Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered his 2019 Spring Statement to the House of Commons. A supporting Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) provides more detail on some of the announcements in the Spring Statement, and sets out details of other forthcoming government policies.

Mr Hammond opened his Statement by acknowledging that the most urgent task at present is to ‘lift the uncertainty’, but he also added a positive note, stating that the ‘economy itself is remarkably robust’.

The Chancellor indicated that if the UK does leave the EU with a deal, there will be an economic boost due to a pick-up in business confidence and investment. He said his role will be to decide how much of this ‘Deal Dividend’ the Government can prudently release, and how it would be shared between increased spending on public services, capital investment in Britain’s future prosperity and keeping taxes low, while continuing to keep debt falling.

As expected, the statement focused on the latest forecasts for the economy and the public finances provided by the government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Growth forecasts have been revised for the current year – the Chancellor now expects growth of 1.2%, compared to the October 2017 forecast of 1.6%. Next year’s forecast remains unchanged at 1.4%, followed with 1.6% in each of the following three years.

The Chancellor reported ‘good news’ on borrowing figures – this year it will be 1.1% of GDP, ยฃ3bn lower than forecast at the Autumn 2017 Budget. He also expects that borrowing will fall from ยฃ29.3bn in 2019/20, then ยฃ21.2bn, ยฃ17.6bn, ยฃ14.4bn and finally ยฃ13.5bn in 2023/24. The expectation is that the Government remains on track to meet its fiscal target early.

Assuming a Brexit deal is agreed, the Chancellor went on to say that he will launch a ‘full three-year spending review’ before the summer break and that this in turn will ‘set departmental budgets beyond the NHS’. He said the review will ‘reflect the public’s priorities between areas like social care, local government, schools, police, defence and the environment’.

As expected, no changes to tax were announced in the Spring Statement speech itself. However, the supporting Spring Statement 2019: Written Ministerial Statement outlines thirteen consultations, draft regulations and call for evidence documents, which are due to be published immediately or over the coming months. These are summarised as follows:

Tax avoidance, evasion & non-compliance

The government has published:

Tackling tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance

The government has previously stated its ongoing commitment to keeping the tax administration framework under review to ensure that it ‘continues to strike the right balance between robustly challenging tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of deliberate non-compliance, and treating all taxpayers fairly’. Finance Act 2019 subsequently contained provisions introducing statutory reporting requirements by the government on certain anti-avoidance measures (FA 2019, s 92 and 93).

HM Treasury and HMRC have published a joint policy paper setting out the government’s approach and achievements in tackling tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance. The document is split into three chapters, which:

  • outline HMRC’s strategy and approach to compliance for different taxpayers
  • detail the government’s record in addressing areas where risks of non-compliance have been identified; and
  • provide a summary of the government’s record of investment in HMRC and its commitment to further action.

The policy paper can be found here.

Offshore tax compliance strategy: No safe Havens 2019

The Government’s No Safe Havens 2019 publication is a policy paper setting out the direction for HMRC’s updated strategy for offshore tax compliance, bringing together the government’s response to all forms of offshore non-compliance. This reflects the substantial progress that the UK has made since the last strategy was published in 2014 and complements the paper on avoidance and evasion activity to date.

The policy paper can be found here.

Under the same heading of Tax avoidance, evasion & non-compliance, in the coming months the government will publish the following:

Preventing abuse of the R&D tax relief for small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

A consultation is to be launched on the measure announced at Budget 2018, as part of the package on tax avoidance. This consultation will focus on how the measure will be applied, to minimise any impact on genuine businesses.

Insurance Premium Tax operational review

There will be a call for evidence on where improvements can be made to ensure that Insurance Premium Tax operates fairly and efficiently.

VAT Administration in the Isle of Man

Following the Paradise Papers allegations, the Isle of Man Government invited HM Treasury to review its VAT administration processes for the importation of aircraft and yachts. HM Treasury is to publish its findings and recommendations to ensure the right VAT continues to be paid and collected in the Isle of Man.

Maintaining the tax system

Making Tax Digital (MTD)

Mandatory digital record keeping for VAT for businesses over the VAT threshold (with turnover over ยฃ85,000) comes into force from 1 April 2019. This is an important first step in this modernisation of the tax system to which the government remains committed. In the WMS, the Chancellor confirmed the government’s ‘light touch approach to penalties in the first year of implementation’. Where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued. The focus will be on supporting businesses to transition and the government will therefore not be mandating MTD for any new taxes or businesses in 2020.

Capital allowances for new non-residential structures and buildings

The Chancellor announced the introduction of a new capital allowance for new non-residential structures and buildings (SBA) at the 2018 Autumn Budget, designed to support business investment in the UK, improve the case for developing new structural assets and enhance tax relief for such assets. A technical note published at that time, outlined the key features of the policy and included consultation questions on residential use exclusion, leasing provisions, overseas property treatment and disuse provisions.

For the second part of the consultation process, the Government is now inviting views on the legislative detail, before it is laid before and approved by the House of Commons. An overall response to consultation responses will be published in May 2019 and the final published version of this legislation will be in the form of a Statutory Instrument.

Broadly, the structure of the relief is summarised as follows:

  • relief will be given at a flat rate of 2% over a 50-year period
  • relief will be available for new commercial structures and buildings, including costs for new conversions or renovations
  • relief is available for UK and overseas structures and buildings, where the business is within the charge to UK tax
  • relief will be limited to the costs of physically constructing the structure or building, including costs of demolition or land alterations necessary for construction, and direct costs required to bring the asset into existence
  • relief is available for eligible expenditure incurred where all the contracts for the physical construction works were entered into on or after 29 October 2018
  • claims can only be made from when a structure or building first comes into use
  • land costs or rights over land will not be eligible for relief, nor will the costs of obtaining planning permission
  • the claimant must have an interest in the land on which the structure or building is constructed
  • dwelling houses will not qualify, nor any part of a building used as a dwelling where the remainder of the building is commercial
  • sale of the asset will not result in a balancing adjustment – instead, the purchaser takes over the remainder of the allowances written down over the remaining part of the 50-year period
  • expenditure on integral features and fittings of a structure or building that are currently allowable as expenditure on plant and machinery, will continue to qualify for writing down allowances for plant and machinery including the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) up to its annual limit
  • SBA expenditure will not qualify for the AIA
  • where a structure or building is renovated or converted so that it becomes a qualifying asset, the expenditure will qualify for a separate two percent relief over the next 50 years

The consultation documents can be found here.

Comments are invited by 24 April 2019.

Aggregates Levy review

The government is to publish a discussion paper launching a review of the Aggregates Levy, including the Terms of Reference, information on timing and scope of the review as well as membership of an expert working group.

Under the same heading of Maintaining the tax system, in the coming months the Government will publish the following:

Offshore receipts in respect of intangible property

Draft regulations to ensure the provisions apply as intended, and draft guidance relating to the practical application of the measure.

View the 2018 Autumn Budget policy paper here.

Hybrid and other mismatches

Draft regulations to update the definition of regulatory capital instruments that are entitled to an exemption within the hybrid mismatch rules.

View the original policy paper (6 July 2018) here.

General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR) Amendments

A technical note alongside draft legislation on minor procedural and technical changes to the GAAR legislation to ensure that it works as intended.

National Insurance Contributions (NICs) Employment Allowance draft regulations

A document inviting technical comments on the draft regulations implementing the reform, as announced at Budget 2018, of the NICs Employment Allowance to restrict it to businesses with an employer NICs bill below ยฃ100,000.

View the 2018 Autumn Budget proposal document here.

Child Trust Funds (CTF): consultation on maturing CTFs

Draft regulations to ensure that CTF accounts can retain their tax-free status after maturity.

VAT Simplification and the Public Sector

A policy paper exploring a potential reform to VAT refund rules for central government, with the aim of reducing administrative burdens and improving public sector productivity.

VAT Partial Exemption and Capital Goods Scheme: Simplification

A call for evidence on potential simplification and improvement of the VAT Partial Exemption regime and the Capital Goods Scheme โ€“ ensuring they are as simple and efficient for taxpayers as possible. This follows on from the recommendations of the Office of Tax Simplification, who have looked in detail at the UK VAT system and possible areas for improvement.

View the OTS VAT review interim report here.

Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) and vehicle taxes

Further to the 2018 Autumn Budget announcement, the government will publish its response to the review into the impact of the WLTP on Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax.

View Review of WLTP and vehicle taxes here.

Consultation on the use of diesel by private pleasure craft

The government is to launch a consultation seeking evidence on the likely impact of government proposal to require diesel-powered private pleasure craft to only use full duty paid heavy oil (white diesel) for propulsion. This would replace the existing system where private pleasure craft use marked gas oil (red diesel) but pay the white diesel rate of fuel duty.

Review of Time Limits

The Government will publish a report, as required by Finance Act 2019, s 95, of comparing the time limits for the recovery of lost tax involving an offshore matter, with other time limits, including those provided for by Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, Schedules 11 and 12. In the report the government will set out the rationale for the charge on disguised remuneration (DR) loans legislated in Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 and its impacts. The report will be laid by 30 March 2019.

Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)

There will be a call for evidence on the use of the SITR scheme to date, including why it has been used less than anticipated and what impact it has had on access to finance for social enterprises.

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) approved funds guidelines

Draft guidelines will be published for comment alongside draft legislation. The document will contain guidelines stating HMRC’s proposed policy and practice for approving funds. The legislation will include powers for HMRC to set appropriate conditions and approve funds.

CGT private residence relief

A consultation is to be launched on the changes, announced at 2018 Autumn Budget, to lettings relief and the final period exemption, which extend private residence relief in capital gains tax.

View the 2018 Budget document here.

Finally, the Government is to publish summaries of responses to the following documents:

Structures and buildings allowance

A technical note on the introduction of this allowance.

View the technical note /here.

Protecting your taxes in insolvency

A consultation launched in February 2019, following the announcement at the 2018 Autumn Budget, to make HMRC a secondary preferential creditor for certain tax debts paid by employees and customers on the insolvency of a business.

Broadly, the government is proposing to change the rules from 6 April 2020, so that when a business enters insolvency, more of the taxes paid in good faith by its employees and customers and temporarily held in trust by the business go to fund public services, rather than being distributed to other creditors. This reform will only apply to taxes collected and held by businesses on behalf of other taxpayers (VAT, PAYE income tax, employee National Insurance contributions and Construction Industry Scheme deductions). The rules will remain unchanged for taxes owed by businesses themselves, such as corporation tax and employer National Insurance contributions. This will be legislated for in Finance Bill 2019/20.

Corporate Capital Loss Restriction

A consultation is to be launched on a change announced at the 2018 Autumn Budget to restrict, from 1 April 2020, the amount of carried-forward capital losses a company can offset to no more than 50% of the chargeable gains arising in a later accounting period.

Broadly, the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2019/20 to restrict companies’ use of carried-forward capital losses to 50% of capital gains from 1 April 2020. The provisions will include an allowance that permits companies unrestricted use of up to ยฃ5m capital or income losses each year, meaning that 99% of companies will be financially unaffected. A consultation paper was published on 29 October 2018 and draft legislation will be published in Summer 2019. An anti- forestalling measure to support this change took effect on 29 October 2018.

Stamp Taxes on shares consideration rules

A consultation on aligning the consideration rules of Stamp Duty and Stamp Duty Reserve Tax and introducing a general market value rule for transfers between connected persons.

Digital Services Tax

A consultation will be launched on the detailed design and implementation of the Digital Services Tax that will take effect from 1 April 2020.

Broadly, from April 2020, the government will introduce a new 2% tax on the revenues of certain digital businesses which derive value from their UK users. The tax will:

  • apply to revenues generated from the provision of the following business activities: search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces;
  • apply to revenues from those activities that are linked to the participation of UK users, subject to a ยฃ25m per annum allowance;
  • only apply to groups that generate global revenues from inscope business activities in excess of ยฃ500m per annum; and
  • include a safe harbour provision that exempts loss-makers and reduces the effective rate of tax on businesses with very low profit margins.

Amendments to tax returns

There is to be a call for evidence on simplifying the process of amending a tax return.