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Corporate Tax Evasion

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2017

Since 2010, HMRC has secured more than £53 billion from big businesses alone in additional tax revenue from tackling tax evasion, avoidance and non-compliance, and we have made it an offence for a corporate to fail to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion by its employees. Corporation tax revenues were £55.3 billion in 2016-17, their highest level on record.

Keeping up the pressure on multinationals to pay their fair share of tax is vital. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the additional £160 billion in tax revenue collected by HMRC since 2010 as a result of tackling avoidance and evasion, thus making the UK’s tax gap one of the lowest in the world?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—we have collected £160 billion since 2010, far more than was raised during the 13 years under the Labour party. The latest figures show that our tax gap overall is now at 6.5%, better than any year under Labour, where in 2005-06, for example, it was as high as 8.3%.

Successive cuts to British corporation tax have manifestly not led to greater business investment, and according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies they are not responsible for the rise in receipts since 2010. So, with huge pressures on our public finances, will the Chancellor delay his proposed cuts to corporation tax?

I am surprised that the hon. Lady should raise the issue of corporation tax, because we have brought corporation tax down from 28% in 2010 to 19% and we have further plans to reduce it further, to 17%, and yet the hon. Lady’s party wishes to inflate those rates of tax to 26%, which would destroy jobs, destroy wealth, destroy growth and lower the amount of tax that we can collect to support those vital public services that we all wish to see thrive.

One way that companies avoid tax is, of course, by employing people illegally. We still have too many illegal jobs in our economy in sectors such as construction. So will my hon. Friend and his colleagues resist those calls that are floating around to place new and additional burdens on legitimate work, and instead redouble their efforts at enforcement through HMRC to root out illegal work in our economy?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. As the Minister responsible for strategic oversight of tax, I am always concerned to ensure that the measures that we put in place are proportionate, and do not carry extra burdens for those who are rightly carrying on their business and running their companies in exactly the correct fashion.

Intergovernmental co-operation is vital if we are to combat international corporate tax evasion. In February this year Treasury Ministers withdrew from a meeting with the EU PANA Committee, which was set up to investigate issues and prioritise reform. What sort of message does the Secretary of State think that sends to corporate tax evaders?

International co-operation with other countries is an area where we have an exemplary record. We have co-operated with the OECD on the base erosion and profit shifting project—many of the recommendations are actually going through the House at this precise moment, in the latest Finance Bill—and, of course, we have common country reporting; we were leading that move in around 2012.