UK government defends finance bill process amid concerns over scrutiny

Members of Parliament will have time to fully scrutinise the UK finance bill’s measures, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride insisted after opposition MPs claimed that the government is seeking to avoid “proper scrutiny and transparency.”

Stride rejected opposition claims that the government is restricting the scope for amendments as MPs debated the bill at its second reading on December 11. Scottish National Party MP Kirsty Blackman asked why the government did not present an “amendment of the law” resolution for debate after the autumn budget on November 22.

My news story for Tax Analysts, December 14 (paywall)

The September finance bill: an overview

While this week’s Paradise Papers revelations have rekindled the public debate and added pressure for further action to deter tax avoidance and evasion, for many businesses and tax advisers the immediate concern is keeping on top of changes already announced.

The second finance bill of 2017 has now completed its House of Commons stages, and will be considered ­– although it cannot be amended – by the House of Lords on 15 November, just a week before the chancellor is set to deliver his autumn budget. Consultation on several measures to be included in the next finance bill closed on 25 October …

My article for AAT Comment, November 7

Consistent application of UK law under threat, Lords committee says

Experts have warned that the complexity of U.K. tax law poses a threat to lawyers’ and judges’ ability to apply it consistently, a House of Lords committee reported, a day after a government minister praised lawmakers’ rapid progress in examining the current, 665-page finance bill.

Experts have warned that the complexity of UK tax law poses a threat to lawyers’ and judges’ ability to apply it consistently, a House of Lords committee reported, a day after a government minister praised lawmakers’ rapid progress in examining the current, 665-page finance bill. The House of Lords Constitution Committee called for changes to the way legislation is developed to enable thorough parliamentary scrutiny and improve the quality of law. Legislation should be made more accessible and easier to understand for both practitioners and the public, the committee said in an October 25 release …

… Members of a public bill committee “rocketed through” the current finance bill efficiently and “in near-record time,” Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride remarked as the committee completed its examination of the bill ahead of schedule on October 24. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, October 27 (paywall)

Preparing better legislation: Lords call for changes to law-making

UK lawmakers approve corporate interest restriction

The UK House of Commons finance bill committee on October 19 approved lengthy and complex rules restricting tax relief for corporate interest, while rejecting proposals for a stricter regime for PFI companies.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation said the measure, effective from April 1, 2017, has been rushed. “It is unsatisfactory that businesses have been put in a position of having to plan for these proposals before they are enacted due to their significantly retrospective effect,” it said in an October 17 submission to the committee …

The corporate interest restriction measure in Schedule 5 occupies 156 pages of the 665-page finance bill. A series of amendments proposed by Labour member of Parliament Stella Creasy would have introduced stricter rules for PFI companies. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, October 21 (paywall)

UK lawmakers approve finance bill as Brexit overshadows debate

Members of Parliament approved the UK’s second finance bill of 2017, voting 320 to 299 after six hours of debate at the bill’s second reading September 12.

The bill will now proceed to its committee stage in October, after a three-week recess for the annual political party conferences. It is expected to become the second finance act of 2017 in November. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, September 14 (paywall)

Parliament website: Finance Bill 2017-19

UK tax professionals voice dismay at 665-page finance bill

The complexity of the UK tax code is out of control, and principles of certainty and proportionality are being sacrificed, tax professionals warned after the publication of a 665-page finance bill days before a scheduled debate by members of Parliament …

Draft clauses for a further finance bill, to be published after the autumn budget and to be enacted in Finance Act 2018, will be published for consultation on September 13 …

Tax professionals expressed dismay at the length of the bill published on September 8 …

Jeremy Cape, partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told Tax Analysts that the bill includes provisions that mark significant changes of direction for the U.K.’s tax code.

“The reason these measures were dropped [in April] was to ensure that they would be afforded proper parliamentary scrutiny once reintroduced,” Cape said. “That seems extremely ambitious and unlikely.” The Brexit process and the unexpected general election result have caused pressure on the parliamentary timetable to grow to the point where such scrutiny is “a mere pipe dream,” he said. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, September 9 (paywall)