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Social Security Contributions (Transfer of Functions, etc.) Act 1999

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123.Paragraph 1 ensures that, instead of criminal penalties, civil penalties for failure to supply information or documents and for fraudulently or negligently supplying incorrect information or documents, set out in section 98 TMA, apply where information or documents are requested under section 110ZA, as they apply for tax purposes.

124.Where there is a failure to provide the information the penalty is initially up to £300. A failure thereafter exposes a person to a further penalty of up to £60 a day so long as the failure continues. This mirrors the existing tax penalty. Where incorrect information is fraudulently or negligently provided the penalty is up to £3,000. The tax appeal Commissioners, an independent tribunal, have the ultimate say in setting the level of penalties having regard to the precise circumstances.

125.Paragraph 2 amends section 110 of the SSAA 1992. The existing provision permits the Secretary of State for Social Security to enter into arrangements with other government departments whose officers are entitled to inspect premises for their own purposes. Under those arrangements, those officers can be allowed to use the powers in section 110 for the purposes of that section. In other words, they can deputise for the Secretary of State’s own staff in the use of those powers.

126.The replacement makes it clear that the Secretary of State can make arrangements of this nature with the Inland Revenue. This will ensure that the current role of CA inspectors in carrying out visits to employers’ premises to check on compliance with legislation which other DSS Agencies administer may continue after transfer of functions. Visits of this kind may be made, for example, to check the details of earnings given by a person claiming an income-related benefit.

127.Paragraphs 2(3) and (4) ensure that the powers in section 110 cannot be used by DSS officials in relation to functions which will be transferred from the Secretary of State to the Inland Revenue by the Act.

128.Paragraph 3 is at the core of the changes. It introduces a new section 110ZA into the SSAA 1992 which sets out the powers of officers of the Inland Revenue in relation to the functions taken over. The section is modelled closely on the existing section 110. However, no provision is made in the new section for the exercise by the Inland Revenue of those powers in relation to the functions which stay with the DSS. That is left to arrangements under the revised section 110(5).

129.Section 110ZA(1) provides that the Inland Revenue may authorise any of its officers to exercise the powers conferred by the section for the purpose of the enactments set out in sub-section (7). They are the CBA (insofar as it relates to contributions, SSP and SMP), the SSAA 1992 and Part III of the PSA (which regulates employers’ private occupational pension schemes).

130.This parallels the existing power of the Secretary of State for Social Security in relation to his own officials. Initially the officers authorised by the Inland Revenue will largely be the former members of the CA who currently use the powers conferred by section 110 SSAA 1992.

131.Section 110ZA(2) sets out the powers of the officers so authorised. The subsection provides that the powers are to be exercised for the purpose of the legislation set out above. There are three powers mirroring those in the existing section 110.

132.First, officers have a right to enter at any reasonable time premises liable to inspection under the new section. This does not bestow any power to enter by force. The premises are defined in section 110ZA(3) as those where staff are employed, where a trade or business is carried on, where business records are kept or where pension schemes are administered. But private residences can only be inspected where a trade or business is carried on from them and is not also carried on from other (commercial) premises.

133.This description of premises liable to inspection departs from that in section 110(3) of the SSAA 1992 in favour of the one in section 110B(5) (as inserted by section 12 of the Social Security Administration Fraud Act 1997 (SSA(F)A 1997)) in connection with inspection to check entitlement to housing benefit. The new formulation further constrains the circumstances in which private residences can be inspected.

134.Secondly, officers are entitled to make whatever examination and enquiry is necessary to ascertain whether the legislation referred to above is being complied with in those premises.

135.Thirdly, officers may require answers to questions relating to the application of the legislation from any person on the premises who is believed to be liable to pay contributions or a contributions equivalent premium.

136.Section 110ZA(4) requires that officers authorised by the Inland Revenue under subsection (1) must carry a certificate of their authorisation and must produce it when asked.

137.Section 110ZA(5) requires the persons defined in subsection (6) to provide an authorised officer with information and to produce documents which he or she may reasonably require for the purpose of checking whether contributions, SSP, SMP or a contributions equivalent premium have been correctly paid.

138.Under the equivalent provision in section 110(7) a person need not supply information or documents if to do so would incriminate himself or herself, or a spouse. There is no similar provision in section 110ZA because under the new section there is no criminal sanction for failing to do so.

139.The persons who can be required to supply information or documents are defined in section 110ZA(6) as employers, persons carrying on an employment agency, a trustee or manager of a personal or occupational pensions scheme, their employees or their agents.

140.Section 110ZA(7) sets out the legislation to which the new section applies.

141.Section 110ZA(8) provides that a ‘contributions equivalent premium’ includes its predecessor a ‘state scheme premium’ payable before 6 April 1997.

142.Paragraph 4 ensures that the existing criminal sanction in section 111 for failing to co-operate in one way or another with officers exercising their powers under section 110 does not apply where the powers are exercised by Inland Revenue officers. That is the case whether the powers are exercised by Inland Revenue officers under section 110ZA or under section 110(5) by virtue of arrangements between the Secretary of State for Social Security and the Inland Revenue.

143.Paragraph 4 also ensures that no distinction is drawn in the application of the civil penalties rules (attracted by virtue of the amendment of section 98 TMA made by paragraph 1) depending on whether officers are acting under section 110ZA or section 110(5).

144.Paragraphs 5 and 7 to 11 change references to the Secretary of State to the Inland Revenue in relevant sections of SSAA 1992.

145.Paragraph 12 inserts into section 162 new subsections (4ZA) and (4ZB) which ensure that any penalties imposed under section 110ZA or section 111(4) SSAA 1992 will be paid into the NIF even though other penalties charged under section 98 TMA are treated as tax due.

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