes and brings forward £4.3 billion in revenues.

I am aware that, as a result of measures taken by the coalition Government to crack down on tax avoidance, a record £24 billion in additional tax revenue was raised in the last financial year. Does my hon. Friend agree that much more remains to be done to make sure that multinationals such as Starbucks and Google pay their fair share?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the record yield for the last financial year. Indeed, there are reasons to believe that that record may well be broken for this financial year. As for multinationals, I do not want to be drawn on individual companies, but it is right to say that we need to work internationally, as I mentioned earlier, through the OECD base erosion and profit shifting process. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear at the Conservative party conference, we are looking to take further action in respect of multinationals not paying the tax that they should.

The Chancellor has said that the Swiss tax deal will raise £5 billion by next year. How much has been raised so far?

We have already got in about £800 million, and we will get more, but that is money that we would not otherwise have received. That is a deal worth doing. It is worth pointing out that some people said that if we had not had this deal with the Swiss—which has brought in additional revenue—we would not have been able to make progress on automatic exchange of information, whereas the reality is that just last week the Chancellor signed a deal on behalf of this country that made progress on that.

Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that under the previous Government the tax gap grew and that all the running in this Parliament on ensuring that businesses pay their fair share of tax and cracking down on tax dodgers has come from our side of the House, and that this Government have made the case internationally as well?

The tax gap as a proportion of tax receipts was higher under the previous Government than for every year under this Government. We have introduced about 40 measures to close loopholes, one of which, on disguised remuneration, let us not forget the Labour party opposed.

Given the Government’s commitment to clamping down on tax avoidance, can the Minister give us a prediction or a commentary on the yield he expects next year as a result?

As we heard earlier, the yield for 2013-14 was £24 billion. HMRC anticipates that that will be broken and that the yield will be higher for this financial year—the details are to come, but that is encouraging. On the tax gap, the small increase is largely due to the VAT tax gap being higher in 2012-13 than the previous year, but we already know that for 2013-14 it will fall.