Monday, September 7, 2009

Twice as much tax law under Labour as in previous 18 years

The Telegraph reports today that: UK has longest tax code handbook in the world. This allegation, proposed by the tax publishers, LexisNexis, is judged by reference to the size of their annual publication 'Tolley's tax guide". Apparently the handbook of tax legislation now runs to 11,520 pages, a 10pc increase on last year and more then double the number of pages from 12 years ago.

A similar point was also noted recently by the ICAEW, which monitors the size of Finance Acts since 1979. In it's fifth annual report of the Big Ben Statutory Tax Burden the ICAEW noted that Finance Act 2009 is one of the longest on record.

In the last 12 years, during which Gordon Brown was either Chancellor or PM, the annual Finance Acts have added over 5,300 pages of tax legislation to the statute books. This is more than a 25% increase over the previous 18 years (during which 'only' 4,000 pages were added). The average size of each Finance Act is now more than double what it was during that earlier period.
Average size of Finance Acts 1997-2009 = 382 pages
Average size of Finance Acts 1979-1998 = 190 pages
In 1982, when I first qualified as an accountant and started to specialise in the provision of tax advice it was normal to hope that one would eventually be able to advise across all areas of tax. My, how times have changed. These days few accountants and tax advisers are able to do this and even fewer would ever hope to able to do so. The wealth of new tax material each year is astonishing. And it's not just the annual Finance Acts one has to be monitor there are also:
  • Statutory Instruments
  • Case law
  • Tribunal decisions
  • HMRC publications and guidance
  • Tax law rewrites
  • and so on
I gave up giving tax advice myself 3 years ago. I decided that I no longer wanted to try to keep up sufficiently to advise clients. I admire those who continue to do so - but only if they are honest enough to admit that they don't know everything.

No one should expect their accountant or tax adviser to be fully conversant with all aspects of our tax laws. I continue to sit on the ICAEW Tax Technical Committee, alongside some of the top tax accountants in the country. Not one of them would pretend to have a full handle on all our tax laws - even in their specialist areas.

This is just one of the reasons for the existence of the Tax Advice Network - because even the best accountants sometimes need specialist tax support. If you have a serious tax problem, worry or challenge and want to consult a specialist simply use the drop down 'specialisms' menu above and choose from our members' profiles.

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