Another very interesting week in “tax land”

Let’s start with Edinburgh.

It has been a better week for Edinburgh as we are talking about pandas and not trams or statutory repairs.  Even its pro rugby team is winning.  But what about tax?  The City of Edinburgh Council have taken the idea of a “tourist tax” a stage further.

The policy and strategy committee of the Council has agreed in principle to this revenue raising plan.  The committee has asked officials to look into the proposal in more detail.  It is estimated that the Council could raise up to £10m a year by charging between £1 and £2 per room each night.  If formally adopted Edinburgh would be the first place in the UK to levy the charge on visitor accommodation.  The exact nature of how the tax would be raised is as yet unclear.  The officials have also to look at both a compulsory and voluntary version of this idea.

Now to the fiscal powers debate.  I was not surprised to see that the UK Government has ruled out devolving Air Passenger Duty to the Scottish Parliament.  This simply provides further evidence that the Scotland Bill is “Calman minus”.

The attitude of the UK Government is though of more interest.  The UK Government seem quite happy to go against the wishes of many businesses and business organisations in Scotland on APD.  Also by refusing to devolve APD they are failing to implement the extremely modest Calman proposals of which they said they would implement in full.

To put this in context.  Who would have thought even a few months ago that  we would see senior members of the Labour party arguing for “devo max”.  The election of Ruth Davidson to lead the Conservatives in Scotland and the stance of “Scotland Bill and no further” shows, at least in the short term, where they stand.  The Liberal Democrats are trying to distance themselves from the Conservatives and that is why they created yet another Commission on this issue.  Hopefully their recommendations will not end up as “Steel minus”.

What does this mean?  The unity surrounding Calman, the previous UK Labour Government’s proposals and now the Scotland Bill is crumbling.   It may be that the Conservatives are becomming more and more distracted by Europe and just simply do not see, or maybe do not want to see, how fast the fiscal powers debate is moving.

Now to Europe and that other fiscal powers debate.  There is so much happening here it is difficult to keep up.  The call for greater fiscal union as a means of solving the Euro crisis.  The call for a European Financial Transactions Tax.  The call to safeguard the City of London and the European single market.  The call for a referendum on UK membership of the EU.  The call for powers to be repatriated to the UK.

Before the summit Ken Clarke was urging the Prime Minister to concentrate on maintaining financial stability and to forget about the repatriation of powers.   The Prime Minister is sticking to the view that any changes would only impact upon the 17 Euro countries and thus do not necessitate a referendum about the issue in the UK.

It was also not a surprise that the Prime Minister has effectively vetoed an EU wide treaty change saying it was not in the UK’s interests.   The sticking point as expected was how to “protect” the City of London.  Not surprisingly the French and others do not hold the City in such high reagrd.   They again made the point that some of the blame for why we are in this position is becuase of a lack of proper financial services regualtion in the City of London.

I have blogged before on how much pressure Ireland is under regarding its low rate of corporation tax and that was before the latest crisis.  If further powers are to be transferred to Brussels Ireland will have to have another referendum.  Will the Irish vote for closer fiscal union with its Eurozone countries knowing that its prized low rate of corporation tax will have to be conceded?  Then there is the Scottish fiscal powers and independence debate.  Who knows what impact the Euro crisis will have on this debate.

Lastly, I enjoyed the following comment piece from Eversheds.  It seems that the rule where footballers must be paid first in the event of a club going into administration is again under attack.   The comment piece can be found here.

Have a good weekend.

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