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Income Tax

Volume 17: debated on Wednesday 15 June 1910

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Commissioners of Customs and Excise have power to require from a taxpayer who has duly paid his Income Tax to a tax collector the payment of such tax a second time in case default has been made in its payment to the Commissioners by the tax collector; and have they in fact so required it?

asked whether he will state, for the information of those upon whom notices have been served to make income returns for Super-tax, or will he refer specifically to the Act or Acts and the sections thereof which state, what the precise manner is in which income is estimated for the purposes of exemptions or abatements under the Income Tax Acts; and will he direct that in future a full, plain, and unambiguous statement of that manner shall accompany all notices for a return of income for Super-tax?

I may refer to Sections 163, 164, and 190 (Schedule G) No. XVII. of the Act 5 and 6 Vic, c. 35. I may remind my hon. Friend that instructions on the point accompanying the form of return, but my right hon. Friend will be happy to consider any suggestion for their improvement.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the second part of the question?

I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will question the fact that they are unambiguous at the present moment.

asked, in view of the fact that there is no machinery provided by the Income Tax Acts empowering the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to receive taxes direct, will His Majesty's Government consider the expediency of establishing such machinery as will enable taxpayers to pay their taxes direct to the Commissioners, instead of by the circuitous method of payment through collectors of taxes, of whom three are recorded last year to have made default and fled the country?

My right hon. Friend does not think it would be desirable to adopt any alternative method of payment such as that suggested by my hon. Friend, which he is advised would lead to considerable delay and multiplication of labour.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the fact that Commissioners of Income Tax, as well as inspectors, surveyors, assessors, and collectors, make oath that they will not disclose any particular contained in any schedule or statement excepting to such persons only who shall be sworn to the due execution of the Act, and where necessary for the purposes of the Act with respect to any duty charged by the Act, will he state whether in fact disclosures have been and are made to officers of the Estate Duty Office by Income Tax officials sworn as aforesaid, and is it a fact that these Estate Duty officials are not so sworn; and, if so, will he prohibit in future any such infraction of the law and of the oaths of Income Tax officials as is involved in such disclosures?

The reply to the first and second parts of the question is in the affirmative. With regard to the third part, I may refer to the reply given in the House of Commons to the hon. Member for Norwood on 6th December, 1906, by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say what that reply was which was given four years ago?

There were particular reasons why my hon. Friend should have occasion to remember that reply, because it was given to a relative of his who was then a Member of this House, and I thought that possibly the hon. Member would have domestic opportunities of informing himself. The answer was as follows:—" The Board of Inland Revenue do not consider that any use they may make of Income Tax returns within their own Department and for their own use constitutes a disclosure of such returns within the meaning of the provisions of the law relating to secrecy in Income Tax matters. Care is taken, however, that only responsible officers should have cognisance of such matters."

Do I understand that it is a fact that these officers constantly violate their own oaths?

asked by what authority I the repayment branch of the Board of Inland Revenue have reversed their practice of allowing repayment of Income Tax on single premiums in purchase of life insurance policies?

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question, of which I have given him private notice, whether, in view of the fact that Section 72 (2) of the Finance 1909–10 Act only requires a return from persons chargeable with Super-tax upon whom notice is served in manner prescribed by regulations; of the fact that, although the regulations were presented in dummy to this House on 8th June, no copy, or sight of them, has hitherto been obtainable by any Member of the House; and of the further fact that any of these Regulations may be annulled upon Address to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within forty days after they have been laid before it, can he explain why these Super-tax notices have been served so early as 4th May, and a return of them required by 1st June, although the regulations in question were not presented to this House until 8th June; and, although until the expiration of the forty days, during which they may be annulled, they do not become final and valid? And seeing that without access to these regulations the taxpayer cannot know how to fill up the return issued under them, will he direct that no such return shall be required before a reasonable time has elapsed after the regulations have thus become finally authoritative and valid?

These regulations were presented in full and not in dummy on 8th June. They are already available in the Vote Office.

They are in the Vote Office I understand. Undoubtedly a great deal of inconvenience has been caused, by circumstances over which the Government have certainly no control, in the matter of the collection of taxes. This is one of them. It is an inconvenience not merely to the tax collector, but to the taxpayer as well, and so far we have been doing our best in a very trying position.

With reference to the last part of my question will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that until these regulations are in the hands of the taxpayer they shall not be informed that they are bound to make the return? Indeed, I think they are not. Will the right hon. Gentleman direct that the returns shall not be enforced until the taxpayer has an opportunity of seeing the regulations?

I think my hon. Friend had better console himself with the fact that, as I understand, the whole of this question will be raised in the course of the Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and therefore I think we had better leave the discussion of this matter over.

I beg to ask Mr.Speaker, in view of the fact that certain regulations by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue for the serving of notices for Super-tax are stated in the Votes and Proceedings to have been presented to this House on 8th June; of the fact that by Section 93 of the Finance (1910) Act an Address may be presented to His Majesty within the next subsequent forty days after these regulations are laid before it, praying that any of them may be annulled, and of the further fact that neither on the Table nor in the Library is any copy of these regulations yet to be obtained, can he state for the information of the House when the prescribed forty days will begin to run?

The prescribed forty days begin to run from the time the notice is effective; that is to say, when there is a reasonable opportunity for Members of the House to avail themselves of it and make themselves acquainted with it. The mere laying of a single Paper on the Table of the House with orders to have it printed does not bring effective notice to the House. I have already pointed out to the Departments that it is their duty to lay two Papers, or, rather, two copies, of the same Paper, one of which may be placed in the Library while the other can be sent to the printer. The trouble arose in this case from the fact that the Treasury, on 8th June, only laid one Paper, and as that was ordered to be printed, it had to go to the printer, and therefore no copy was available in the Library. If the public Departments carried out what I have already notified to them as being the proper course, namely, that two copies of every paper should be laid, then there would be no difficulty, for while one copy could be sent to the printer, the other would be available in the Library for the use of Members.

Would the Prime Minister have an intimation sent to the Departments calling attention to the ruling which Mr. Speaker has made?