This note looks at the public debate over the tax treatment of the banking sector in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, before discussing the different approaches taken in successive years by Labour, Coalition and Conservative GovernmentsJump to full report >>
In December 2009 the then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, announced a new bank payroll tax: “a special one-off levy of 50% on any individual discretionary bonus above £25,000” to “be paid by the bank, not the bank employee.” Mr Darling anticipated that the levy would apply from the date of his statement to the end of the tax year – 5 April 2010 – and raise “just over £500m”. In the March 2010 Budget the Labour Government confirmed that the payroll tax would not be extended, though its yield proved far higher than initially forecast: £3.4 billion.
The Coalition Government set out its priorities for taxation in its agreement, published in May 2010, and as part of this stated that it would “introduce a banking levy and seek a detailed agreement on implementation.” In his first Budget speech on 22 June 2010 the then Chancellor George Osborne announced that a new levy would be introduced from January 2011 to “apply to the balance sheets of UK banks and building societies, and to the UK operations of banks from abroad” which would “generate over £2 billion of annual revenues.” A consultation paper was published in July, followed by draft legislation in December 2010.
Over the 2010-15 Parliament the Coalition Government amended the rates of the levy several times, with a view to maintaining the yield that it had initially anticipated.
First, in February 2011 Mr Osborne confirmed that the rate of the levy would be higher than initially proposed in its first year of operation, and in the 2011 Budget the Chancellor announced a further change in rates to offset a 1% cut in the main rate of corporation tax for 2011/12, additional to the reductions in corporation tax announced in his first Budget. In his Autumn Statement on 29 November 2011 Mr Osborne announced a third change in the levy rates from January 2012 to offset an expected shortfall tax receipts. In his 2012 Budget Mr Osborne announced that the main rate of corporation tax would be cut by an additional 1%, and that the rates of the bank levy would be increased from 1 January 2013, to take account of the benefit that the banking sector would enjoy from this tax cut. In his Autumn Statement on 5 December 2012 Mr Osborne another 1% reduction in the main rate of corporation tax from April 2014, to 21%. As before, the rates of the bank levy would be increased to prevent the banking sector from benefiting from the tax cut. In his 2013 Budget the Chancellor stated that from April 2015 the main rate of corporation tax would be set at 20%; the rate in the levy would be increased from 1 January 2014 accordingly.
In his Autumn Statement on 5 December 2013 Mr Osborne announced that the rate for 2014 would be increased, and the base of the tax broadened, following a review of the tax over the previous summer. Taken together these changes were forecast to raise £265m in 2014/15, rising to £520m in 2015/16. These changes were confirmed in the 2014 Budget. At the same time the Coalition Government launched a consultation on the merits of a new charging mechanism, in which the headline rate would be replaced by a new banding approach for determining a bank’s charge. It was anticipated that any changes to the design of the levy – which would be revenue-neutral – would be made by introducing provisions to the Finance Bill 2014 at its report stage. Responses to the consultation indicated that this reform would “create uncertainty over banks’ charges, strengthen the incentives for activities to be relocated overseas and create arbitrary differences between banks’ effective tax rates and the relevance of the levy’s behavioural incentives”, and no changes to the tax were made at this time.
Finally in the Government’s last Budget before the General Election, the Chancellor announced an increase in the rates of the levy, on the grounds that, “as our banking sector becomes more profitable again … it can make a bigger contribution to the repair of our public finances.” The new rates would apply from 1 April 2015, and it was estimated that this would raise around £900m a year from 2016/17.
Mr Osborne announced two reforms to bank taxation in the Conservative Government’s first Budget in July 2015: a gradual reduction in the rate of the bank levy over the period 2016-21, and, the introduction of a supplementary 8% surcharge on banking sector profit to apply from 1 January 2016. The Chancellor also confirmed that the tax base of the bank levy would be amended, with effect from January 2021, so that UK headquartered banks would be levied only on their UK balance sheet liabilities.
At the time the Government anticipated that the amounts to be raised by the new surcharge would outweigh the cost of cutting the bank levy rate, so that taken together these measures would raise around £1.7bn in total over the five years 2016/17 to 2020/21. Over this period corporation tax receipts from the banking sector are also expected to rise, from the imposition from 2015/16 of a 50% limit on the losses banks may carry forward to set against taxable profits in future years.
Over the first five years of its operation, annual receipts from the bank levy rose from £1.6bn in 2011/12 to £3.4bn in 2015/16, before falling to £3.0bn in 2016/17. It is estimated that receipts will decline over the next five years from £2.6bn in 2017/18 to £1.2bn by 2021/22. Over this period annual receipts from the bank surcharge are forecast to remain relatively stable, at around £1.7-£1.8bn.
HM Revenue & Customs publish statistics on tax receipts from the banking sector as a whole – that is, PAYE, corporation tax, bank levy and bank surcharge. Receipts have risen over the last five years, from £20.5bn in 2011/12 to £27.3bn in 2016/17.
 HC Deb 9 December 2009 c367
 HMRC, Pay-As-You-Earn and Corporate Tax Receipts from the Banking Sector, August 2017 p7 (Table 1)
 HC Deb 22 June 2010 c176
 HC Deb 8 February 2011 cc310-327
 HC Deb 29 November 2011 c805
 HC Deb 21 March 2012 c803
 HC Deb 5 December 2012 c881. This was forecast to raise £545m per year from 2014/15 (Autumn Statement, Cm 8480, December 2012 para 2.79, Table 2.1 – item 34).
 HC Deb 20 March 2013 c940. The increase in the levy rate was forecast to raise around £250m from 2015/16 (Budget 2013, HC 1033, March 2013 p65, Table 2.1 – item 40).
 HC Deb 5 December 2013 c1107
 Autumn Statement, Cm 8747, December 2013 p78 (Table 2.1 – item 20)
 Summer Budget 2015, HC264, July 2015 p73 (Table 2.1 – item 17). See also, OBR, Economic and fiscal outlook supplementary fiscal tables, July 2015 (see table 2.40)
 HMRC, Tax receipts and National Insurance contributions for the UK, November 2017
 PAYE and Corporate Tax Receipts from the Banking Sector, August 2017 p7 (Table 1)