Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative chairman of the Treasury select committee has written to the Prudential Regulation Authority, urging it to assess whether the eight per cent surcharge on profits over £25m could restrict competition and reduce lending at retail banks.
He feels the Bank of England needs to review George Osborne’s proposal from the Summer Budget to make sure the smaller challenger banks will still be able to develop and take on the bigger lenders. Tyrie said deputy governor, Andrew Bailey, ought to properly review the bank tax.
“Millions of consumers and small businesses have been getting a poor deal for decades because of inadequate competition and choice in banking. It is crucial that competition from new and smaller banks is not unnecessarily impeded by prudential regulation,” Tyrie said.
The extra tax is part of a series of measures which will raise an additional £1.6bn over the next five years, though it also features a reduction in the bank levy that hit the big international banks hard.
Some of the UK’s challenger banks have claimed the changes will now shift some of the burden onto the smallest names within the industry – hindering their ability to lend and take on the biggest banks. The four biggest lenders – Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and HSBC provide around three-quarters of personal current accounts and make nine out of every ten business loan.
“It is essential that the surcharge does not obstruct Parliament’s efforts over the last four years to increase competition in the banking sector. The committee will want an assurance from the PRA that it has assessed its effect on competition in the retail sector,” Tyrie added.
His letter followed a refusal from the Treasury to relieve smaller lenders from the charge.
A group of some of Britain’s smaller banks had put together proposals intended to offset the new tax as an alternative arrangement, with the likes of Shawbrook, Close Brothers and Metro Bank all contributing.
The CEO of TSB has suggested the threshold for paying the tax be increased to profits of £250m per year, and Nationwide Building Society’s Graham Beale feels mutual lenders should be exempted from the tax.
Rishi Khosla, CEO of challenger bank OakNorth, welcomed Tyrie’s letter. He said replacing the bank levy with the surcharge “sends mixed messages given that the government is keen to encourage banking competition and encourage lending to commercial business”.
Khosla has “ambitious plans” to lend over £1bn to small business owners within the next few years, but he said “ramping up taxation on profits means that we will have less capital to reinvest in our business and less retained capital to lend, which makes achieving that goal a lot more challenging”.
Challenger banks have been pushing for less difficult capital requirements for a while now – they must hold more capital compared with larger banks, because they have fewer years of data.
Capital buffers are set by international and European regulators and are meant to be based on the riskiness of an institution, rather than on political considerations.
The PRA said it had received the letter and would respond in due course.
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