The government has launched draft legislation and a formal consultation on a new general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) that aims to tackle artificial and abusive tax avoidance schemes.
The consultation follows an independent review led by Graham Aaronson QC which concluded that introducing a targeted rule would deter artificial tax avoidance schemes and help create a more level playing field for businesses.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in the 2012 Budget that such a rule would be introduced in the 2013 Finance Bill.
The consultation follows informal discussions held by government with business, tax practitioners and representative bodies.
As recommended by Graham Aaronson's review, the proposed GAAR will apply to the main direct taxes and National Insurance.
As announced at the Budget, it will be expanded to cover Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).
The consultation also proposes an extension of the GAAR to Inheritance Tax and makes clear that the government will consider including further taxes if appropriate.
The government also agrees with the findings of the Aronson review that a 'broad spectrum' anti-avoidance rule would not be beneficial for the UK tax system.
As such it has said that the GAAR will be targeted at "artificial and abusing" tax avoidance. The consultation document released today gives specific examples of the type of tax avoidance that will be targeted by the GAAR.
To help determine which cases will come under the GAAR rules the government will establish an advisory panel, members of which will come from both HMRC and business. They will also develop, update and approve guidance on use of the rules.
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke said: "The introduction of a GAAR will strengthen our anti-avoidance strategy, complementing the tools HMRC already has at its disposal and acting as a deterrent to those engaging in artificial and abusive avoidance schemes.
"The rule we are consulting on from today will effectively tackle such schemes, while minimising the impact on the vast majority of taxpayers who pay a fair share."
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