HC Deb 05 July 1917 vol 95 cc1463-6

Section forty-five of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, shall have effect as though there were added at the end as a new Subsection the following words:

Any person aggrieved may appeal against—

  1. (a) a refusal of the Commissioners to give any direction or permit any allowance or deduction; or
  2. (b) the method adopted by the Commissioners in assessing the profits of an accounting period or arriving at the pre-war standard; or
  3. (c) the opinion arrived at by the Commissioners where the Commissioners have power under the Acts relating to Excess Profits Duty to give effect to such opinion; or
  4. (d) the exercise or refusal to exercise by the Commissioners of any powers the exercise of which is by the said Acts made dependent on their satisfaction or failure to be satisfied as to the expediency of any course or the existence of any state of facts or otherwise; or
  5. (e) any direction, determination, or refusal to exercise any powers or discretion by the Commissioners,
in like manner as a person may appeal who is dissatisfied with the amount of any assessment, and Section forty-five (5) of the principal Act shall apply to such appeals accordingly. Section forty-five of the principal Act shall be read and given effect to as if this Section had always formed part thereof.— [General Sir Ivor Philipps.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

I submit this new Clause for the consideration of the Committee. It is intended to enable the taxpayer to have a general right of appeal to the General and Special Commissioners in the same manner—as under the Income Tax Acts. By Section 45, "the Commissioners" mean only the Commissioners of Inland Revenue and not the Special and General Commissioners. So far as I can understand—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—there is no appeal provided at all in respect of any of these matters to the Commissioners except in point of amount. The Finance Act of 1915 places the final decision in the hands of the persons who collect and receive the- tax. They hold the position of policeman, jury and judge. The taxpayer has no right and no appeal. He cannot question their decision. This is a most improper position in which to place either the taxpayer or the officials, and it is an unwise position for the Government to take up. I submit that it causes a rankling sense of injustice in the taxpayer, and that in the official it tends to unsympathetic treatment of the taxpayer. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman will probably reply that there is already the right of appeal to the General and Special Commissioners, but I would point out that such appeal can only be on the question of amount, and that is the point to which I wish to draw attention. There are many points which have to be considered before the; amount is arrived at—abnormal depression, for example— on which the taxpayer has no right of appeal to the Special and General Commissioners. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this and agree that an injustice does exist.


It really would not be possible to accept this if the tax is to work at all, and I think I can convince my hon. and gallant Friend that that is so. Already in the course of the passage of the Finance Bill through Committee I have shown several times my readiness to make special provision for appeals when circumstances permit. The reason it is not possible to adopt the same system as with the Income Tax Acts is that if we are to get revenue from excess profits there must be some uniformity of arrangement. With the Income Tax which has been collected for several generations, the result has been that there has come gradually about a system of uniformity. That could not happen in a temporary tax like this, and I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend is mistaken in supposing that this results in harsh treatment. On the contrary, so far as my experience at the Treasury has gone, the complaints of harsh treatment have always been on the ground that those who are acting for us do not carry out the intentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Commissioners. I do not think there is any ground for the idea that there is any harsh treatment in these cases, but my main reason for saying that this cannot be done is that it would not work. I may remind my hon. and gallant Friend that as the Bill has been going through Committee, over and over again in cases on the border line, where it is very difficult to distinguish, we have proposed to give the discretion which he now desires. In these circumstances, I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his new Clause.


I hope it will be understood that I made no charges against the officials whatsoever.

Question put, and negatived.


There are two further Clauses in the name of the hon. and gallant Member, I think, dealing with rubber questions. Are these not part of one proposition, or would they stand separately?


They stand quite separately.


Then in regard to the first— ["Part I. of the Fourth Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, shall have effect as though there were inserted at the end, as a new Clause, the following words: 'Where the pre-war standard is the profit standard expenditure on any part of an agricultural estate or plantation abroad shall not be deducted in computing the profits of the trade or business to the extent to which it was expended before that part of the estate or plantation came into bearing' "]—I am in some difficulty. It appears to me to involve a charge. It is difficult in my position to understand the intricacies of rubber estate management and taxation, but it appears to me to relieve some persons and to add to the taxation of others. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman admit that himself?


As I first had it on the Paper I did think that was the case. I took advice on the matter, and put in the first few words. The Clause originally began with the word "expenditure," and I then put in the earlier five or six words, which, I think, bring it into order—at any rate, that was my intention. Of course, if you hold it is not in order, I am out of court in the matter.


It is very ingenious, but I think it will go still further. It will favour some companies and will tax others. I do not know whether the Treasury can help me on the point.


I am afraid my right hon. Friend knows much more about it than I do. It seems to me, Mr. Whitley, that what you suggest is undoubtedly the case. While in certain cases it would relieve some companies it would, in fact, involve a charge on others.


In that case it cannot be moved. The following Clause is free from that difficulty.