POLITICS

Budget 2013: Plans To Shut Tax Loophole Could Save £100Million, Danny Alexander Claims

16/03/2013 11:16 GMT | Updated 18/03/2013 19:20 GMT

A tax loophole which allows firms to dodge around £100 million a year in National Insurance will be closed in the Budget, it has been announced.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it would target the use of offshore payroll services in tax havens such as Jersey and Guernsey.

Around 100,000 employees - mostly teachers, nurses and oil and gas workers - are believed to be paid in that way and could be unknowingly ineligible for statutory sick pay.

Alexander was alerted to the loophole by one such worker who approached him at Inverness Airport - though he insisted he found it was already under investigation by officials.

danny alexander

Danny Alexander claims the loophole closure could save the government £100m a year

"It is not just about the tax we get in, it is also the case that many employees will not know they are paid in this way," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"If their employer is not paying Employers National Insurance, unbeknownst to them, they may not then be entitled to statutory maternity pay if they become pregnant, they may not be entitled to statutory sick pay if they fall ill.

"This is not just something which has direct consequences to the Exchequer, costing us all hundreds of millions of pounds, it is also something that has a direct consequence for the workers concerned and that why it is so important we are taking this action."

Mr Alexander will hail the move against "shadowy intermediaries" in his speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference later.

"British firms employing British workers must pay British taxes," he will say.

"This is just one part of a bigger package that we will announce at the Budget next week."

george osborne budget

George Osborne is set to lay our his financial plans for the next year on Wednesday

It was also reported on Saturday that George Osborne's Budget on Wednesday would also contain details of a £1.5 billion childcare scheme to help with nursery fees.

Families would get up to £2,000 in vouchers under the initiative, though it may not come into operation until 2015.

Earlier shadow chancellor Ed Balls has joined calls for emergency tax cuts in next week's Budget - saying Labour would applaud a cut in the basic rate of income tax to stimulate growth.

Osborne is under pressure from the Tory right to make bold tax moves on Wednesday to kick-start the UK's flagging economy.

The looming prospect of a triple-dip recession and the recent loss of the UK's once-cherished AAA credit rating have heightened demands for a change of course.