HC Deb 10 December 1945 vol 417 cc75-8
Sir A. Gridley

I beg to move, in page 31, line 28, at end, insert: The said payments on account of any such postwar refund shall, unless the Commissioners of Inland Revenue have reasonable cause to reduce the amount, be nine-tenths of the sum which is likely to be found due and shall be made within three months of the date of the delivery to them of the accounts of the charge able accounting period which includes the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-five. The reason why I put down this Amendment is that there may be very considerable sums of refunds of E.P.T. due to taxpayers. The Bill, so far, decides how much may be paid on account by the Inland Revenue Commissioners. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, indicated that he was anxious that the refund of E.P.T. should begin to be repaid as soon as possible. Many traders have been relying upon the postwar refunds to pay for the re-equipment of their factories with new machine tools and so on, to bring them up-to-date. It may take some time to settle the final liability between the Treasury and the taxpayer. Therefore, it does not seem right that such sum as may be beyond dispute should not be repaid and the Amendment provides that nine-tenths of such agreed sum should be paid on account within three months of the delivery of the calculations of the taxpayer for E.P.T. liability, usually prepared by his accountants or auditors. Unless there is reasonable cause to reduce the 90 per cent, on account, to some smaller percentage figure, I think we would all agree that it is an undoubted fact that E.P.T. legislation and the accounting to be made under it are very complicated. It may take some time to agree the figures with the Inspector of Taxes. As we know, the Department is terribly overworked.

5.15 p.m.

Moreover, I imagine that the Department itself would be very glad to have some guidance as to when refunds might be made and to what extent. I think it is quite easy to see that, in many cases, a reasonable forecast of the amount due for refund should be made, because any deficiencies between now and the end of E.P.T. will, as a rule, result in reclaims against older payments in earlier periods, and, therefore, the amount of the refund will not be affected. I, therefore, suggest that it is not unreasonable to ask that traders should not be hampered by lack of capital from E.P.T. refunds by being kept an undue length of time waiting to know when repayment will be made, and that it is in the interests both of the Treasury and of the taxpayer, that some reasonable arrangement should definitely be provided. That is what I have tried to do in framing this Amendment, and I urge the Chancellor to accept it.

Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

As the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) very rightly said, under the provisions of Clause 36, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue can make payments, if they think fit and the conditions are fulfilled, to traders who are entitled to receive a refund in respect of E.P.T. The hon. Member's point is that these interim refunds will not be made as soon as they otherwise might be, and that the sum paid will not be enough. He, therefore, suggests that, into this Bill, we should write the fraction to be paid and the period of time within which it should be paid. I must ask the House to resist this Amendment, for quite simple reasons. The first is that, as the Chancellor himself said in earlier Debates on this matter, and as I think I indicated on Second Reading, it is the intention of the Inland Revenue authorities to pay these interim sums as early as may be in the new year. We have no desire to hold them back, but we cannot be fixed down to any particular fraction or any particular period of time, because these payments do depend on the trader himself fulfilling certain obligations, and, so long as those obligations are fulfilled, and the Inland Revenue authorities are satisfied that they are being fulfilled, these payments will, in fact, be made. In many cases, they will be made, probably, before the three months has elapsed, and, in some cases, too, the whole amount that may be due, but, where further sums are likely to accrue to the Exchequer, it would be wrong if we paid out E.P.T. sums, when something was still to come in, though the exact amount was, at the time, unknown.

Then, as the hon. Member must know, there is an advisory panel, and we must give it time to carry through any inquiries it may have to make. If a period of three months were set, it might, in some instances, unduly hamper the work of the panel. I hope, therefore, the House will resist the Amendment for the reasons I have indicated. These payments will be made at the earliest possible moment and will it is hoped be begun early in the new year.

Mr. Bowles

What conditions have to be fulfilled before the Chancellor does give that repayment?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The conditions are that these refunds are made for a definite purpose. They must not go to shareholders or other persons, or in any way be divided out in dividends.

Mr. Bowles

But what positive conditions are there?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The money has to be used for re-equipping or developing the industry. It must be ploughed back into the business, and must not go to shareholders in the shape of dividends, bonus shares or anything of that kind.

Amendment negatived.