HM Treasury

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27 February 2012

Government action halts banking tax avoidance schemes

The Government has today taken steps to close two aggressive tax avoidance schemes recently disclosed to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by a bank.  

The schemes, both of which are highly abusive, are designed to work around legislation that has been introduced in the past to block similar attempts at tax avoidance.  By acting immediately, the Government will ensure the payment of over half a billion pounds in tax, protect further billions of tax from being lost and maintain fairness in the tax system.

The first scheme seeks to ensure that the commercial profit arising to the bank from a buyback of its own debt is not subject to corporation tax.  In a bold step not previously taken by this Government, legislation is being introduced today that will not only prevent the scheme’s use in the future, but will also act retrospectively to block its recent use by the bank that has disclosed the scheme and by any other company that has engaged in a similar scheme in the same period. 

The second scheme involves Authorised Investment Funds (AIFs) and aims to convert non-taxable income into an amount carrying a repayable tax credit in an attempt to secure ‘repayment’ from the Exchequer of tax that has not been paid.  The Government is introducing legislation today to block any future use of the scheme.

The bank that disclosed these schemes to HMRC has adopted the Banking Code of Practice on Taxation which contains a commitment not to engage in tax avoidance.  The Government is clear that these are not transactions that a bank that has adopted the Code should be undertaking.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

"The Government wants to ensure that the tax system is fair for all and we will not allow those who seek to benefit from this aggressive avoidance to get an unfair advantage.  We do not take today’s action lightly, but the potential tax loss from this scheme and the history of previous abuse in this area mean that this is a circumstance where the decision to change the law with full retrospective effect is justified.  The Government is committed to creating a competitive tax system and we have brought in a range of corporate tax reforms, but we are absolutely clear that business must pay the tax they owe when they owe it."

Notes for Editors

1. The legislation will be in the 2012 Finance Bill. The draft legislation, together with an Explanatory Note and Tax Information and Impact Note, can be found on the HMRC website.

2. More information on the Banking Code of Practice on Taxation

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