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Uncollected Tax

Volume 591: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2015

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs published its latest tax gap estimates on 16 October 2014. In 2012-13, the tax gap was estimated at £34 billion, 6.8% of total tax due.

The Government’s own figures suggest that the tax gap has increased by £3 billion. Independent experts say that the tax gap could be up to £120 billion. In North Ayrshire, the local tax office has been closed by this Government, and since 2010, 10,000 people in the Treasury have lost their jobs, despite the fact that every tax inspector brings in far more—in taxes—than they cost. Do the Government believe that they should rethink their strategy?

The reality is that the tax gap for 2012-13 was lower than in any year under the previous Labour Government. As for the yield—the money that is brought in by HMRC as a consequence of its activity—that has gone up by £9 billion since 2010-11, and is forecast to be £26 billion this year. That is a very good record.

Will the Minister confirm that the compliance tax yield for this year has been revised up to £26 billion, which is an increase of £9 billion since this Government came to office?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to make that point, and there has been an increase—[Interruption.] It is a point that bears repeating. Members really should take in the fact that, under this Government, we have seen a significant increase in HMRC’s yield. HMRC is more effective than ever in dealing with tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Two thirds of people getting tax credits are in work, so why does the Chancellor want to cut tax credits again? That will penalise hard-working families.

I suspect that, a couple of weeks ago, the hon. Gentleman walked through the Lobby in support of the charter for fiscal responsibility, which requires us to find £30 billion of savings, either in tax increases or in spending cuts. If he is not prepared to take action in that area, he has to tell his constituents where he is prepared to take action.

I congratulate Her Majesty’s Treasury on its successful efforts to reduce the tax gap. Where are the main hiding places that people are using to try to avoid tax?

My hon. Friend raises an important question to which I could give a lengthy reply. But what I will say is that, as a Government, we have taken action, for example, to improve the automatic exchange of information between various jurisdictions, so that there is nowhere for people to hide their money. The net is closing in on those who have evaded their taxes, and we are increasingly effective at dealing with tax avoidance as well.

With economic growth now showing signs of slowing and wages stagnating, is the Minister not worried that the amount of income tax and national insurance that he said he would collect is failing to live up to expectations? Will he tell the House by how many billions of pounds income tax and national insurance receipts have fallen short because of low wages, compared with the original Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts back in 2010?

We are aware that, since 2010, the economy has had to face challenges, which in 2010 were not anticipated by the OBR to occur in the way that they did. We have had to deal with the eurozone crisis, the high commodity prices at the time and the aftershocks of the financial crisis. The consequences have been significant, but if we want wages to rise we need to improve productivity. That is about improving our education system, and having more apprentices and a competitive tax system, and that is what this Government are delivering.

The answer is that income tax and national insurance receipts are down by a staggering £95 billion over this Parliament. Is it any wonder that the Minister and the Chancellor have failed so woefully to eradicate the deficit, and when will he realise that it is the low-wage economy that is the recipe for more borrowing, more welfare spending and more debt?

We discovered this morning that in 2014 the UK was the fastest growing major western economy. Employment is at a record level and unemployment has fallen dramatically, contrary to the Opposition’s predictions—but, yes, we have got further to go to reduce the deficit, which is why we need a Government who are prepared to make difficult decisions. All that we have heard from the hon. Gentleman is that he is going to put up fees on gun licences, which is not going to solve the deficit.

Am I right in thinking that under the charter for fiscal responsibility, to which everyone recently signed up, we have made it clear that part of the savings that we are going to make involves bearing down on tax avoidance? Indeed, we have set out clearly exactly where we are going to save every penny of the £30 billion that needs to be saved. How is it possible for anyone to sign up to a charter for fiscal responsibility without making it clear where they are going to make those savings?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right; the Opposition have given no indication of the balance between tax and spending and how they are going to find that £30 billion. At a time when Labour Back Benchers are saying that Syriza shows the way while those on the Labour Front Bench apparently support a £30 billion fiscal tightening, all we get from the Opposition is chaos.