Amidst the continued confusion over what the Government’s Brexit position might actually be, other important business continued in Parliament this week. In particular, it was effectively the final chance for the Finance Bill 2016 to be amended. The bill will shortly be returning to the Lords, but as it is a “Money Bill” no further amendments are possible once the Commons completes the third and final reading.
The Finance Bill is already running late – it should have been done before the summer recess. So it was no surprise that the final stages of its passage through Parliament were the absolute first business on the books for September.
Millions of businesses affected
It continues to surprise and disappoint that measures which are planned to come into force from April this year have not yet become law some 6 months later. In our view, such retrospective legislation should be a last resort in only the most serious of situations. Millions of businesses will be affected by these measures, which leaves those who advise them, like Crunch, in a difficult situation as we have to judge if a law might pass unamended.
Since Autumn 2015 we have been raising concerns about the impacts of the proposed dividend tax changes on lower earning micro-businesses. There has been widespread cross-party recognition of the concerns we’ve raised, including from ministers and in Parliamentary committees. Disappointingly however, Government has refused to offer any change or deferral to the measure.
Micro-business impact analysis
The last hope was an amendment laid down by SNP finance lead Roger Mullin MP, which sought a micro-business impact analysis on the dividend tax changes. On Tuesday 6th September, this amendment was discussed and voted on in the report stage of the bill. Roger’s SNP colleague Phil Boswell MP spoke splendidly in favour of the amendment and on why micro-businesses are important.
We were also delighted to see Labour’s shadow treasury minister Rebecca Long-Bailey MP speak in support of the dividend tax amendment, fully supporting our arguments on the impacts micro-businesses will feel.
In response, the minister Jane Ellison MP repeated the mistaken view that other recent changes to tax and allowances would offset the hike in dividend tax. We have shown that for the typical owner-operated limited company micro-business, this simply isn’t true.
So sadly the Government vote was called in to block the SNP’s micro-business dividend tax amendment from passing. All the same, we have to celebrate the positive outcome which is that 261 MPs from 7 parties did back this amendment showing strong support for the needs of micro-businesses.
Ultimately we weren’t able to shift the Government from funding corporation tax cuts off the back of dividend tax hikes. The rest of the Finance Bill’s path to becoming law is a formality. But have no doubt, we will build on that base of Parliamentary support to keep making the case for the amazing 5.2 million micro-businesses driving the UK economy.