Devolved tax powers to Scottish Parliament
Following the referendum on Scottish independence, the main political parties in Scotland have agreed on new devolved powers. The UK government will publish draft clauses in January 2015 for the implementation of these powers.
For income tax:
- the Scottish Parliament will have the power to set income tax rates and the thresholds at which these are paid for the non-savings and non-dividend income of Scottish taxpayers
- all other aspects of income tax will remain reserved to the UK Parliament, including the imposition of the annual charge to income tax, the personal allowance, the taxation of savings and dividend income, the ability to introduce and amend tax reliefs and the definition of income
- HMRC will continue to collect and administer income tax across the UK.
For other taxes:
- VAT – Receipts raised in Scotland by the first 10 percentage points of the standard rate of VAT will be assigned to the Scottish government’s budget. All other aspects of VAT will remain reserved to the UK Parliament.
- Air passenger duty – The power to charge tax on air passengers leaving Scottish airports will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, with freedom to make arrangements with regard to the design and collection of any replacement tax.
- Aggregates levy – The power to charge tax on the commercial exploitation of aggregate in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, once the current European legal challenges are resolved.
Devolution to Northern Ireland
The government recognises the strongly held arguments for devolving corporation tax rate-setting powers to Northern Ireland. HMRC and HM Treasury have concluded that this proposal could be implemented provided that the Northern Ireland Executive is able to manage the financial implications.
The parties in the Northern Ireland Executive are currently taking part in talks aimed at resolving a number of issues. The government will introduce legislation in this Parliament subject to satisfactory progress on these issues in the cross-party talks.
Devolution of non-domestic rates to Wales
Agreement has been reached with the Welsh government on full devolution of non-domestic (business) rates policy. The fully devolved regime will be operational by April 2015.
Offshore tax evasion
In 2014, the government announced its intention to introduce a new strict liability criminal offence of failing to declare taxable offshore income and gains. This means that HMRC would need only demonstrate that a person failed to correctly declare the income or gains, and not that they did so with the intention of defrauding the Exchequer. This will complement existing offences, such as the common law offence of cheating the public revenue, with less serious sanctions than existing criminal offences.
The government is consulting on the design of the new offence.
The government considers the majority of cases are still likely to be investigated and settled through civil means. Another consultation is seeking views on strengthening the existing civil penalty regime on offshore evasion.
The offshore penalties regime has applied to liabilities arising from 6 April 2011. The level of penalty is based on the type of behaviour that leads to the understatement of tax, and is linked to the tax transparency of the territory in which the income or gain arises. The underlying premise is that where it is harder for HMRC to get information from another territory, the more difficult it is to detect and remedy non-compliance and therefore the penalties for failing to declare income and gains arising in that territory will be higher.
Direct Recovery of Debts (DRD)
At Budget 2014, the Chancellor announced HMRC would be given the power to recover tax and tax credit debts directly from the bank and building society accounts (including NISAs) of debtors. A consultation on DRD set out the process and safeguards but many commentators considered the safeguards were not robust enough. In response to concerns about the risk of DRD being used in error and the potential impact on vulnerable individuals, the government will introduce further safeguards.
It is now proposed the main features of the DRD process will be:
- only debts of £1,000 or more will be eligible for recovery through DRD
- HMRC will always leave £5,000 across a debtor’s accounts, as a minimum, once the debt has been held
- guaranteeing every debtor will receive a face-to-face visit from HMRC agents, before their debts are considered for recovery through DRD
- extending the window to 30 calendar days, from the start of the DRD being initiated to the earliest point at which funds could be transferred to HMRC
- an option for debtors to appeal against HMRC’s decision to a County Court on specified grounds, including hardship and third party right.
Scotland will be removed from the scope of DRD as HMRC already has summary warrant powers in Scotland to recover debts in a similar, though not identical, manner to DRD.
In order to allow for an extended period of scrutiny, the government intends to legislate in 2015, during the next Parliament.
|HMRC state that the vast majority of people pay their taxes in full and on time and DRD will only affect individuals and businesses who are making an active decision not to pay. HMRC also state they will use the power in a very small minority of cases.
Last year, HMRC collected £505.8 billion from about 35 million taxpayers. About 90% was paid on time but around £50 billion was not, and became a debt. They made around 16 million contacts with debtors by letter, phone, text message or other means to collect the debt. This included making more than 900,000 visits to follow up on around 400,000 debt cases. HMRC estimate they will use DRD 17,000 times a year.
Air Passenger Duty (APD)
The Chancellor announced an exemption from reduced rate APD from 1 May 2015 for children under 12 and from 1 March 2016 for children under 16. The government has reviewed how to improve tax transparency in ticket prices and will consult on whether the APD needs to be displayed on airline tickets.