Following the Prime Minister’s unexpected announcement that there will be a snap general election on 8 June 2017, Parliament will now be dissolved on 3 May 2017. After this date, no further legislation will be passed until Parliament opens again after the election.
Any Bills that have not received Royal Assent by the date of Parliament’s dissolution will lapse and the next government will then have the option to present them again, either in their current or an amended form. Similarly, any secondary legislation, i.e. statutory instruments, not passed by the date of dissolution will also have to be laid before Parliament again after the election.
The scope of the Finance Bill 2017 that was published only last month has now been cut significantly so that the bill can be fast-tracked through Parliament and receive Royal Assent before Parliament is dissolved. The original bill ran to a mammoth 762 pages but following the Finance Bill committee stage debate on 25 April 2017, the Government deleted 72 out of 135 clauses and 18 out of 29 schedules. This resulted in the residual Bill being cut to roughly 140 pages.
This has been done to remove certain contentious items and to remove the risk of rushing through some key measures without time for proper due diligence. This includes the legislation for the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) over which there had already been significant concerns that the timetable for the introduction of MTD was very tight. It remains to be seen if the plans for the introduction of MTD will be changed although the April 2018 deadline will be very hard to meet.
Other measures that have been removed from the Bill include corporate loss relief and interest deductibility, VAT in relation to fulfilment houses and penalties for enablers of defeated tax avoidance schemes. The changes to the main income tax rates for 2017-18, overseas pensions and offshore transfers, the soft drinks industry levy and some VAT and IPT measures have remained in the shortened Bill.
It is likely that should the election result in a Conservative victory that most of these measures will be will be reinstated in an identical or very similar way. It still remains to be seen if the Prime Minister will stick to her predecessors commitment (known as the tax lock) not to raise VAT, income tax and national insurance contributions. If not, we may see more tax increases than expected in the next Budget.