HC Deb 15 April 1958 vol 586 cc59-61

I will start by mentioning a number of minor proposals which, in various ways, will help to improve our tax system.

First, vehicle licences. The present arrangements are not very convenient for motorists and produce an awkward peak load of work for the issuing authorities at the end of each quarter, particularly at the end of December. I propose to take powers to introduce a new system under which licences will be issued from the first day of the first month in which they are required for periods of 4, 8 or 12 months. As an exception, licences costing £3 or less will be issued only for 12 months. The amount of the vehicle tax will be unchanged. The effect on the yield this year will be negligible, but, owing to the changed incidence of payments, I am sorry to say that the yield will be reduced by about £2 million in the first full year of operation. That goes against the grain, but I think it a good thing to do, nevertheless. Details of the arrangements will be announced in due course by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.

Secondly, I propose to abolish the Treasury Chest Fund. Treasury Chests, which, for over a century, were the means of providing local currency for the use of our Forces at a number of overseas stations, have now been closed down and the functions transferred to the War Office. The central fund itself can, therefore, be abolised and its capital, amounting to £700,000, be transferred to the Exchequer. Would that I had more Chests to abolish!

A third proposal concerns Tithe Redemption Annuities. The scheme set up by the Tithe Act, 1936, is proving cumbersome and costly to administer and I propose to simplify it by providing for annual instead of half-yearly collection and for the compulsory redemption of annuities of £3 per annum or less, with power to increase this figure at a later date if necessary.

Next, I propose to rationalise the various time limits prescribed by the Income Tax Acts for appeals and claims to relief. The alterations will all be in the direction of making the time limits more generous. This reform, which was recommended by the Royal Commission on Taxation should ease the way of those who have to deal with our complicated tax laws.

Another minor improvement, which follows assurances given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, is a proposal to give tax relief in certain circumstances on pensions for overseas service becoming payable under the Overseas Service Act.

I am proposing, in the Finance Bill, to meet one point that has been pressed upon me in connection with the Schedule E expenses rule. This will enable some deduction to be claimed in respect of subscriptions to professional societies with activities relating to an employee's work and for certain statutory registration fees. It will cost £¾ million in the first year and £1 million in a full year.

Finally, in this group I propose to remove from the law the anomalous rule that a charitable body such as a church cannot gets its ordinary exemption from tax on property it owns if the property is used by an officer whose income exceeds £150 a year.