However, I am not entirely persuaded by his criticism, or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington, of the work of HMRC on the tax gap.
I believe that it is important, as the previous Government made clear was their continuing intention, to have the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7. That is why we reduced corporation tax when we were in government, and when we come to debate the rate, as we will in a few minutes’ time, I will press the Minister to reiterate on behalf of the present Government the commitment that was made and indeed fulfilled by the previous Government—to have a competitive corporation tax regime.
And the Minister in response:
HMRC estimates that corporation tax avoidance by large companies amounts to £3.4 billion, and that such avoidance by small companies amounts to £0.3 billion. We have heard a lot this afternoon about the TUC figures produced by Tax Research UK and by Mr Richard Murphy in particular. As I understand it, his figure for corporation tax avoidance is £12 billion. I note that the right hon. Member for East Ham disagrees with Mr Richard Murphy’s estimate of the tax gap. Mr Murphy’s calculations on corporation tax avoidance are on the basis of the gap between the statutory rate, which was 30% at the time of the assessment, and the effective rate, which was somewhat lower. That estimate does not take into account those reliefs and allowances that Parliament has determined should be available, for example capital allowances, to the extent that they are more generous than depreciation treatment would allow. Mr Murphy has acknowledged that point and is considering it further.
Yes, you did read that criticism here first folks.
In addition, as far as we can see, no allowance is made for double taxation relief, which prevents a taxpayer from paying tax twice, in two different jurisdictions, for the same profits. The right hon. Member for East Ham referred to country-by-country reporting, and we continue to consider whether there is a practical way forward in that regard. If we are to have country-by-country reporting, however, double taxation relief becomes all the more important. As far as I can see—if I am wrong, I am sure that Mr Murphy will correct me in his lively and entertaining blog, as he follows these matters closely—the Exchequer cost of double taxation relief is £16.7 billion. It is not clear that that is taken into account in the distinction between the statutory and effective rates. Such a top-down approach does not work for corporation tax.
And yes, that was first pointed out by Christie Malry. Although as I recall, that\’s not an error from the Missing Billions report but from something more recent.
The Minister again:
The Government see the distinction between tax avoidance and tax planning, but those lines can be blurred, and sometimes use of the terminology is not as accurate as it might be. For example, I quote the “Missing Billions” report, produced for the TUC, which, after setting out a series of numbers leading towards the estimate for corporation tax avoidance, states:
“Much may be due to legitimate tax planning, but by no means all is. Some, undoubtedly, is due to tax avoidance.”
My, my, I wonder who it is that has repeatedly pointed to that line?
Oh, and the bit which is definitely us? Yes, that\’s the bad bit sadly:
I note from his blog that he has been on the receiving end of some unwarranted online harassment recently on account of his work.
Play the ball, not the man folks. There\’s entirely enough to work with without turning into sneaks and narks.