Welsh Tax Acts etc. (Power to Modify) Act 2022: explanatory memorandum - Part 2: Regulatory impact assessment
Explanatory Memorandum incorporating the Regulatory Impact Assessment and Explanatory Notes.
In this page
A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) has been completed for the Welsh Tax Acts (Power to Modify) (Wales) Act 2022 and it follows below.
There are no specific provisions in the Welsh Tax Acts (Power to Modify) (Wales) Act 2022 which, in themselves, charge expenditure on the Welsh Consolidated Fund.
Welsh Tax Acts (Power to Modify) Act 2022
To introduce legislation containing a power for the Welsh Ministers to make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts via draft or made affirmative regulations in order to respond to a number of external circumstances at short notice, namely:
- to ensure the devolved Welsh taxes are not imposed where to do so would be incompatible with international obligations
- to protect against tax avoidance in relation to devolved Welsh taxes
- to respond to changes made by the UK government to ‘predecessor’ UK taxes (that is, one where we have an equivalent devolved tax) which affect, or may affect the amount paid into the Welsh Consolidated Fund, and
- to respond to decisions of the courts/tribunals which affect or may affect the operation of the devolved Welsh Taxes, or any regulations made under them.
There are no costs as a result of the Act directly. The costs will arise as and when any secondary legislation is prepared. The administrative and implementation costs, and the timeframe, of introducing such changes through secondary legislation are not known at this stage. A full and robust impact assessment, including estimated costings, would be completed for any future regulations made under the power provided by this Act to effect changes to the Welsh Tax Acts. This will form part of the Welsh Government’s obligation to publish an Explanatory Memorandum at the time the regulations are made or laid in draft and will include rationale for why the regulations should be subject to either the draft or made affirmative procedure, and any consequences of not making the regulations.
- Stage: Royal Assent
- Appraisal period: 2021/22 - 2022/23
- Price base year: None
- Total Cost: Not known (Present value: None)
- Total Benefits: Not known (Present value: None)
- Net Present Value (NPV): None
The Act operates to enable changes to be made to the Welsh Tax Acts in certain circumstances and for a specified period, through regulations made by the Welsh Ministers. There are therefore no administrative costs directly as a result of the Act receiving Royal Assent. The costs and costings will arise as and when any secondary legislation is prepared. This is likely to incur an administrative cost for the Welsh Government and potentially to the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) but there is, currently, uncertainty regarding this cost, because the specific type of change is unknown. However, in many cases the costs to the Welsh Government and WRA are likely to be met within existing budgets.
As the changes will be exceptional and unforeseen, it is hard to group them in advance. For example, for instances of tax avoidance, there could be an amendment to give effect to the original intended effect of the legislation. However, conceivably that could necessitate other changes (such as the need to alter a tax return form), or additional processes could be needed. Such changes may carry a cost. However, this could potentially be offset by marginal savings on further compliance activity, or litigation, if the legislative change prevents further instances of avoidance occurring.
The number of times the power to make secondary legislation will be used is not known at this stage; however, it is anticipated to be small and will be limited to the specified circumstances, furthermore, the lifespan of the regulation making power is restricted (see paragraph 3.57). The amount of secondary legislation will be kept under review as part of the assessment by the Welsh Ministers of alternative legislative mechanisms for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts and regulations made under any of those Acts. The alternative legislative mechanisms for making changes will include consideration as to whether, or when, an annual Finance Bill may be an appropriate legislative vehicle for Wales. However, it is not an ‘either or situation’ as it is considered that even if Wales has an annual Finance Bill, a mechanism to respond to events outside of that Finance Bill cycle will remain necessary to protect Welsh Government finances and Welsh taxpayers.
In summary, there are no costs attached as a result of the Act directly. The future administrative costs incurred through secondary legislation are unknown, as it is not possible to quantify the volume and nature of potential future changes required to the Welsh Tax Acts, which the Welsh Ministers may respond to using the power provided by the Act. The level of uncertainty is such that attempting to provide costs will generate figures that are potentially misleading and/or a range of costs that is too wide to add real value.
- Transitional: Not known
- Recurrent: Not known
- Total: Not known
There are no anticipated transitional cost-savings. However, a key objective of the Act is enabling future cost-savings through the provision of a mechanism to allow the Welsh Ministers to respond quickly to UK Government tax policy changes that impact on devolved taxes and consequently on the block grant. This will protect Welsh revenues. There could also be further marginal cost savings in the WRA’s compliance or litigation costs if future tax avoidance cases are prevented. An example of a recent change is the introduction of temporary changes to the Land Transaction Tax rates in July 2020. Although the Welsh Government has existing made affirmative powers in this instance to deal with rate changes, the assumption is that there may be future occasions when there are further changes to which the Welsh Ministers will need to respond to quickly.
- Transitional: Not known
- Recurrent: Not known
- Total: Not known
- Net administrative cost: Not known
It is possible the Act will give rise to compliance costs in the future but, as with other elements, where these costs fall and their magnitude will depend upon the nature of those future unknown changes. The compliance costs are therefore unknown.
- Transitional: Not known
- Recurrent: Not known
- Total: Not known
There are no other anticipated costs.
Unquantified costs and disbenefits
There are no direct impacts as a result of the Act receiving Royal Assent. There will be unquantified administrative costs of regulations made by this legislation. It is not possible to quantify these additional costs at this time and the cost estimates and cost savings are not known. However, separate regulatory impact assessments, including estimated costings, will be completed for any regulations made using the powers in the Act.
A key benefit of the Act is to provide the Welsh Ministers with an agile and proportionate mechanism to make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts in response to tax policy changes made by the UK government to ‘predecessor’ UK taxes (that is, one where Wales has an equivalent devolved tax - 'predecessor taxes’ currently refers to Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax – the UK equivalents for the taxes that are now devolved in Wales), whilst ensuring scrutiny by the Senedd. In particular, the power will be used to protect Welsh Government tax revenues, or to provide taxpayers with expeditious reductions in their liabilities. Currently, if the UK government brings in, with immediate effect, a change to a ‘predecessor tax’ which has impacts on Welsh devolved taxes and consequently on the Welsh block grant, then the Welsh Ministers have limited recourse for responding to that change in a timely and proportionate way. An additional benefit is that the Act aims to provide an additional tool to stop avoidance of the devolved Welsh taxes when identified.
The use of the power to make regulations provided by the Act is time limited and the Welsh Ministers are under a statutory obligation, as part of the review of the Act, to undertake an assessment of alternative legislative mechanisms for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts and regulations made under any of those Acts.
It is not possible to quantify this benefit, but it could be considerable. However, the cost estimates would depend on the type of change made and these are unknown at this time.
- Total: Not known
Key evidence, assumptions and uncertainties
A key aim of the Act is to provide an appropriate, flexible mechanism (albeit time limited) to overcome potential uncertainties (that is, to provide a proportionate mechanism to respond to tax policy changes introduced at short notice by the UK government, or other specified external events, that impact on the Welsh Government resources). In particular, this is evidenced by the series of changes the UK government has made to stamp duty land tax on a relatively regular basis, and often with immediate effect, or very shortly after the announcement.
To provide an example, on 1 April 2016, the UK government brought into effect a new charging regime with new, higher rates of stamp duty land tax on purchases of dwellings where the buyers already own an interest in another dwelling. The Welsh Ministers are not able to introduce a new charge through our existing regulation-making powers. In this instance, we were able to introduce a similar charge through the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Act 2017 when it was progressing through the Senedd scrutiny stages. However, if this had not been the case, then our block grant adjustment would have been far larger than the revenues from land transaction tax, resulting in a significant reduction to our resources, or a need to increase rates on other taxpayers. This is demonstrated as the higher rates on additional dwellings raised around £60 million in Wales 2018-19. The potential cost here depends on the scale of the UK government policy change but could be very significant.
7.1 Two options are outlined below and the advantages and disadvantages of each are briefly considered. The options are:
- Option 1 – do nothing
- Option 2 – implement a Bill to enable the Welsh Ministers to make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts using made or draft affirmative regulations in order to respond to a number of external circumstances where a change to the Welsh Tax Acts is required to have effect immediately or very soon thereafter
7.2 This is followed by analysis of the costs and benefits of the 2 options in Chapter 8.
7.3 The 2020 Tax Devolution in Wales – Enabling changes to the Welsh Tax Acts consultation set out the need to ensure that changes can be made to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice in a number of circumstances such as:
- to stop avoidance of the devolved Welsh taxes,
- to comply with international obligations,
- to respond to a tribunal or higher courts decision, and
- in response to tax policy changes made by the UK government to ‘predecessor’ UK taxes (that is, one where Wales has an equivalent devolved tax - 'predecessor taxes’ currently refers to Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax – the UK equivalents for the taxes that are now devolved in Wales).
7.4 It is considered that there are only 2 options available presently or in the near future, that could be taken forward to make specific changes to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice: to either rely on existing mechanisms or to implement a new proportionate and agile mechanism to introduce such changes through secondary legislation. The consultation responses were broadly in favour of introducing a Bill to provide the necessary power to the Welsh Ministers.
7.5 A further option considered in the consultation was the introduction of a Bill equivalent to the UK government’s annual Finance Bill. A Welsh Finance Bill would essentially include revenue raising measures and potentially tax setting decisions, and would provide a mechanism for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts. The consultation document sets out that a key consideration is the volume of secondary legislation generated by the Welsh Tax Acts and whether it is practical to consolidate that legislation in an annual, or less frequent, Welsh Finance Bill. Since the taxes went live in April 2018, 11 sets of secondary legislation have been made. This includes 4 annual inflation-based rises to the rates payable for landfill disposals tax and four sets of regulations setting or linked to land transaction tax rates and bands.
7.6 As set out in paragraph 3.57, this Act includes a sunset clause limiting the lifespan of the regulation-making power to a maximum date of 30th April 2031. The Minister for Finance and Local Government has committed to establishing a long-term architecture for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts, which will include consideration of whether an annual, or less frequent, Finance / Taxation Bill is appropriate for Wales.
7.7 Given the link between the tax effort made by the UK ‘predecessor taxes’ – that is, those taxes that have been devolved to Wales - and their impacts on the Welsh Government’s resources through the block grant adjustment, an ability to respond quickly, flexibly and outside of the Welsh budget process is essential. Therefore, elements of this Act may still need to be part of that longer term solution. Making changes outside an annual legislative vehicle is complex. The Minister for Finance and Local Government has committed to achieving an accessible framework for our taxpayers and their advisers than is sometimes the case for UK government changes.
7.8 Finally, the Welsh Government has indicated in its response to the Finance Committee’s “Inquiry into a legislative budget process” that a Finance Bill covering taxation and spending plans will raise a number of complexities and would need very careful consideration. This option is not considered within the scope of this assessment. However, further consideration of this issue will form part of the assessment by the Welsh Ministers of alternative legislative mechanisms for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts and regulations made under any of those Acts as required by the statutory review of this Act.
Option 1: Do nothing
7.9 In this scenario, should it be identified that one of the types of changes set out in paragraph 3.2 is required to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice, the Welsh Government would be able to use one of three existing legislative mechanisms to action the change:
- the existing Emergency or ‘fast-track’ Bill process. This would enable the Welsh Ministers to implement a change at relatively short notice (that is, for these types of legislative mechanisms, a change may be implemented once the Emergency Bill or expedited Bill has Royal Assent, which is typically reached in around 3 months). There would be both financial and reputational costs or risks to the Welsh Government attached to using these types of mechanisms which have rarely been previously used and only in exceptional circumstances, with shortened or limited scrutiny opportunities. An Emergency Bill incurs ‘business as usual’ Senedd costs and broadly follows the usual four Stages of the Senedd’s consideration of a Bill, but with some significant alterations to progress through the Stages quickly. Fast-track Bills are not Emergency Bills, and do not have the same requirements, nor are they subject to the same Standing Orders. A fast-track Bill would move through the Stages in the shortest time possible but still according to the requirements of Standing Orders for a normal Bill. Such a Bill would also incur ‘business as usual’ Senedd and Welsh Government costs. Paragraphs 2.7-2.27 of the 2020 Enabling changes to the Welsh Tax Acts consultation sets out in detail the Emergency and ‘fast-track’ Bill processes.
- the existing standard primary legislation process, which is likely to take around 12-18 months. This legislative mechanism would ensure thorough extended evidence and scrutiny processes, but would not enable the Welsh Ministers to make a required change to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice.
- in certain instances, the existing secondary legislation powers in the Welsh Tax Acts. Whilst there are a number of powers that enable changes to be made, such as the ability to create, amend or repeal reliefs from land transaction tax, they are mainly subject to the draft affirmative procedure. This means the regulations can only come into effect once the Senedd has approved the making of them. This will delay the date by which a change can come into force. In contrast, the UK government has the ability to make changes to existing taxes with immediate effect through the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. The Welsh Tax Acts permit only tax rates and tax bands to be changed by regulations subject to the made affirmative procedure. Furthermore, there are parts of the Welsh Tax Acts where specific regulation-making powers were not taken; in LTT one key area is the provisions relating to the calculation of tax. For example, it is unlikely that if the Welsh Government were to consider the introduction of a new surcharge that this could be fully achieved through the existing suite of regulation-making powers.
Option 2: Implement a Bill to enable regulations to be introduced to make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts in certain circumstances at short notice
7.10 In this scenario, the Welsh Ministers will be provided with powers to introduce secondary legislation to make certain changes at short notice to the Welsh Tax Acts. For each of the types of changes outlined in paragraph 3.2, this would mean that the Welsh Ministers would have a tool in place to respond promptly and proportionately:
i. To comply with international obligations
The ability to quickly make changes the Welsh Ministers consider appropriate to ensure compliance with international obligations is aimed primarily at upholding the reputation of Wales and the Welsh Government
ii. To stop avoidance of the devolved Welsh taxes
The ability to stop avoidance activity is in the interests of Welsh citizens as it will protect the revenues on which public services depend. It is unfair for people to seek to avoid their tax liabilities. The ability of the Welsh Government to respond as quickly as possible to stop this activity is essential.
iii. Where changes are made to predecessor UK taxes by the UK government that will affect the Welsh block grant adjustment and the overall amount of Welsh Government resources
Responding in a timely manner would enable changes to be made to the devolved taxes to protect the revenues available for our essential public services in Wales. Equally, it will also provide the Welsh Government, if the UK government reduces its tax effort though a predecessor tax, with the opportunity to provide similar reductions to Welsh taxpayers sooner than using existing mechanisms
iv. To respond to a tribunal or higher courts decision
This is intended to capture situations such as a need to make changes to legislation where there has been an adverse court decision. The power would be used sparingly in these circumstances.
8. Costs and benefits
8.1 The cost analysis for Options 1 and 2 is primarily an assessment of the different legislative mechanisms, providing a broad comparison of the typical costs that would be incurred if the Welsh Ministers needed to make a legislative change to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice to respond to an external circumstance. The key assumption is that the resource required to take forward an Emergency or fast-track Bill, primary legislation, or to use existing secondary legislation powers, is likely to be broadly equivalent to the resource required for the Welsh Ministers to respond using the regulation making power set out in option 2. Any minor additional costs or cost-savings would be absorbed within existing activities and running costs with little impact.
8.2 The key costs would be dependent on both the type of legislative change that is needed, and also the cost of implementing the change. The administrative and implementation costs, and the timeframe, of introducing such changes through secondary legislation are not known at this stage. Overall, there could be compliance costs, and potentially cost-savings, for some businesses and citizens. However, this is dependent upon the changes made in the future. This assessment assumes that any implementation costs (for example, changes to WRA systems or processes) would be the same regardless of which legislative mechanism is used to bring in the change.
8.3 A separate impact assessment, including estimated costings, would be completed when the powers provided by the Act are used to make regulations to effect changes to the Welsh Tax Acts. This will form part of the Welsh Ministers obligation to publish an Explanatory Memorandum at the time the regulations are made or laid in draft and would explain why the regulations should be subject to either the draft or made affirmative procedure, and any consequences of not making the regulations.
Option 1: do nothing
8.4 In this option, in order to respond to an identified need for change the Welsh Government would make a decision on which existing legislative mechanism to utilise depending on the specific circumstances. The costs would be dependent on type of legislative mechanism is taken forward, whether that is by an emergency, fast-track, primary legislation or existing secondary powers.
Emergency / fast-track Bill
8.5 For an Emergency Bill or fast-track legislation this would incur the typical Welsh Government administrative costs associated with this type of legislation. The compressed timescales combined with the requirements of an Emergency or 'fast-track' Bill may require a significant allocation of Welsh Government resources, albeit for a short period. In addition to input from policy, legal services, legislative counsel and translation, it would likely require additional support being brought in to form a ‘Bill team’ (typically as a minimum a Bill Manager and Deputy Bill Manager). The cost would be dependent on the complexity and size of the legislation.
8.6 For primary legislation, this would incur the typical administration costs associated with the drafting and management of a Government Bill. The resourcing requirements are likely to be similar to those incurred for an emergency or expedited Bill in that a ‘Bill team’ would be formed; however, these costs will span a longer time-frame, typically around 12-18 months.
8.7 Critically, using primary legislation would not enable the Welsh Ministers to respond at pace if a change was identified and required. The impact of this delay is likely to depend upon the type of change. This includes:
- Accepting that Wales will not comply with its international obligations for around 12-18 months. The potential cost here is generally likely to be reputational.
- Accepting that any avoidance activity will continue in Wales for around 12-18 months. The costs of not being able to halt avoidance activity as quickly as possible will depend, of course, on the activity targeted. It could amount to significant amounts of foregone tax revenue. There could also be an element of increased WRA resource cost on further compliance activity (and possibly litigation expenses) in tackling any additional cases arising in the meantime.
- Accepting that the Welsh Ministers will not be able to respond to changes made to predecessor taxes and subsequent adjustments to the Welsh block grant for around 12-18 months, resulting in a potential loss of revenue for Wales. In this scenario, the Welsh Government would either need to operate with a reduced budget or find alternative ways of raising such revenues to maintain existing resource levels. Conversely, it could also result in delays in providing changes that reduce the tax burden on Welsh taxpayers.
- Accepting that the Welsh Ministers will not be able to respond to tribunal or higher court decisions for around 12-18 months, resulting in potential reputational and financial costs. It is difficult to anticipate costs associated with the use of the power in relation to this area as it could vary considerably.
8.8 To provide an example, the higher rates in Wales raised around £60 million in 2018-19. Had Wales not been in a position to respond and introduce a similar regime to the UK government in the period between 25 November 2015 and 1 April 2016, the combination of an increase to the block grant adjustment and foregoing the additional revenues would have resulted in a significant reduction to the Welsh Government’s overall resources. This is because the SDLT would have been making a greater tax effort and the block grant adjustment would have been adjusted to include that greater effort. This was an issue that did not arise as LTT had yet to come into force and a higher rates regime was included in the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Act 2017 following the Welsh Government seeking views on its approach to higher rates of land transaction tax.
8.9 The inability to respond promptly to changes made to predecessor UK taxes is most likely to have a significant impact on Welsh revenues. The potential cost depends on the scale of policy change implemented by the UK government on the predecessor taxes to those devolved to Wales. This could be significant; for example, scenario 4 in Chapter 4 in the 2020 Tax Devolution: Enabling changes to the Welsh Tax Acts consultation provides the recent example of the introduction of the SDLT higher rates for additional dwellings in 2016 which increased the tax effort [footnote 1]. The higher rates in Wales raised around £60 million in 2018-19. Had Wales not been in a position to respond and introduce a similar regime (through an amendment to the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes Act (Wales) 2017 during its passage through the Senedd) the block grant adjustment would have been far larger than the revenues from land transaction tax, resulting in a reduction to the overall resources available to the Welsh Government.
8.10 In addition, using existing primary or emergency legislative mechanisms would potentially also create additional administrative costs for the WRA (and taxpayers) to collect (or pay) tax from those taxpayers who paid based on the current law, rather than the law including the changes contained in the primary legislation prior to Royal Assent. The potential cost is unknown as it would depend on the nature of the change introduced. This would be the case if, for example, the legislation included a date for the changes having effect that was, the date the Bill was introduced. In nearly all cases it is likely that the tax paid would be based on the current law and not based on the changes contained in that Bill prior to it being passed and receiving Royal Assent. The use of the Emergency or ‘fast-track’ Bill procedures may reduce some of that uncertainty due to the shorter timescales, but would not remove it entirely.
8.11 It should be noted that for both Emergency, ‘fast-track’ and primary legislation, the tax effects of any change could potentially, with Senedd approval, on rare occasions be applied with retrospective effect. This could help mitigate the risk of increased loss of revenue for the Welsh Government, particularly for primary legislation given the time it can take for a Bill to pass through the Senedd stages. There could, however, still be a potential cost (for example, increased number of queries) to both Welsh Government and the WRA associated with the uncertainty created as to what law will apply to a taxable event or activity until the legislation receives Royal Assent and commences.
8.12 There will be a number of situations where the existing powers in the Welsh Tax Acts could be used to make changes. For example, there are regulation making powers in land transaction tax to create, amend or repeal reliefs. These powers are generally subject to the draft affirmative procedure, so the regulations can only come into force once the Senedd have approved the draft regulations. In some circumstances, this will delay the date by which a change can come into force and is likely to result in continued reduced revenues, and potential delayed transactions as taxpayers wait for the new changes to come into force (if the change means they may pay less tax).
8.13 There may be certain urgent circumstances where it would be appropriate for the Welsh Ministers to introduce secondary legislation using the new regulation-making powers under the made affirmative procedure, rather than existing powers subject to the draft affirmative procedure. It is not anticipated that there will be any difference in administration costs between the 2 procedures. However, there are possible minor costs or cost savings for the Welsh Government as a result of the draft affirmative regulations coming into force later than if the made affirmative procedure had been used. It is not possible to quantify these costs or cost savings as the nature of the change is not known as this stage.
8.14 A further key consideration is that there are significant areas where the powers to make the desired changes do not exist meaning that only the primary legislation route can be taken. For example, one key area is the provisions relating to the calculation of tax for land transaction tax. In these areas, the Act will provide the power to introduce regulations using either the draft affirmative procedure or made affirmative procedure, whichever the Welsh Ministers consider appropriate depending on the nature of the change.
8.15 A benefit of option 1 is that no resource is required at the present time to take this option forward. However, if the Welsh Government did need to make a change at short notice, and pre-existing secondary powers were not available, then it is likely an Emergency or ‘fast-track’ Bill would be required and this would incur additional resource. There are also several dis-benefits, including potential shortened or limited scrutiny opportunities, reputational risk of using a mechanism which has rarely been used previously and only in exceptional circumstances, and potential increased administrative costs and a delay in the legislation coming into force.
8.16 In this option there are administrative and resourcing requirements to:
- introduce the primary legislation to enable the Welsh Ministers to make future draft or made affirmative regulations, and
- introduce future made or draft affirmative regulations as required.
8.17 The direct costs of introducing the proposed primary legislation will be met from current funding of the Welsh Government’s officials and legal services. There are no identifiable separate costs of introducing this legislation.
8.18 Further principal costs arising from this option are the administrative costs to the Welsh Government and WRA of developing and implementing the secondary legislation, and to the Senedd in scrutinising the legislation.
8.19 The potential costs savings for option 2 are dependent on the type of change, as set out in paragraph 3.2:
- Enabling the Welsh Ministers to ensure the Welsh Tax Acts, where appropriate, comply with international obligations. Although the potential cost savings here are minimal, in the event that the Welsh Tax Acts do not comply with international obligations, there are potential reputational costs.
- Enabling the Welsh Ministers to halt avoidance activity as quickly as possible by providing further clarity and putting beyond doubt the intended application of the legislative provisions. The costs savings of being able to promptly halt avoidance activity as quickly as possible will depend, of course, on that activity.
- Enabling the Welsh Ministers to respond to changes made to predecessor taxes that impact on the Welsh block grant. There are potential significant cost savings for the Welsh Government and taxpayers. Without this option, the Welsh Government could face the scenario that it either needs to operate with a reduced budget or find alternative ways of raising such revenues to maintain existing resource levels.
- Enabling the Welsh Ministers to respond to a tribunal or higher courts decision. It is difficult to anticipate costs associated with the use of the power in relation to this area as it could vary considerably, but it is intended to capture situations such as a need to make changes to legislation where there has been, from the Welsh Government’s or Welsh Revenue Authority’s perspective, an adverse court decision.
Impact on taxpayers and WRA of the use of the made affirmative procedure
8.20 It is proposed that in some urgent circumstances regulations would be made using the made affirmative procedure. This procedure differs from the draft affirmative procedure as the effect of the regulations can be made, and come into force, before the Senedd has approved the making of the regulations. The regulations subject to the made affirmative procedure have provisional effect until the Senedd vote. If the Senedd approves the regulations, they will have permanent effect. If the regulations fail to secure the approval of the Senedd, taxpayers who have paid more tax as a result of those unsuccessful changes will be entitled to claim a repayment of that overpaid tax from the WRA. The risk of the regulations is to be borne by the Welsh Government alone and not by Welsh taxpayers.
8.21 Where WRA systems and processes need to be altered to give effect to legislative changes, this may incur development and implementation costs. There may also be resource costs for the WRA in supporting an increase in queries from taxpayers or their advisers in response to the changes. Should the regulations subsequently fail, further systems/process changes may be needed to revert to the previous rules, supporting taxpayers to ensure they pay the right amount of tax. However, this would depend on the exact nature of the legislative provisions and how any changes were implemented. The cost is likely to be low, but it is not possible to quantify specifically at this point as this is likely to vary from case to case. Any potential implementation costs would be the same regardless of which legislative route was taken.
8.22 Changes to tax legislation will normally take effect from no earlier than the date the regulations are made. However, a change which takes effect from a date earlier than the date of making will be possible but will be wholly exceptional. An example is provided where a change is made by the UK government that has immediate effect and raises significant amounts of tax by a predecessor tax and that will have a material effect on the block grant adjustment. In this scenario, the use of retrospection in terms of costs is intended to protect Welsh Government revenues and mitigate the potential impacts of UK tax policy changes that impact on devolved taxes and consequently on the Welsh block grant. The Act protects taxpayers by ensuring that the use of the power to make regulations with retrospective effect, is limited to the date that a Welsh Minister makes an oral or written statement to the Senedd, where that effect is to increase the amount of tax payable. Where the effect of the change does not increase a taxpayer’s liability the regulations can have effect from a date prior to the announcement by the Welsh Ministers.
8.23 Paragraph 3.45 sets out that the Welsh Ministers are prohibited from applying retrospective effect from a date further back than the date the legislative change was warned or announced, either by a Ministerial oral or written statement. The restriction will only apply in cases where there is a ‘negative’ tax impact - that is, where there is any new liability or increased liability to land transaction tax or landfill disposals tax on a taxpayer. However, the restriction will still allow the Welsh Ministers to use the power to make changes with retrospective effect further back than the date of any announcement where that change reduces the tax charged. For example, if responding to a UK Budget change this would ensure that Welsh taxpayers can benefit from the reduction at the same time as taxpayers in England.
8.24 The Welsh Government set out in the 2020 Tax Devolution: Enabling changes to the Welsh Tax Acts consultation 3 key benefits in relation to the introduction of the Welsh Tax Acts:
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness with which public resources are used in Wales
- Boosting the resources available for public bodies in Wales to invest in improving well-being, and
- Delivering enhanced fiscal levers for the Welsh Ministers and using these levers to improve outcomes for the people of Wales.
8.25 These benefits are aligned to the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which came into effect in April 2016. The Act seeks to improve social, environmental, economic and cultural well-being in Wales and help to create a country that we all want to live in, now and in the future.
8.26 This proposed legislation is intended to continue to support the identified benefits of the Welsh Tax Acts in the following ways:
1. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness with which public resources are used in Wales
8.27 The Act is intended to provide an additional tool to quickly close down identified avoidance activity, ensuring that those liable to the Welsh devolved taxes pay the amount of tax, and at the time, the Senedd intended when passing the Welsh Tax Acts.
2. Boosting the resources available for public bodies in Wales to invest in improving well-being
8.28 The Act supports the aim to adapt a tax collection and management system to meet Welsh priorities. It provides an additional tool to ensure the Welsh Ministers can make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts in a flexible and proportionate way, particularly in response to the UK government making changes to predecessor taxes which may have impacts on the Welsh Government’s overall resources. This will enable the Welsh Government to protect its finances which are used to fund public services.
3. Delivering enhanced fiscal levers for the Welsh Ministers
8.29 The Act aims to provide the Welsh Ministers with an additional fiscal lever to respond to external circumstances and make changes via secondary legislation (using either the draft or made affirmative procedure) in areas of the Welsh Tax Acts where currently the only option would be to either introduce primary legislation, with longer timescales, or emergency legislation (or in some cases the already existing draft affirmative powers but where the change is deemed to be necessary immediately).
8.30 A key feature of using the made affirmative procedure in some circumstances is that the effect of the changes can be brought in with immediate effect thereby increasing or decreasing revenues depending on the Welsh Government’s desired policy outcomes. This will provide clarity to taxpayers and their representatives.
8.31 Enabling the Welsh Government to make immediate changes to the devolved taxes will also minimise the potential impact on the Welsh Government’s overall resources. Enabling legislative changes to have immediate effect also ensures taxpayers can benefit from those changes as quickly as possible. This gives the Welsh Ministers better control over the budget for Welsh public services. This is in line with the well-being goal to create a prosperous Wales, allowing the Welsh Ministers to use enhanced fiscal levers to improve outcomes for the people of Wales as expeditiously as possible.
8.32 Furthermore, the made affirmative power could also be utilised in scenarios where the Welsh Ministers have existing powers to make regulations but need to make an urgent change. To provide an example, the Welsh Ministers may already introduce a new relief for land transaction tax through regulations. However, introducing a new relief using a made affirmative power provides an additional benefit that the relief could become effective immediately, rather than once the draft affirmative procedure in the Senedd has been completed, which takes a minimum of three sitting weeks. This means that Welsh taxpayers are able to claim the relief as early as possible (although Senedd approval is still required for the regulations to have permanent effect).
8.33 The rationale to introduce a change through new made affirmative regulations rather than a pre-existing draft affirmative regulation power will be set out in the Explanatory Memorandum when the power is used. It will include issues such as: urgency, competitive/distortive difference between UK taxes and Welsh taxes, tax at stake, and, absence of other routes, other than primary legislation, to achieve the change.
8.34 Finally, an additional benefit is that this enhanced fiscal lever will ensure the Welsh Ministers have a greater degree of parity to the UK government, as the UK government already has the ability to make changes to existing taxes with immediate effect through the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. In contrast, the Welsh Tax Acts permit only tax rates and tax bands to be changed by regulations subject to the made affirmative procedure. This approach has the benefit that it is familiar and well understood by tax practitioners. In these urgent cases, the Welsh Minister will write to the Llywydd to inform them of the use of the made affirmative procedure. In addition, the period beyond which such regulations may not remain in effect without the approval of the Senedd will be 60 sitting days. This will, for example, allow sufficient time for the relevant committees to take evidence and to write their respective reports, and for stakeholders to provide comments on the changes. In many situations the Senedd will have more opportunity to consider the proposed changes than the UK Parliament is afforded in relation to its Finance Bills or tax changes made outside Finance Acts (for example, the Stamp Duty Land Tax Act 2015) .
8.35 Option 2 is the Welsh Government’s preferred option. It is considered that the benefit of this option is that it will provide the Welsh Ministers with appropriate and proportionate powers to make changes to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice in certain circumstances, whilst ensuring that appropriate scrutiny time is provided to the Senedd. This is particularly significant where changes are made to predecessor UK taxes by the UK government which could have significant implications for the resources available to the Welsh Government for essential public services.
8.36 The principal costs arising from this option, once the Act providing the powers receives Royal Assent, are the administrative costs to the Welsh Government and WRA of developing and implementing the secondary legislation, and there will also be compliance costs, and potentially increased or decreased tax liabilities, for some businesses and citizens. However, these costs are not known at this time and are dependent upon the changes made in the future. A separate impact assessment, including estimated costings, will be completed when the power is used to make regulations to effect changes to the Welsh Tax Acts.
9. Competition assessment
9.1 The Act itself is not expected to change the fundamental requirements on businesses. Due consideration will be given to competition assessments for the consequential secondary legislation.
yes or no
|Q1: In the market(s) affected by the new regulation, does any firm have more than 10% market share?||No|
|Q2: In the market(s) affected by the new regulation, does any firm have more than 20% market share?||No|
|Q3: In the market(s) affected by the new regulation, do the largest 3 firms together have at least 50% market share?||No|
|Q4: Would the costs of the regulation affect some firms substantially more than others?||No|
|Q5: Is the regulation likely to affect the market structure, changing the number or size of firms?||No|
|Q6: Would the regulation lead to higher set-up costs for new or potential suppliers that existing suppliers do not have to meet?||No|
|Q7: Would the regulation lead to higher ongoing costs for new or potential suppliers that existing suppliers do not have to meet?||No|
|Q8: Is the sector characterised by rapid technological change?||No|
|Q9: Would the regulation restrict the ability of suppliers to choose the price, quality, range or location of their products?||No|
10. Integrated impact assessment summary
The Welsh Government’s commitment
10.1 The Welsh Government’s tax policy priorities align with the commitments in the Programme for Government 2021-26 and continue to demonstrate its commitment to creating a more equal, fairer and socially just Wales. Devolved taxation can be a powerful lever for influencing behaviour change, as well as generating revenue to support public spending to meet the needs of Wales and enabling us to develop more progressive taxes to be developed. It also allows development of a more strategic approach to central and local taxation in Wales, ensuring it is better able to tackle the needs and priorities of citizens and businesses.
10.2 This Act contributes to the national wellbeing goal of ‘a prosperous Wales’, recognising the core role of taxation in funding public services. The ultimate objective of the Act is to provide the Welsh Ministers with a proportionate mechanism to protect Welsh revenues raised through devolved taxes that are available for essential public services in Wales, and to avoid adverse implications for businesses, the property market, and the environment. There is clear alignment between this objective and the 5 ways of working as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
Prevention and the long term
10.3 The Act provides a ‘preventative’ measure to enable Welsh Ministers to respond agilely when a change is required to the Welsh Tax Acts at short notice. The Act is needed to protect revenues available for essential public services in Wales. At the moment, every time there is a UK budget cycle there is a risk that there may be a change which impacts on a devolved tax and has a direct budgetary impact on Welsh resources.
10.4 The Act aims to balance the need to address a gap in the short-term – that is the lack of an agile mechanism to respond to an urgent need to make a change to the Welsh Tax Acts - but also to meet long-term needs. The Act provides that the statutory review must include an assessment by the Welsh Ministers of alternative legislative mechanisms for making changes to the Welsh Tax Acts and regulations made under any of those Acts. The Act has a sunset clause that is triggered 5 years after the Act comes into force meaning that no further regulations may be made using the power (although the sunset clause can be delayed, subject to Senedd approval, to 30 April 2031). The Act fits within a longer-term development of the fiscal framework and devolved taxes. It can be viewed within the lens of a broader tax strategy, including the reforming and strengthening of relationships with UK government and other devolved administrations.
10.5 For example, the amount of secondary legislation generated as a result of the Act form part of the statutory review of the Act and contribute to future considerations as to whether a Finance Bill or other legislative process may be an appropriate legislative vehicle for Wales. However, it is not an either/or situation as it is considered that even if Wales has an annual Devolved Taxation Bill, a mechanism to respond to events outside of that Devolved Taxation Bill cycle will remain necessary to protect Welsh Government finances and Welsh taxpayers.
Collaboration and involvement
10.6 Following the devolution of land transaction tax and landfill disposals tax in 2018, the Welsh Government has considered, with our stakeholders and partners, what the right and appropriate tools might be to ensure we can make changes to the “Welsh Tax Acts” at short notice in certain circumstances. Collaboration on the development of this Act reflects the technical nature of the proposals. The 2020 policy consultation Tax Devolution in Wales - Enabling changes to the Welsh Tax Acts consultation received a small but reasonable number of responses mostly from professional tax and accountancy bodies. Both the policy proposal and the provisions in the Act are the result of close working and sharing of ideas and expertise with stakeholders and changes made during the Stages of Senedd scrutiny. Furthermore, the Policy Statement on the use of the power by the Welsh Ministers retrospectively has also been prepared in collaboration and consultation with tax expert stakeholders. The Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) has also been a key partner involved in developing the proposal and planning its delivery.
10.7 There is also ongoing wider stakeholder engagement on devolved taxation more generally. It is recognised that it is important to continue raising awareness of Welsh taxes, and the focus on major fiscal events, such as the Welsh Budget, will increase understanding of the implications of fiscal devolution for people and businesses.
10.8 We have strong working partnerships with the WRA and HMRC to enable quick and effective dissemination of key information through established operational channels. These include the Welsh Treasury annual conference and working with professional bodies. The Tax Engagement Group enables discussion of developments in tax policy with those who can represent the views of Welsh taxpayers. Further details of engagement activity on tax more generally is provided in Section 13 of the Welsh Government's Welsh Tax Policy Report 2021, published on 20 December 2021. This remains a priority as set out in the Welsh Government’s updated Tax Policy Framework.
10.9 The Act operates to provide the Welsh Ministers with the power to make secondary legislation in order to respond to a number of external circumstances. There are therefore limited impacts as a result of the Act directly. A separate impact assessment would be completed each time the power is used to make regulations to effect changes to the Welsh Tax Acts. The Welsh Government will consult on the content of the subordinate legislation where it is considered appropriate to do so. The precise nature of consultation will be dependent on the nature of the proposals and the time available.
10.10 Overall, devolved taxes raise revenue to fund public spending in Wales. Devolved taxation can be a powerful lever for influencing behaviour change, as well as generating revenue to support public spending to meet the needs of Wales and enabling us to develop more progressive taxes. It also allows us to develop a more strategic approach to taxation in Wales, ensuring it is better able to tackle the needs and priorities of citizens and businesses.
10.11 Alongside the costs and benefits presented in the Regulatory Impact Assessment, a number of other potential impacts have been considered and an integrated impact assessment carried out. A summary of the impact assessments is set out below.
10.12 The Welsh Ministers are required to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child when exercising any of their functions. The results of this assessment demonstrate that there are no potential negative impacts on children and young people arising from the Act. The full impact assessment is available at Annex 1.
10.13 An Equalities and Human Rights impact assessment concluded that there are no specific impacts of the legislation on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. However, not implementing this legislation could result in future reduced revenue for the Welsh Government, which in turn would mean less resource to spend on public services in Wales. Arguably, any reduction in revenue is likely to have a disproportionately large effect, or disbenefit, on lower income households in Wales, as those who benefit the most from public services tend to be those on below average income. Some protected groups are proportionally more likely to fall into this category. Therefore, this Act by protecting public service spending could be seen as an indirect positive action for these groups. A full impact assessment is available on request.
10.14 The compatibility of the Act with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been considered prior to the introduction of the legislation. That analysis has found that the Bill is unlikely to contain provisions that are incompatible with the ECHR. The Act does include provision for retrospective effect. It is recognised that legislation that affects past transactions or events, even if not technically retrospective, may engage the rights set out in Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998 (“the Convention rights”). The Welsh Government considers that the Act strikes an appropriate balance between the legislature’s role in scrutinising tax policy changes, the Rule of Law and the unique nature of tax policy changes and their immediate fiscal and economic impacts. There is a public interest in managing those changes to maintain revenue consistency and fund wider public services and avoid market volatility. The approach proposed is not unprecedented and it is considered that the public interest arguments are clear.
10.15 A Data Protection Impact Assessment has been conducted and concluded the Act does not produce any new requirements relating to privacy or the sharing of information. There will be no impact as a consequence of this Act.
10.16 Impact on the Welsh Language has been explored through a Welsh Language Impact Assessment and concluded that there are no specific impacts of the Act on the use of Welsh language or on Welsh language communities. The Act supports the effective operation of the devolved taxes, which can in turn help to achieve our Welsh language policy aims directly. A full impact assessment is available on request.
10.17 Consideration of the impact of the duty on biodiversity, climate change and natural resources concluded that there would be no negative impact on these areas. A Strategic Environmental Assessment and an Impact Assessment on Carbon Budgets is not required.
10.18 The statutory Justice Impact Assessment (JIA) summarises the outcome of engagement with the Ministry of Justice, The assessment concluded that the proposals are likely to have no or minimal impact on the justice system. The impact assessment is available in Annex 2.
10.19 The rural proofing screening assessment concluded there is no negative impact as a result of this Act.
10.20 A socio-economic impact assessment concluded there is no negative impact as a result of this Act. An indirect benefit of any future regulations enabled by the power in this Act is the protection of Welsh Government revenues and consequently public services in Wales. This includes protection for taxpayers potentially too if the changes reduce the amounts of tax payable by Welsh taxpayers.
11. Post-implementation review
11.1 The Act provides the Welsh Ministers with a power to make secondary legislation as and when required. As set out at paragraphs 3.54-3.56, the Welsh Ministers will be placed under a duty to review the operation and effect of the Act and publish the conclusions of that review within 4 years of the date that the Act came into force. The review is to be a single obligation and no further review of the legislation is required.
11.2 Following the publication of the conclusions of the review, the Welsh Ministers will publish a statement confirming whether the regulations permitted by section 7 of the Act to extend the lifespan of the regulation-making power (until up to 30th April 2031) will be made or not.
1. “the SDLT effort” refers to the amount of tax that the predecessor tax to land transaction tax collects. If the effort is greater, the block grant adjustment will increase resulting in a larger reduction to the Welsh Government’s budget, reducing overall resources. If the SDLT effort decreases the opposite occurs, resulting in more resources for the Welsh Government overall.