Don Foster MP

Don Foster MP - 46/267 - Bath's #1 Supporter

Foster leads MP opposition of tax on grassroots sport

December 8, 2023 by admin in Don in Parliament, News

A cross party group of MPs led by Don Foster has condemned a move by the government to impose VAT on the activities of five-a-side football leagues.

Don Foster MP, the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has tabled a parliamentary motion criticising HM Revenue and Customs for the move.

Commenting, Don Foster said:

“In the run up to London 2012, one half of government is calling for more sport and a healthier nation, while the other is trying to tax a popular sporting activity.

“HMRC needs to think about the damage this will do. It makes no sense to drive casual footballers away with a tax bill when really we should be encouraging more people to take the game up.

“Five-a-side grassroots football league operators have invested millions of pounds in sporting facilities used by schools and local communities. They make a big contribution and government should be supporting them, not slapping them with a VAT burden.”

The full motion reads as follows:

“That this House believes the decision by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to apply the standard rate of VAT to the provision of five a side football leagues will be damaging to participation in sport; notes that the decision affects schools and communities that are recipients of free access to high quality football facilities provided by operators of five a side football leagues; believes that five a side football should be encouraged in its contribution to the Olympic and Paralympic sporting participation goals, particularly as participation in five a side football is currently far higher than participation in eleven a side football; and calls on HMRC to continue to apply VAT exempt status to the provision of five a side football leagues, as has been the case for more than twenty years.”

A new way to tackle unfair tax avoidance

December 7, 2023 by admin in Don in Parliament, News

Earlier this week I signed EDM 2501 sponsored by Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams, that calls for a general anti avoidance rule for taxation. We have lots of specific anti-avoidance legislation but people still find loopholes. Most countries have a general anti-avoidance rule but the UK has never had one. Accordingly, I want us to support Stephen in pushing for this to be introduced.

Specifically, the EDM states:

That this House notes the widespread public concern about the extent of tax avoidance and evasion by individuals and corporations; further notes that while evasion is illegal, taxes can be avoided by schemes that are contrived in their nature or by arrangements that are artificial and thus far removed from the responsible tax planning measures provided for by Parliament; believes that the ever-growing expansion of anti-avoidance measures has not eliminated the scope for exploitation of loopholes; further notes the publication of the report by Graham Aaronson QC outlining the case for the introduction of a general anti-avoidance rule in the UK; and urges HM Treasury to bring forward legislation within the next Finance Bill for the introduction of such a rule.

Below are some of Stephen’s further thoughts on the issue. You can read the full blog here:

“We all know that times are tough for Government finances. In order to bring Britain’s enormous budget deficit under control there has to be a mixture of increasing tax revenue and restricting the growth of spending. Tax revenues are most easily increased by rises in the rates of various taxes. So the Coalition Government has raised the rate of VAT to 20%, implemented a 50% tax rate on incomes above £150,000 and also imposed 2% national insurance contributions on salaries and bonuses above £42,500.”

“We now have an incredibly complex tax code. There are lots of tax reliefs to incentivise people and businesses to structure their personal finances (savings, pensions, etc) or business planning (capital investment, research, etc) in a way that is for the greater good of society. But to stop abuse each relief is accompanied by anti-avoidance rules that try to second guess all potential loopholes. It hasn’t worked and we need to try a new approach….”

“The Liberal Democrats promised in our 2010 manifesto that we would tackle tax avoidance problems. The Coalition Agreement provided for a study into what’s called a General Anti-Avoidance Rule, a rather ugly acronym of GAAR. The Treasury duly commissioned top tax barrister Graham Aaronson QC to set up an expert group to make a recommendation on whether the UK should have a GAAR. The basic point of a GAAR is that it would be explicitly stated that personal and business arrangements that are set up purely to avoid tax and for no legitimate commercial purpose, would not be considered legal tax avoidance. Essentially they would be irresponsible tax planning bumping right into illegal tax evasion.”

“Aaronson has now published his report and I met him to discuss it last week. He recommends legislation for a GAAR to cover initially income taxes (incl NIC), capital gains tax, corporation tax and petroleum revenue tax. It would be a shield against future tax avoidance schemes.”

Letter to the Foreign Secretary regarding pre-election violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

December 6, 2023 by admin in Don in Parliament, News

Dear Foreign Secretary,

Re: Urgent situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

We are writing to you to express our deep concern at the mounting instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the Presidential elections on Monday 28th November 2011. As you will be aware, scores of Congolese civilians have already been killed in election-related violence, including by the Presidential Guard. There have also been verified reports of fraud and logistical breakdown. A preliminary, unverified and partial release of the result has done nothing whatsoever to defuse panic.

We support the United Kingdom’s commitment to helping the people of the DRC, which was recently ranked the least developed country in the world, and the second worst place to live as a woman. With UK taxpayers set to spend almost £800 million in aid to the DRC over the course of this Parliament, we see this election as essential to ensuring the money is spent appropriately - on building infrastructure and furthering development.

In order to curtail the risk of greater bloodshed, we are asking you to condemn violence and demand greater transparency from the Congolese election commission (CENI), ahead of tonight’s final declaration. As tensions mount, some thousands of people are fleeing across the border into neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville, fearing intensification of post-election violence or even a reversion to civil war, once the final result is announced. This heightens the risk of destabilization in Central Africa - a region of critical importance to global security.

Timing matters. We should try to reduce the risks of high loss of life. As Foreign Secretary, we have confidence that you will send a clear message now that the UK urges greater transparency from the Congolese authorities, and calls on all sides to diffuse violence.

Sincerely,

  • Fiona Bruce MP, Conservative (Conservative Party Human Rights Commissioner)
  • Lord David Alton, Independent Crossbench (Expert in Human Rights in developing countries)
  • Martin Horwood MP, Liberal Democrat, (Chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary committee on international affairs)
  • Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Conservative, (Chairman, All-Party United Nations Group)
  • Don Foster MP, Liberal Democrat, (visited DRC with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy earlier this autumn)