Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tax truism - our tax system is more complex than it needs to be

On his President's page in the January 2010 issue of Tax Adviser magazine, CIOT President Andrew Hubbard puts his finger on one of the many problems with our tax system that resulted in me choosing to cease giving tax advice myself.

Andrew says, in the specific context of a merger between two large accountancy practices, but referencing commercial transactions generally:
"It is extraordinary how often most of the big commercial issues can be agreed without too many problems, but then some obscure technical issue - which is of course completely impenetrable to all but the tax experts - comes up and threatens to derail the whole process."
I made a similar point as regards more day to day complexities in my Taxation article in 2008. I indicated that I had reached the limit as to the number of times I could explain to clients that:
  • despite being law abiding citizens and in principle deserving of a widely available tax relief, their circumstances took them just outside the qualification criteria;
  • there were apparently arbitrary distinctions in the tax code and inconsistencies in HMRC practice;
  • there is a continued absence of tax rules to reflect the new working practices of the 21st century;
  • we cannot appeal HMRC's refusal to apply a concession or statement of practice (as we are 'taxed by legislation, and often only untaxed by concession');
  • tax credit claims can only be backdated by three months. Thus if you unexpectedly make a loss in your business, you cannot claim the tax credits to which you would have been entitled if you made a claim (for no credits) at the start of the year, just in case you made a loss;
  • there are different rules for computing income for income tax, National Insurance and tax credit purposes;
  • bizarre arguments and distinctions are highlighted in tax cases, albeit that I can sympathise with HMRC to a degree when it is evident that clever tax advisers have encouraged their clients to push the envelope.
Any more suggestions for undue complexities?

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