Anti-avoidance bill to be brought before parliament

A GENERAL ANTI-AVOIDANCE BILL is to be tabled tomorrow at the House of Commons by Labour MP Michael Meacher.

Should the bill be passed, it will be the first time an anti-tax avoidance principle has been enshrined in UK law.

Unlike the general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) – the consultation for which closes tomorrow (14 September) – the bill addresses national insurance and VAT. It also looks to address shifting income from one tax to another in order to reduce a tax liability and any arrangement resulting in tax paid late.

Since 1936, case law has helped determine tax avoidance proceedings, with the Duke of Westminster case – which said if individuals could find a mechanism, however artificial, that let them avoid paying tax, they were at liberty to use it – the defining ruling. The anti-avoidance bill would supersede that arrangement.

Meacher will lead a Commons debate on tax avoidance today, before the bill is presented to parliament tomorrow.

He said: “George Osborne said in March that he thought tax avoidance was ‘morally repugnant’ but the proposal he has made to tackle it – called a general anti-abuse rule – is so weak that, by the government’s own admission, it will have no measurable economic impact.

“That’s not what we need now. We need a real anti-tax avoidance measure that will stop this abuse for good.”

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