LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is considering reducing the tax bill for oil explorers in the North Sea, including a proposal from the industry to halve rates, to help revive an area already in decline before the recent oil price falls, the Sunday Times said.
Talks between the country’s finance ministry and the industry, led by the trade body Oil & Gas UK, have focussed on some key proposals, with one involving scrapping the 30 percent supplementary corporate tax levied on top of the 30 percent basic rate for the industry, the newspaper said.
The number of wells drilled in the North Sea last year - 13 to find new fields and 15 to measure the size of ones already discovered - was the lowest since exploration started in the mid-1960s, according to specialist adviser Hannon Westwood.
The government has already announced a small cut in tax rates for the industry from 62 percent to 60 percent, and minister Danny Alexander told BBC Radio Scotland on Friday it would continue to move towards a lower tax environment in the North Sea.
He said he would “absolutely” like to cut taxes further, although he couldn’t make any promises on timing.
“I think that we have to keep that headline rate moving down over the next few years,” the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said, according to a transcript.
“This is something that, for me, takes a high priority because the North Sea is a massive employer, it is the largest industrial investor in the UK economy and it’s enormously important to the north-east of Scotland.”
Reporting by Paul Sandle and William James, editing by David Evans