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Income Tax

Volume 690: debated on Monday 1 March 2021

I beg to move,

That the draft Major Sporting Events (Income Tax Exemption) Regulations 2021, which were laid before this House on 11 January, be approved.

The draft regulations before us provide an income tax exemption for accredited non-resident individuals who perform duties or services in the UK in relation to the rescheduled UEFA Euro 2020 final tournament. The exemption will apply to any income that an individual receives for duties and services performed in connection with the UK-hosted matches of the final tournament between specific dates in June and July 2021.

The Euros 2020 final tournament ranks second only to the World cup in prestige in the world of football. From 11 June this year, the world’s attention will focus on this tournament, which will be held across 12 European cities as part of the celebration of the tournament’s 60th anniversary. In particular, there will be matches hosted at Wembley stadium in London and Hampden Park in Glasgow, as 24 nations compete to be the champions of Europe.

I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members will be aware of the Government’s commitment to making the UK an attractive location—perhaps the most attractive location for football—in which to host world-class events. Successive Governments have provided income tax exemptions for major sporting events of this kind. Following the success of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games, which showcased the UK’s ability to host major events, statutory tax exemptions have been provided for other world-class events, including the 2013 and 2017 UEFA Champions League finals, the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth games and the 2017 World Athletics championships. I am confident that Members across the House will agree that it is in keeping with Government policy to provide a similar exemption for this exceptional event.

The draft regulations make use of the powers introduced in the Finance Act 2014 that enable the Treasury to make regulations providing for an income tax exemption in relation to a major sporting event. As the UK continues to be at the forefront of hosting world-class events, I would like to emphasise that the policy conditions, as they are described in the Treasury, for providing a tax exemption are the same as those that have been applied for previous events.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be aware that a tax exemption is reserved only for the most exceptional events, with consideration on an event-by-event basis. In order to be considered for a tax exemption, an event must satisfy three conditions: it must demonstrate the highest level of world sport; it must be internationally mobile; and the granting of the exemption must be a necessary condition of a bid to host the event. I am positive that the House will agree that the UEFA Euros final tournament falls well within those criteria.

If I may, I will turn to the details of the regulations. An exemption from UK income tax will apply to non-resident players, officials and certain other UEFA-accredited individuals in respect of income arising in connection with the UK-hosted matches of the final tournament. The exemption will apply to income arising from duties and services performed in the UK between 1 June and 13 July. That allows for 10 days before the event commences, so that the exemption can cover any duties performed in connection with the matches held in the UK, such as advance planning or training camps.

The income tax exemption for the 2021 Euros supports our commitment to make the UK a global leader for world-class major sporting events and demonstrates what we can achieve across the breadth of the UK. I am sure that these regulations and the objective they serve will enjoy cross-party support. I hope colleagues will therefore join me in supporting these regulations, which I commend to the House.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Opposition on these regulations. As we have heard, this statutory instrument relates to the Euro 2020 football championships, which were delayed by covid-19 into 2021. Although I am speaking as a shadow Minister, this subject is literally close to home for people in my constituency; from many places near where I live, including the top of Horsenden Hill, people get a full view of Wembley’s arch, under which several of the games are set to be played, including the semi-finals and the final.

As we have heard from the Minister, the purpose of these regulations is to create an exemption from income tax for income earned in the UK by certain non-resident individuals in connection with football matches held in the UK as part of the tournament. The Opposition recognise that this income tax exemption was a condition of the bidding process for all countries wishing to host matches in the UEFA Euro 2020 finals tournament. We also recognise that the formal requirement to grant an income tax exemption in hosting the Euro 2020 finals is consistent with the approach taken in comparable events hosted in the UK in the past, such as the World Athletics championships 2017, the UEFA Champions League final 2017 and the London anniversary games in 2016. We will therefore not oppose this statutory instrument, and we look forward to enjoying the matches this summer.

A belated happy St David’s Day to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to all hon. Members and staff of the House.

The Scottish National party will not oppose these regulations. Applying them to the delayed Euro 2020 finals is clearly an appropriate use of the power that has existed for a number of years to exempt from income tax liabilities anyone who works here for a relatively short time because they play for, coach or are otherwise involved with one of the national squads, or are UEFA-accredited staff and journalists. It is my understanding that this courtesy is often extended by other countries that host major sporting events; indeed, as we have heard, Governments of all the host countries had to sign up to this to take part in the bidding. I suppose we should welcome the fact that on this occasion the Government have actually honoured promises they made to our European neighbours; quite a few businesses in my constituency and elsewhere in Scotland wish that promises made to them were worth quite as much.

Clearly, because of covid, the tournament may not be the spectacle it might have been, but I hope that by the summer, the Governments of not only Scotland and the UK but all the qualifying countries have the pandemic sufficiently under control to allow the matches to be played—possibly not in front of full capacity crowds, but certainly with a big enough crowd at each game to give them the atmosphere that Europe’s top footballers clearly deserve. I can see that the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) is waiting to speak, so let me say to him and his colleagues from Northern Ireland that I am sorry that Northern Ireland did not quite make it through a very difficult qualifying group to make it four UK nations out of four taking part.

Given that it is St David’s day, may I wish Wales the very best of luck with their start to the tournament? I also send my very genuine and sincere good wishes to England, as they strive to finish second to Scotland and qualify on our coattails in group D. Who knows? We might be able to give the world’s media not just an exemption from income tax while they are here, but a truly historic sporting occasion—and not just because Scotland’s men’s football team is at a major tournament, because I can remember when that was quite a common occurrence. We might show the media something that has only ever happened once in history; they might be able to report on Scotland beating England at Twickenham and at Wembley in the same year. Now, that is something that I think we all look forward to in June this year.

I thank the Minister for his comments and introduction. I have always been a massive football fan, supporting the greatest club in the league, and I always support the home nations. As the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) said, we in Northern Ireland have narrowly missed out again; we hope for better times. But I am excited about the rescheduling of Euro 2020. Although we might not be able to have the usual full stadium, we should all be able fully to support the home nations—I will be supporting them—from the comfort of our living rooms.

This statutory instrument, which I support, is merely one cog in ensuring that players can come, play and not be penalised through their wages, by creating an income tax exemption from 1 June 2021 until two days after the final match. With matches being hosted in the United Kingdom, and Wembley hosting the final, I am hopeful that football is coming home, and that there will be a boost to local economies at every venue. That is much needed. Hopefully, if all continues to go well, bed nights and safe tourism may well be another benefit of the beautiful game coming home.

Does the Minister agree that having an exemption until two days after the last match gives sufficient time for everything to be resolved, or would he consider allowing a few more days, in case, God forbid—I put this very apprehensively—any player or coach has to quarantine for whatever reason? I hope that the Minister will be able to address that question.

It is testimony to the unifying quality of football as a game that we can have such a unanimity of view across the different nations of this country. I thank the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) for the Opposition’s support. I also thank the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) for his and his party’s support; I am not going to comment on the relative order in the finals between England and Scotland, but we shall see. I thank very much the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who asks if we will consider a few more days of relief. I thank him for his question. He has put it on the record here in Parliament, and we will of course give it consideration.

It is a great sadness to me personally that it is unlikely that the England team will feature any members of the Hereford FC team, now making their way triumphantly towards the finals—I hope, in due course—of the FA trophy, but I can say that Members of this House will, I hope, have the joy of seeing players of the quality of a Kane, a Rashford, a Mount, a Calvert-Lewin and a McTominay. With that, I hope that we can all have a fantastic tournament, ably supported by our tax system.

Question put and agreed to.