Juncker seeks to lower temperature after fraught Brexit talks

Prime Minister Theresa May maintained that she is still seeking “further assurances” about the proposed Northern Ireland backstop, after EU-27 leaders reiterated that the Brexit deal is “not open for renegotiation.”

“There is work still to do, and we will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK Parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal,” May said during a December 14 press conference at the European Council summit in Brussels.

Asked about plans for those talks at a later press conference, European Council President Donald Tusk said he has “no mandate to organise any further negotiations”. But he is always at the prime minister’s disposal, he said. My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 15:

Juncker Seeks to Lower Temperature After Fraught Brexit Talks

Theresa May survives Conservative party confidence vote

Prime Minister Theresa May survived an attempted coup by Eurosceptic Conservatives, winning a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party amid widespread frustration over the Brexit process.

Conservative members of Parliament voted 200-117 in May’s favour. The secret ballot on December 12 was triggered after Eurosceptic MPs secured the 48 signatures required for a vote. My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 13:

Theresa May Survives Conservative Party Confidence Vote

Scottish higher rate threshold frozen amid ‘tax gap’ concerns

The Scottish government’s tax policies will continue to focus on fairness and investment in public services, Derek Mackay, cabinet secretary for finance, economy and fair work, said as he delivered his budget.

But Mackay ignored the pleas of business groups who had expressed concerns over a “growing tax gap” between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, according to Murdo Fraser, Conservative member of the Scottish Parliament and shadow finance secretary. My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 13:

Scottish Higher Rate Threshold Frozen Amid ‘Tax Gap’ Concerns

HMRC discretion is key to resolving loan charge dispute, MPs told

HM Revenue & Customs could use its “care and management” powers to reach a compromise with taxpayers facing the 2019 loan charge and avoid resorting to bankruptcy proceedings, a tax expert told members of Parliament.

“My personal viewpoint is that HMRC does have discretion to enter into a settlement arrangement with these individuals,” Chartered Institute of Taxation President Ray McCann told the House of Commons Treasury Subcommittee on December 10, in response to questions about the retroactive charge. My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 11, also published in the December 17 edition of Tax Notes International:

HMRC Discretion Is Key to Resolving Loan Charge Dispute, MPs Told

Tinkering with tax reliefs undermines stability, CIOT says

The Chartered Institute of Taxation has warned that “tinkering constantly with rates and allowances in unexpected ways” undermines stability and certainty and reduces international competitiveness. Several changes to tax allowances for businesses are “quietly working their way through Parliament” in the finance bill, the CIOT noted. Taxpayers do not welcome surprise changes and find them disruptive, it said.

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 8: https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/tax-policy/tinkering-uk-tax-reliefs-undermines-stability-ciot-says/2018/12/10/28nvq

Peers call for review of ‘disproportionate’ HMRC powers

A House of Lords committee called for a review of the powers available to HM Revenue & Customs, arguing that some powers granted since 2012 are disproportionate and lack effective safeguards for taxpayers.

“HMRC is right to tackle tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. However, a careful balance must be struck between clamping down and treating taxpayers fairly. Our evidence has convinced us that this balance has tipped too far in favour of HMRC and against the fundamental protections every taxpayer should expect,” said Lord Forsyth, chair of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 4: https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/tax-policy/peers-call-review-disproportionate-hmrc-powers/2018/12/04/28n75

This story was also published in the December 10 edition of Tax Notes International.

MPs demand assurances on border planning for Brexit

A House of Commons committee has highlighted concerns about the level of Brexit preparedness at the UK border, telling officials it is “alarming that so little planning has been undertaken” for Northern Ireland.

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), December 7*:
https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/customs-duties/uk-lawmakers-demand-assurances-border-planning-brexit/2018/12/07/28nnh

Other Brexit stories published in the week ending December 7:

Brexit advice vindicates opposition to backstop, Unionists say (December 6*)
https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/politics-taxation/brexit-advice-vindicates-opposition-backstop-unionists-say/2018/12/06/28nkh

Contempt vote forces publication of Brexit legal advice (December 5)
https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/politics-taxation/contempt-vote-forces-publication-brexit-legal-advice/2018/12/05/28nf4

Advocate General’s opinion boosts anti-Brexit campaign (December 5*)
https://www.taxnotes.com/worldwide-tax-daily/litigation-and-appeals/advocate-generals-opinion-boosts-anti-brexit-campaign/2018/12/05/28ndk

*These stories were also published in the December 10 edition of Tax Notes International.