HC Deb 09 June 1959 vol 606 cc802-3
35. Mr. Holt

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will instruct the department of Inland Revenue to allow as a business expense, deductible from gross income before arriving at net taxable income, the cost to a blind person who is in full-time employment of keeping a guide dog.

Mr. Amory

I am afraid such an allowance is precluded by the general rule that the cost of getting to and from work is not an allowable expense for tax purposes.

Mr. Holt

Will not the Chancellor agree that this is rather stretching the interpretation of the rule? Would not a comparison be two people walking to work, one blind and one not? The cost of their shoe leather is not an expense which could be allowed. In the case of a blind man who has to take a dog, this is an extra expense. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government accept some financial responsibility for people who are handicapped, such as a blind man, and if such a man takes steps to avoid cost falling on the Exchequer by having a guide dog, why cannot the cost of that dog be allowed as an expense?

Mr. Amory

The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, know that if I could possibly stretch the rule far enough to cover his suggestion I should wish to do so, but the rule is, unfortunately, perfectly definite, that costs which are—[Hon. Members: "Make another rule."]—the rule is perfectly definite, that costs involved in getting to work are not allowable. If the cost were involved in the performance of the work, the position would, of course, be different.

Mr. H. Wilson

Instead of the Chancellor being so bureaucratic about this rule, which the whole House knows to be widely abused in much less reputable cases, would not the right hon. Gentleman take the initiative in proposing that an allowance of this kind be made by legislation in the current Finance Bill and relate it not as a business expense but as a personal allowance? Will he take our word for it that we—I am sure the Liberal Party will support this—will give every facility to such an Amendment proposed by the Chancellor?

Mr. Amory

I am afraid that I could not give an assurance that I would propose what would amount to a very major alteration to the rules. As I say, if I could have covered this case without involving other changes, I should have been ready to do so. I cannot possibly accept the implications of what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Wilson

It is clear that the Chancellor has not understood what I proposed to him. It is a question not necessarily of the rules for business expenses. He could perfectly well introduce an Amendment to the Finance Bill providing for a personal allowance under the Income Tax law relating to guide dogs for blind persons. If he were to do that, will he tell us what precedents would be established and what wider implications such an Amendment would have?

Mr. Amory

I am sorry if I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. I now see what he is suggesting. I am, however, very doubtful whether a remission of tax is the best way of meeting the difficulty. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the higher the rate of tax that the individual happens to pay, the greater is the contribution.

Sir H. Butcher

Is not the rule to which the Chancellor refers with regret one which has already been very much criticised by Her Majesty's judges in other cases?

Mr. Amory

It is a very important rule which at present is the basis of a good deal of our assessments of tax, and I could not possibly give an assurance to alter it.

Mr. Jay

If the law disallows this but allows political advertisements, must there not be something wrong with the law?