New double tax relief controversy.

The government has come under renewed pressure in the Commons over its crackdown on double taxation relief and ministers’ attacks on PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Peter Wyman. Shadow chief secretary and accountant MP David Heathcoat-Amory protested that chief secretary Andrew Smith had ‘insulted’ senior PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner Peter Wyman over the warning that banning the mixing of overseas investment profits would cost businesses billions of pounds. The controversy was re-opened as detailed debates on the Finance Bill started in committee in the Commons amid remarkable co-operation from the opposition. Heathcoat-Amory was referring to remarks made about Wyman in Budget debate by Smith who said that Wyman had not been able to stand up his claims that the change would cost #8bn to #10bn. Smith said in the debate: ‘Wyman is no ordinary advisor. He was the former tax advisor to Neil Hamilton when he was minister for corporate affairs. That is the shadow chancellor and the Conservative party: the tax avoider’s friend.’ Heathcoat Amory said later that these were ‘disgraceful remarks’ because Wyman was not a personal advisor to Hamilton but an advisor to the Department of Trade and Industry on deregulation. He added that Wyman was being proved ‘absolutely right’ about the cost of ending mixing in double taxation. He claimed the Treasury is ‘in retreat’ over the double taxation provisions which showed the immediate complaints of the accountancy profession to have been justified. He said: ‘A Treasury special adviser had imposed on the Inland Revenue, against its wishes, a clumsy attempt to rewrite double taxation and foreign earnings law.’ He added that Wyman was right, ‘so some humility from the government would be in order on that and other issues’.

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