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Conference debates 2015: Is the tax system fair?
3 September 2015

Brighton - Tuesday 29 September
Manchester – Monday 5 October
Aberdeen – Saturday 17 October

Once again the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) are jointly organising debates during this year’s party conference season, this time on the question: ‘Is the tax system fair?’

All politicians and commentators say they want a “fair” tax system. If they say what they mean at all they usually mean ensuring the “rich” pay more than whatever they pay now. But what is “fairness” in taxation? What is a fair share for the rich to pay, and who are they anyway? What about fairness between the generations, between the treatment of income and wealth, savings and earnings, employed and self employed? Between taxpayers and the tax authorities? Or between people who live, earn, save and spend in different ways? These are among the issues to be explored at these debates.

Our aim is to help develop better informed tax and economic policy and greater understanding of the issues and constraints facing policy makers.

We would be delighted to welcome you or your colleagues to any of these debates. Attendance is free of charge and refreshments will be served. It is not a requirement to register for these event, but it would be helpful for catering and seating purposes to have an idea of numbers, so if you are thinking of attending we would be grateful if you could email to let us know. Note that you will require a party conference pass for the Aberdeen event as it takes place in the conference secure zone.

Details of the events are as follows -

Labour conference, Brighton
12.45-2pm, Tuesday 29 September
Venue: Victoria Terrace, Grand Hotel, Brighton, BN1 2FW (outside secure zone). (NB. The Victoria Terrace is immediately on the left as you enter the hotel)
Speakers: Philip Collins (columnist and chief leader writer for The Times; Chair of trustees at Demos); Bill Dodwell (Deputy President of the CIOT; Head of Tax Policy at Deloitte); Paul Johnson (Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies); Labour Party spokesperson (to be confirmed). Chair: Chris Jones (President of the CIOT; Director of Tax Markets at Lexis Nexis).

Conservative conference, Manchester
5.45-7pm, Monday 5 October
Venue: Walters Suite, Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester, M2 5GP (outside secure zone)
Speakers: John Cullinane (Tax Policy Director of the CIOT); Paul Johnson (Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies); Damian Hinds MP (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury); an independent commentator (to be confirmed). Chair: Chris Jones (President of the CIOT; Director of Tax Markets at Lexis Nexis)

SNP conference, Aberdeen
Venue: Crombie Suite B, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8BL (inside the secure zone – only conference pass holders will be able to attend)
12.30-1.45pm, Saturday 17 October
Speakers: John Swinney MSP (Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary); John Cullinane (Tax Policy Director of the CIOT); Paul Johnson (Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies). Chair: Moira Kelly (Chair, CIOT Scottish Taxes Sub-Committee)

George Crozier
Head of External Relations
Chartered Institute of Taxation
Thursday 3 September 2015

Media and Politics
CIOT Annual Parliamentary Reception
3 July 2015

Sweltering humidity on the hottest day of the year so far did not prevent record attendance at the CIOT’s annual Parliamentary Reception. More than 170 attendees, among them tax advisers, politicians from both sides of the House, judges and journalists converged on the Terrace of the House of Commons to discuss salient issues in the tax world. Speeches were delivered by Institute President Chris Jones and Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke MP.

The event is a key forum for engagement between tax professionals and government – it allows the Institute to promote its work not just as a professional body but as a charity working for public benefit. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to remind parliamentarians and their staff that we are a resource of technical expertise; always ready to engage, whether that is with select committees or in elucidating the more complex details of the Finance Bill to individual MPs.

We were especially delighted to be joined by Parliament’s newest Chartered Tax Adviser, Craig Mackinlay, who with colleague Karen Bradley, maintains our CIOT MP quota at a healthy two!

Chris Jones used his speech to focus on the key theme of his tenure: education. He said the Institute would be seeking to educate the public on how the tax system works, including exploring getting more tax education into schools. The Institute would also be aiming to educate its members on the scale of change that the increasing digitisation of HMRC’s services will bring: “If the new Digital Tax Account is delivered as promised it will have a substantial impact on our profession. Less processing of data, more provision of proactive ongoing advice. Practitioners will need to adapt. Professional bodies should be helping them.” Thirdly the Institute would aim to educate HMRC and others who make tax policy “that they need an honest friend to help them on this digital journey. Driving the digital agenda forward needs the trust of taxpayers – that will only happen where service is put first in the list of priorities. As last week’s figures on call answering showed, some elements of that service are just not good enough at the moment.”

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, now in his sixth year of responsibility for the UK tax system, focused on the importance of political engagement with the tax profession. He reminded the audience that at the heart of his Department’s work stood a simple notion: that a simplified tax policy will lay the foundation for sustained economic growth.

Simplification has been one of HMRC’s flagship areas of focus and he paid particular tribute to the work of the Office for Tax Simplification; almost half of its 400 recommendations have been implemented and more are under consideration. The Minister promised that the Government would deliver on their commitment to expand the OTS’s role and capacity.

An effective, competitive tax system “depends not just on tax policy, but also on how it is made”, the minister commented. He outlined measures taken to produce a more robust consultative process. He acknowledged unease amongst business that the volume of change in the tax system remains too high and was creating uncertainty. However, he argued that “long legislation is not necessarily an indication of growing complexity”, though he accepted that there was more work to do on simplification.

The minister concluded his speech on an optimistic note. The principle of a tax system which rewards hard work had been enshrined in his government’s triple tax lock, he said. Beyond our own shores, the Government is “committed to maintaining the most competitive tax regime in the G20; reforming international tax rules and clamping down on avoidance and evasion”, he added.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Friday 03 July 2015

Media and Politics
Roundtable on tax simplification
3 July 2015

The CIOT was delighted to host a roundtable discussion recently on tax simplification at the request of the newly re-elected chair of the Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie MP. The event was hosted by the CIOT’s president, Chris Jones, and attended by around 30 leading tax professionals from business and academia.

The context for the discussion was the statement in the Conservative manifesto at the recent election that:

The creation of the Office of Tax Simplification in 2010 has resulted in many improvements to the UK tax system. We will establish the OTS on a permanent basis and expand its role and capacity.

Andrew Tyrie explained that he has already written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer setting out his suggestions for accomplishing the manifesto commitment . He thinks that the aim of the OTS should be to improve the efficiency of the tax system by simplification. The three principles of certainty, stability and coherence are crucial to this.

He wanted to seek the views of tax professionals on the future role of the OTS before a final decision is taken in next week’s Budget statement. His view is that the OTS needs ‘demonstrable independence’, and should act as a counterweight to politicians’ ‘natural urge to complicate’.

Overall he thinks the OTS has struggled as a creature of HM Treasury (HMT) because it has had a limited role, a low public profile and lacks a core function

The Government has committed to keeping the OTS and one key question is whether it should be on a statutory footing or not.

He suggested that the OTS might need some additional resources such as more secondments from both HMRC and the private sector.

In terms of the benefits from future work of the OTS, he said that we should not expect dramatic changes, because of the many pressures on the Chancellor particularly the deficit which leaves very little fiscal wriggle room.

The consensus from those present was that the OTS should continue and be put on a statutory footing but it must be independent.

It was recognised that it had produced some very good reviews which had produced tangible results. The recent review of expenses and benefits was a good example. However, it must be frustrating for the OTS when sensible suggestions are ignored.

An independent OTS does therefore need to be involved in implementation and should be able to hold HMT and HMRC to account if recommendations are not taken forward and to require a well-reasoned explanation of why not.

The ‘cash basis’ is a prime example of a proposal that started off in the OTS as simplification but the OTS was not able to carry it through as it got hijacked by HMRC.

The Discussion

Diiscussion took place under the Chatham House rule, so comments are unattributed.

There was broad support around the table for the work done so far by the OTS, though some participants felt it should be bolder in its ambitions in the years ahead. One attendee commented that the OTS had started looking at SMEs but the work had got ‘lost in the system’.

A number of participants wanted the OTS to have greater ‘teeth’, to enable it to follow through on its proposals and ideas.

References were made to the length of tax legislation being still too high. For example, the OTS might remove 100 pages but 400 are added by the next Finance Act! The Better Regulation Executive has a ‘one in, two out’ rule for business regulations. Could this approach be transferable to tax legislation, asked one participant?

However, others were more interested in the assumed equating of simplification with efficiency. What exactly is simplification? Is it merely counting sections or is there more to it than that?

There was some discussion around the idea of an annual assessment of tax simplification, though the view was expressed that this could become bureaucratic if not defined properly. An annual review might however provide a tool to increase accountability.

Many attendees thought the OTS should be able to look at proposed law not just current law. But this view was not shared by everyone. It was also pointed out that there is a distinction between complicated legislation and complicated policy.

It was suggested by one participant that the OTS could have a role in formulating tax policy but this sparked disagreement, with another attendee arguing that tax policy has to remain in the hands of politicians, who have to remain accountable to the electorate on tax matters. Revolutions start when taxes go wrong!

There was also discussion on the GAAR, with agreement it had created uncertainty around it. One participant was unhappy about this and argued that the OTS needed to protect the system from uncertainties like this. Attendees noted that a brave Chancellor would rely on the GAAR and not need pages of anti-avoidance legislation.

Andrew Tyrie concluded by saying that, whatever the Government is going to do, the comments of this roundtable should be fed into the debate.

Margaret Curran
CIOT Technical Officer
Friday 03 July 2015

Media and Politics
Tax priorities for the new government
5 June 2015



Panel for RSA debate June 2015 (Original size)On Wednesday 3 June 2015 CIOT members and invited guests heard from a panel of experts from the fields of tax, economics, business and politics who gave their views on what the new Government’s priorities should be for the UK’s tax system over the next five years.

The debate was the fourth in a series of events organised by the CIOT and IFS aimed at promoting debate among policy-makers, opinion-formers and the wider tax and economics communities on the future of the UK and international tax system. The debate took place in the spectacular setting of the Great Room at the RSA in London and was hosted by the CIOT’s President, Chris Jones.

Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS, began by looking at what has happened in the past five years. He explained that there have been big changes to the structure of the tax system, not least the fact that because of the rise in the tax free personal allowance only 56% of adults now pay income tax which has meant that an increasing proportion of tax is being paid by the highest earners. This contraction in the number of people who are paying the most tax is a worrying development as the tax system has become dangerously reliant on a smaller number of taxpayers.

In his opinion, the big issues that need to be addressed are the role of NICs and the structure of the income tax system, including the indexation of thresholds, as well as a proper review of the Council Tax system, which he described as out of date and regressive. He lamented the fondness of all political parties for ‘pulling rabbits out of the hat on Budget Day’ which he said is no substitute for a proper tax strategy and policymaking plan.

Gavin Kelly, Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank that aims to improve living standards for low- to middle-income families, believes that there is a great gap between the rhetoric from all the main political parties and what their proposals will actually achieve in practice. In his opinion, it is disgraceful that low income earners have not been taken out of NICs as well as income tax. The pledge to increase the tax free personal allowance so that a person earning the minimum wage and working 30 hours a week pays no income tax is at best meaningless if these people are already paying no income tax, and at worst risky if the minimum wage rises significantly over the life of this Parliament. The focus should be on increasing the NIC threshold. On Universal Credit (UC), he pointed out that not one single politician has mentioned publically that any gain from a tax cut for a low earner will be matched by a reduction in UC. How does this help struggling families?

Gavin also raised the disparity between how the NIC system treats old and young workers. He questioned why people over retirement age who are still in work should not pay NICs. Finally, on council tax reform he favours a proportionate property tax but admits that this is unlikely to happen, so he would settle for a re-valuation approach.

Patrick Stevens, Tax Policy Director at the CIOT, pointed out that politicians tend to suffer from what he calls the ‘Cornish pasty syndrome’. They will say ‘we can’t do that’ whenever suggestions are made to reform the tax system. This is unhelpful. In his opinion, we need an open and informed debate about the logic of the current tax system.

To illustrate this, Patrick took us through the different tax rates (and for this purpose he treated NIC as just another tax) that apply depending upon whether a person is an employed earner, self-employed or operating through a personal service company. He questioned whether the differences in rates are intentional or not. Similarly, he showed us the lower rates that apply to unearned income, including rental income, and the tax reliefs provided to investors in rental property. He asked whether it is really the Government’s intention to encourage investment in rental property or not.

Emma Chamberlain, a barrister at Pump Court Tax Chambers who specialises in advising non-domiciliaries (‘non-doms’) spoke about reforming the way the UK tax system treats non-doms. She thinks the current regime is not good value for money, and that many non-doms would pay more UK tax for greater simplicity. The remittance basis charge (RBC) is very complicated and often not understood, particular in how it interacts with IHT and trusts. She proposed three options for reforming the way non-doms are taxed. Firstly, abolish intention as a basis for taxation, and move to a residence basis. This would involve a reform of IHT and possibly transitional provisions. Secondly, modify what we have now by increasing the RBC significantly which she believes would raise a lot of money as most non-doms would pay the higher charge. And thirdly, keep the current domicile regime but deem UK domicile after a period of time.

Stephen Herring, Head of Taxation at the Institute of Directors, thinks the time for politicians to make bold decisions on tax has arrived. His priorities included giving equal importance to achieving manifesto commitments to delivering the £12,500 personal allowance and increasing the higher rate threshold to £50,000. There should be an intermediate 30% income tax rate, and the marginal rates of tax of c.60% created by the high income child benefit charge and withdrawal of the personal allowance for incomes over £100,000 should be abolished. He would also scrap the 45% tax rate as he believes that it acts as a disincentive. He agreed with others that reform of the NIC system is long overdue. He also suggested that CGT and IHT could be merged into a single capital tax. He would raise the Annual Investment Allowance considerably and fix it for the term of the Parliament. Overall, he thinks the focus should be on simplifying the current tax system but it should always be considered in the context of the competitiveness of the UK system compared to other countries.

Questions were then invited from the audience. Mohammed Amin challenged the panel for being not radical enough. What did they think about reducing tax to 0% once income reached £10m per annum? Paul Johnson said that although this accords with optimal tax theory, it would lead to a big reduction in tax revenues particularly as the system has become so reliant on a small number of very high earning taxpayers.

Glyn Fullelove’s concern was the divide between young and old and what reforms could be introduced to bring more equity into the nation’s wealth. Gavin Kelly agreed that tax was a part of the problem and that we can no longer keep turning a blind eye to how we tax property wealth. He thinks more public engagement on this issue is required.

Adam Jackson asked what the panel thought about radical simplification. Patrick Stevens thought that that could only be achieved when tax was taken out of the hands of politicians and that is never going to happen. Emma Chamberlain agreed that we have an over-complicated system, particularly in how we tax property, but pointed out that when simplifications are proposed, such as the abolition of a relief, there are many objections from the tax profession itself. Paul Johnson noted that the problem is that we tax similar things differently which then creates a tension in the system. The differentials between CGT and income tax are a prime example in how they affect behaviour. Radical simplification would be a massive change to a system which, in his opinion, is designed to be complicated!

Margaret Curran
CIOT Technical Officer – Management of Taxes
Friday 5 June 2015

Media and Politics
Queen's Speech - Tax Announcements
27 May 2015

Today’s Queen’s Speech outlined the legislation that the newly-elected Conservative government intends to enact over the coming year. A pre-election commitment to ban rises in income tax, VAT and national insurance (the so-called ‘triple tax lock’) will be enacted in a National Insurance Contributions Bill and a Finance Bill and is among a number of laws affecting taxation. The legislation will also prohibit the Government from extending the scope of VAT or raising the National Insurance upper earnings limit.

Other proposals that will appear in the Finance Bill include a commitment to ensure that the minimum wage (currently £6.50) remains tax-free for those working 30 hours per week or less. The speech also confirmed the Government’s intention to raise from £10,600 to £12,500 the threshold at which earnings become liable for income tax.

The Government have not said anything about other measures the Finance Bill (or possibly a second Bill) will include. Based on the Conservative manifesto it could include some of the following:

• Increasing the income tax higher rate threshold towards a target of £50,000
• Increase transferable tax allowance for married couples at least in line with the personal allowance.
• Reduce the tax relief on pension contributions for additional rate taxpayers towards an end goal of an annual allowance of £10,000
• A new Help to Buy ISA
• A new £175,000 per person transferable IHT allowance for main residences when they are passed to children or grandchildren
• Allow farmers to ‘smooth their profits’ for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to counter income volatility
• Expansion of tax incentives for the creative industries sector
• Further anti-avoidance and evasion measures towards a target of raising at least £5 billion more annually from these areas
• Increases to the annual tax charges paid by non-doms
• Criminal offence for those companies which fail to put in place measures to stop economic crime, such as tax evasion, in their organisations (NB. This might appear in separate criminal justice legislation)
• Establish the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) on a permanent basis and expand its role and capacity

We will have to wait until the Budget on July 8th and the expected publication of the Finance Bill shortly afterwards to see which of these are being brought forward in this first session of the new Parliament.

A Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill will freeze most working-age welfare payments, including tax credits and child benefit. An Enterprise Bill will reform the business rates system ahead of the 2017 revaluation, including by modernising the appeals system.

Devolution was a key theme of the speech, concentrating on new powers for Scotland and cities. The Scotland Bill promises to devolve "wide-ranging powers" over taxation - including income tax rates and thresholds - and spending to Holyrood following the recommendations of the Smith Commission. The Scottish Parliament will now receive new powers to raise 40% of taxes and decide about 60% of public spending. A portion of VAT (control over the first 10% of standard rate VAT revenue raised in Scotland and a 2.5% reduced rate) and the whole of Air Passenger Duty will also come under Edinburgh’s control.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill seeks to deliver on manifesto commitments to devolve greater fiscal autonomy to cities including a pilot scheme to allow certain councils to retain 100% of growth in business rates.

‘English votes for English laws’ will be progressed by a change in procedural rules in the House of Commons (the establishment of an English parliament has been ruled out); changes to taxation and spending that affects England only will require majority consent of English constituency MPs.

On Europe, the Government have proposed a European Union (Finance) Bill. The Bill is designed to give UK approval to the financing aspect of the seven year EU Budget deal agreed in 2013. According to the Government, it will preserve the UK's rebate, and prevent new EU-wide taxes to finance EU spending.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Wednesday 27 May 2015

Media and Politics
Manifesto Tax Policies - SNP
1 May 2015

The Scottish National Party (SNP) launched their election manifesto on Monday April 20th. Key proposals include the reintroduction of the 50p top rate of tax; a tax on bankers' bonuses; a bank levy; a mansion tax; a crackdown on tax avoidance and the abolition of non-dom status.

These are the party's pledges by area of tax:

Employment & Income tax

The SNP will vote for the reintroduction of the 50 pence top tax rate for those earning more than £150,000. They would also call on the UK government to move forward cautiously with plans to increase the higher rate threshold to £50,000, ensuring first that tax revenues are sufficiently buoyant.

The party supports increases in the personal tax allowance but will also back an increase in the Work Allowance of 20 per cent.

The SNP are also in favour of a banker’s bonus tax.

Families, Tax Credits & Pensions

The SNP will seek to reverse the married couple’s tax allowance. The party will oppose plans for further cuts in Child Benefit and Tax Credits.

They will support lower energy bills for consumers by pushing for the Energy Company Obligation to be funded through general taxation and not as a levy on energy bills.

For low-income households, the SNP backs an increase of at least the cost of living in welfare benefits, such as child benefit, universal credit and disability benefits, and also in tax credits.

The party will seek a review of the pension tax relief available to the wealthiest. They will support a single-tier pension of £160 per week and vote to continue the triple lock, guaranteeing that pensions will always rise by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent - whichever is the highest.

Finally, they will retain the winter fuel allowance.

Creative Industries

The SNP support the creation of a Creative Content Fund for the games industry to encourage the formation of new studios, and they also back the retention of the Video Games tax relief.

The party will back industry calls for an increase in the SEIS investment limit and changes to the Shortage Occupation List to recognise specific skills needs in the sector.


The SNP support proposals for a specific tax on properties valued at over £2 million.

Levies & Duties

The SNP support a levy on tobacco firms and an increase to the bank levy.

Avoidance & Evasion

The SNP will back measures to tackle tax avoidance, including early legislation to address tax dodging and an increase in staff resources at HMRC.

The party willl put forward measures to strengthen anti-avoidance law across the UK to ensure it is as strong as new Scottish legislation.

They will also support a review of controlled foreign companies exemptions and favour a rolling review of tax reliefs as part of an ongoing programme of simplification of the tax system.

The party support calls for a global fair tax summit to agree international measures to tackle tax abuses and is also calling for the abolition of the 'non-dom' status.


The SNP will demand that VAT on sanitary products is removed.


The SNP is seeking to deliver the most competitive business tax environment anywhere in the UK through their business rates policies, and the package of business rates reliefs worth an estimated £618 million in 2015-16.

The party remains committed to a Treasury review of alcohol taxation to better reflect alcohol content, while securing health benefits through minimum pricing.


The SNP have stated that the Smith Commission proposals were, in many respects, a missed opportunity.

The party is seeking greater ability to generate economic growth, deliver more employment opportunities and support family incomes with the devolution of additional taxes.

The party has stated that it would use targeted changes in business tax allowances to encourage higher levels of investment in capital or Research & Development, and encourage the growth of SMEs.

In the meantime, the SNP will prioritise devolution of powers over employment policy, including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy.

For further information see

SNP Mnifesto 2015

Analysis of other party manifestos will follow.

The CIOT is of course strictly politically neutral and nothing in these posts should beinterpreted as endorsement for or opposition to any of the policies mentioned.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Friday 01 May 2015

Media and Politics
Manifesto Tax Policies - UKIP
1 May 2015

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) launched their manifesto on Wednesday April 15th. Key tax proposals include an increase in the personal allowance to £13,500; to scrap inheritance tax; to introduce a new 30p tax band for those earning between £45,300 and £55,000 and a 40% rate thereafter and a cut in business rates for small businesses.

These are the party’s pledges by area of tax:

Income tax / national insurance

UKIP will raise the personal allowance to at least £13,000 so people can earn enough money to cover their basic living costs before the state starts to take income tax out of their pay packets; this will take those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.

The party will abolish inheritance tax; assets bought out of taxed income should not be taxed again when their owners die.

UKIP will raise the threshold for paying 40 per cent income tax to £55,000 and introduce a new intermediate tax rate of 30 per cent on incomes ranging between £43,500 and £55,000.

In the longer term, the party is committed to restoring the personal allowance to those earning over £100,000 and make 40 per cent the top rate of tax for all, as it used to be.

The longer term aspiration of a UKIP government will be to create an income tax structure of a basic rate of 20 per cent, an intermediate rate of 30 per cent, and a top rate of 40 per cent, meaning income taxes will be flatter and lower


The party seeks to obtain full control over VAT through secession from the European Union.

The party has stated that it will be able to deal with distortion imposed by EU legislation and zero-rate certain goods and services that have previously had VAT charged on them. They will remove VAT completely from repairs to listed buildings and sanitary products.

Pensions and tax

The party will introduce a flexible state pension window enabling those eligible to take a slightly lower state pension at age 65 even as the state pension age increases.

UKIP will double the budget for free pensions advice to help pensioners make sound financial decisions.

The party will also make it a criminal offence to cold call someone in respect of pension arrangements.

Property taxes

UKIP would implement a policy of charging those whose homes are empty for more than two years 50 per cent more than the applicable rate of council tax, with exceptions for owners who are in HM Armed Forces.

UKIP is opposed to the introduction of any form of ‘Mansion tax’.

The party would abolish the ‘bedroom tax’.

Families, tax credits & low earners

UKIP will increase transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners to £1,500.

The party has also stated that it will honour the current Government’s commitment to providing a new tax-free childcare scheme, worth up to £2,000 for children under twelve.

Business taxes

The party has stated that if a business has only one property and the rateable value is less than £50,000, the business will get 20 per cent rate relief. If the business has more than one property, the 20 per cent rate relief will still apply, provided the total rateable value of all properties is less than £50,000.

Other existing business rate reliefs will not be affected and will apply where the relief provided under those schemes is greater than 20 per cent. Almost 90 per cent of business properties, over 1.5 million in total, have a rateable value of less than £50,000, so are potentially eligible for this 20 per cent discount.

UKIP will introduce a scheme whereby small businesses will provide evidence of repeated late payments, beyond agreed terms, together with evidence that timely requests for payments have been made, to HM Revenue and Customs. Based on the evidence - particularly if there are multiple complaints about the same company -HMRC can then carry out an inspection of that company’s records. If the large company is found to be systematically exceeding its contractual terms of payment with small businesses, a sanction of significant fines, proportionate to the extent of the abuse of terms, will be levied.

UKIP will also seek to end a growing practice whereby large companies extend their payment terms to small companies, by arranging for their supplier to take out a bank loan to facilitate their demands.

To address both these issues, UKIP will pilot a scheme to improve access to trade credit insurance to small businesses. This insurance already exists in the market, but can prove restrictive for smaller companies, especially in certain business sectors.

Avoidance & Evasion

UKIP will not allow large companies to continue getting away with paying zero or negligible corporation tax in Britain. UKIP will seek to restore British tax sovereignty in order to end the practice of businesses paying tax in whichever EU or associated country they choose.

The party will also set up a Treasury Commission to monitor the effectiveness of the new Diverted Profits Tax and bring in any further measures necessary to prevent large multinational corporations using aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

Green taxes & Environment

UKIP will abolish green taxes and levies and withdraw from the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, reducing fuel bills and enhancing industrial competitiveness.

The party also intends to levy a Petroleum Revenue Tax (currently 50 per cent) on any shale profits and invest the income into a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

UKIP will discontinue the carbon floor tax on the basis that production for coal fired power stations is combined with carbon capture and storage.

Tax & Migrants

The party has stated that all new migrants to Britain will have to make tax and national insurance contributions for five consecutive years before they will become eligible to claim UK benefits, or access to more than non-urgent NHS services, save for any exceptions stipulated by the Migration Control Commission.


The introduction of a new system (to replace the Barnett Formula) will result in substantial reductions in funding for Scotland, but, as the Scottish government is to have significant further powers over taxation, borrowing and spending in due course, it can make its own decision as to whether to raise taxes or cut public spending to balance the books.


UKIP will remove road tolls where possible and let existing contracts on running road tolls expire. The party believes that motorists are already taxed highly enough through fuel and vehicle taxes.

The party will also ensure tax and planning policies support historic buildings and the countryside; offer tax breaks to smaller breweries to encourage micro-breweries and keep Council Tax as low as possible.

Finally, UKIP will revise the Armed Forces terms of service to ensure personnel on operational duty overseas do not pay income tax.

For further information see

UKIP Manifesto 2015
Analysis of other party manifestos will follow.

The CIOT is of course strictly neutral and nothing in these posts should be interpreted as endorsement for or opposition to any of the policies mentioned.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Friday 01 May 2015

Media and Politics
Manifesto Tax Policies - Liberal Democrats
17 April 2015

The Liberal Democrats launched their election manifesto on Wednesday April 15th. Key tax proposals include a commitment to raise the personal allowance to £12,500; a High Value Property Levy on homes worth over £2million and a new corporation tax on the banking sector which aims to raise £1 billion per year.

These are the party’s pledges by area of tax:

Income tax / national insurance

The Liberal Democrats wish to ‘cut taxes for working people’ by raising the tax-free allowance to £12,500. As a stepping stone to this increase, they will bring forward the planned increase to an £11,000 allowance to April 2016.

Once they have delivered the rise in the personal allowance, they will raise the employee National Insurance threshold to the Income Tax threshold, as resources allow, while protecting low earners’ ability to accrue pension and benefit entitlements.

The party will also abolish employee shareholder status (‘shares for rights’) that offers employees who have sacrificed their employment rights, income tax relief and capital gains tax exemptions on shares they own in their company.

Pensions and tax

The Lib Dems would establish a review to consider the case for, and practical implications of, introducing a single rate of tax relief for pensions, which would be designed to be simpler and fairer and which would be set more generously than the current 20% basic rate relief.

The party intend to withdraw eligibility for the Winter Fuel Payment and free TV Licence from pensioners who pay tax at the higher rate (40%).

Property taxes

The Liberal Democrats remain committed to introducing a Land Value Tax (LVT), which would replace Business Rates in the longer term and could enable the reduction or abolition of other taxes. They will extend the Business Rates review to ensure it considers the implementation of LVT, as well as interim reforms like Site Value Rating that could be completed within five years.

They will introduce a banded High Value Property Levy in 2017-18. The Liberal Democrats will consult on the implementation of this levy. The party would guarantee that for properties valued at between £2m and £2.5m the charge would be £2,000 per year or less. For £2.5m and £3m the charge would be £3,500 per year or less, for properties between £3m and £4m the charge would be £5,000 per year or less and for properties between £4m and £5m the charge would be £9,000 per year or less.

The party is proposing a Council Tax discount for significant improvements in energy efficiency in homes. The party is also aiming to cut council tax by £100 for 10 years if you insulate your home, and ban landlords from letting out homes tenants cannot reasonably afford to heat. The party will levy up to 200% Council Tax on second homes where they judge this to be appropriate. They will remove the requirement to hold local referenda for Council Tax changes, ensuring Councillors are properly accountable for their decisions by introducing fair votes.

They will establish a voluntary register of rented property where either the landlord or the tenant can register the property, to improve enforcement and tax transparency.

Capital gains tax / investment income

The party will reduce the annual exempt amount for Capital Gains Tax to £2,500, however they will allow people to transfer unused elements of their Income Tax Personal Allowance to offset against CGT liabilities.

The party will restrict entrepreneurs’ relief to those who have had shareholdings of at least 10% within the last three years and 5% in the last year. This will ensure that entrepreneurs’ relief continues to benefit genuine entrepreneurs but isn’t open to abuse.

They will raise the rate of dividend tax by 5% for higher and additional rate taxpayers to more closely align them with marginal income tax rates.

Families, tax credits & low earners

The party will complete the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare, which will provide up to £2,000 of childcare support for each child and include childcare support in Universal Credit, refunding 85% of childcare costs so work pays for low earners.

They will abolish the transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners introduced in April 2015, stating that it unfairly discriminates against unmarried couples.

Business taxes

The Liberal Democrats will continue to reform business tax to ensure it stays competitive, making small and medium-sized enterprises the priority for any business tax cuts. They will work to adjust the tax system away from subsidy of high leverage debt and tackle the bias against equity investment.

The party will continue the banking levy and introduce a time-limited 8% supplementary corporation tax charge on banks operating in the UK to ensure banks continue to make a fair contribution to fiscal consolidation.

Their manifesto also states that they will ask the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee to consider the approach to paying tax taken by banks for themselves, their employees and for their customers, as part of their assessment of the risks posed by the sector, supported by an annual report by HMRC.

They will introduce a tax levy on tobacco companies so they fairly contribute to the costs of health care and smoking cessation services, subject to consultation on the detailed design and practicalities.


The party is intending to lead international action to ensure global companies pay fair taxes in the developing countries in which they operate, including tightening anti-tax haven rules and requiring large companies to publish their tax payments and profits for each country in which they operate.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to improving tax transparency including in low-income countries by extending country-by-country reporting from banks and extractive industries to all UK listed companies.

On corporation tax, they will limit interest deductibility; they are intending to lead from the front in implementing the rules coming out of the OECD’s work on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting. Within this work is a policy to limit the amount of debt interest that can be offset against a company’s Corporation Tax liability. The OECD work on this strand is due to complete in the autumn of 2015 and they will implement, as soon as possible thereafter.

Avoidance and evasion

The party is aiming to bring in £6bn extra a year from a further crack down on tax avoidance.

The Lib Dems would extend the loss relief rules that the coalition applied to banks operating in the UK in the 2014 Autumn Statement.

The party will increase charges on Non Domiciled Residents so that people who have been resident in the UK for 7 of the past 9 years will see a rise from £30,000 to £50,000. People who have been resident in the UK for 12 of the past 14 years will see a rise from £60,000 to £100,000, and those who have been resident in the UK for 17 of the past 20 years will see a rise from £90,000 to £150,000.

The party will introduce a general anti-avoidance rule which would outlaw contrived structures designed purely or largely to avoid tax.

The party will implement the planned new offence of corporate failure to prevent economic crime, including tax evasion, with penalties for directors up to and including custodial sentences. They will also levy penalties on firms proven to facilitate tax evasion, equivalent to the amount of tax evaded by their clients.

Green taxes & Environment

The Liberal Democrats will implement targeted green taxes to discourage pollution and reward sustainability with a long-term view to increase the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by green taxes.

There would be a programme of tax incentives and public investment for the energy efficiency sector. 50% of any tax revenues from shale gas would go into a Low-Carbon Transition Fund to fund energy efficiency, community energy, low-carbon innovation and renewable heat.

The party is committed to establishing a coherent tax and regulatory framework for landfill, incineration and waste collection to drive continuous increases in reuse and recycling rates and ensure only non-recyclable waste is incinerated, including reinstating the Landfill Tax escalator and extending it to the lower rate and consulting on the introduction of an incineration tax.

The party will commission a new Natural Capital Committee to investigate the potential for other resource taxes, including deposit refund schemes.

The party has stated that it intends to work with the automotive industry to re-band Vehicle Excise Duty in order to return revenues to those projected in 2010. This work would be subject to consultation, however we will continue to incentivise the purchasing and running of lower emission cars.


The Liberal Democrats are committed to enabling the devolution of Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland by April 2017. They will continue to work with all parties to implement the full package of measures in the Stormont House Agreement and address outstanding issues. They will seek to build on this progress by keeping under review the prospect of further devolution of fiscal powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and other powers that would improve the financial accountability of the Assembly.

The party has stated that the Scottish Parliament should raise in tax more than half of what it spends in its budget. A Scottish welfare system should allow the Scottish Parliament to change the benefits regime where there is specific Scottish need or priority, with a starting budget of around £3 billion.

The Liberal Democrats will deliver ‘proper’ Home Rule for Wales and a Welsh Parliament by implementing the remaining Silk proposals on financial powers for Wales. They are to consider the work of the Government’s review on devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD), with a view to devolving long-haul APD.

HMRC and the tax system

The party would set a target for HM Revenue and Customs to reduce the tax gap and continue to invest in staff to enable them to meet it.

For further information see

Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2015

Analysis of other party manifestos will follow.

The CIOT is of course strictly politically neutral and nothing in these posts should be interpreted as endorsement for or opposition to any of the policies mentioned.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Friday 17 April 2015

Media and Politics
Manifesto Tax Policies - Conservative
16 April 2015

The Conservatives launched their election manifesto on Tuesday April 14th. The most prominent tax announcements included: increasing the inheritance tax threshold to £1m; ensuring all people who work 30hrs per week on the minimum wage pay no income tax; a commitment to no rise in VAT, national insurance contributions or income tax; increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 and raising the threshold for the 40p rate of income tax so that nobody earning under £50,000 pays the rate.

David Cameron focused his speech and the manifesto around the twin themes of having a ‘clear economic plan’ and establishing the Conservatives as the party for ‘working people’. His tax policies appear to be an attempt to reinforce those messages, particularly his pledge to alleviate those on the minimum wage from the burden of income tax. The Conservatives intend to eliminate the deficit (£90bn) in current spending by 2017-18 and move into an overall budget surplus from 2018-19.

These are the party’s pledges by area of tax:

Income tax / national insurance

The Conservatives will take everyone earning less than £12,500 out of income tax altogether (which also acts as a tax cut for 30 million people) and pass a law to ensure a tax-free minimum wage for those working at least 30 hours per week. The party would raise the higher rate (40p) Income Tax threshold to £50,000. The party has committed itself to no increases in National Insurance or Income Tax.

The party will continue to help smaller businesses take on new workers through the Employment Allowance, which frees businesses from the first £2,000 of employers’ NICs so that a third of employers pay no jobs tax.

Pensions and tax

The Conservatives will reduce the tax relief on pension contributions for additional rate taxpayers. The size of the annual allowance would be gradually reduced from £40,000 to £10,000 for those making £150,000 a year or more.

The Conservatives also draw attention to changes made by the coalition government abolishing the 55 per cent tax on pension pots, so that when the deceased is 75 or over any beneficiary only has to pay their marginal Income Tax rate – normally 20 per cent – when they draw down the pension. And enabling anyone who dies before the age of 75 to pass on their pension pot completely tax-free, so that beneficiaries will pay no tax on pensions they inherit or on the income they draw down.

Property taxes

From this autumn, the party will introduce a new Help to Buy ISA to support people who are saving up for a deposit for their first home. A ten per cent deposit on the average first home costs £15,000, so if a prospective homebuyer puts in up to £12,000, government will put in up to £3,000 more. A 25 per cent top-up is equivalent to saving a deposit from your pre-tax income – making it effectively a tax cut for first-time buyers.

While the party does not mention it in their manifesto they have made clear their strong opposition to a mansion tax.

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is one of the party’s flagship announcements. The Conservatives will increase the effective Inheritance Tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1 million, with a new transferable main residence allowance of £175,000 per person.

Capital gains tax / investment income

There are no pledges specific to this area, though proposals to raise the non-dom charge (see below) are relevant. The manifesto also draws attention to the coalition Government’s move to enable ISAs to be passed on to a spouse tax-free, so that from this April they are no longer subject to Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax.

Families, tax credits & low earners

The party is committed to lowering the amount of benefits that any household can receive to £23,000 and continue to roll out Universal Credit.

The Conservatives will bring in tax-free childcare to support parents back into work, doubled to 30hrs per week. In addition, the party will keep the transferable tax allowance which enables married couples to transfer £1,060 of their tax-free income to the husband or wife, where the highest earner is a basic rate taxpayer; this applies to civil partnerships too, and the transferable amount will always rise at least in line with the Personal Allowance.

The Conservatives would insist that EU migrants who want to claim tax credits and child benefit must live in the UK and contribute to this country for a minimum of four years.

Business taxes

Building on corporation tax cuts in the 2010-15 Parliament, the Conservatives “want to maintain the most competitive business tax regime in the G20, and oppose Labour’s plans to increase Corporation Tax.”

The Conservatives would conduct a major review into business rates by the end of 2015 to ensure that from 2017 they properly reflect the structure of Britain’s modern economy and provide clearer billing, better information sharing and a more efficient appeal system.

A Conservative government would allow farmers to ‘smooth their profits’ for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to counter income volatility. The manifesto notes the tax incentives for films, theatre, video games, animation and orchestras introduced by the current government and pledges to continue these reliefs, with a tax credit for children’s television next year and the expansion of these incentives for the creative industries sector when possible.


The manifesto states that a Conservative government would lead international efforts to ensure global companies pay their fair share in tax, as David Cameron did at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland in 2013, which secured significant international progress on fairer tax rules and full transparency over who really owns companies.

The Conservatives will push for all countries to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; review the implementation of the new international country-by-country tax reporting rules and consider the case for making this information publicly available on a multilateral basis.

Finally, they will ensure developing countries have full access to global automatic tax information exchange systems and continue to build the capacity of tax authorities in developing countries.

VAT and duties

The party pledges no increases in VAT.

The manifesto notes the abolition of Labour’s fuel duty escalator, but makes no commitments on fuel duty for the next Parliament.

Avoidance and evasion

The Conservatives state that they will raise at least £5 billion from continuing to tackle tax evasion, and aggressive tax avoidance and tax planning, building on the £7 billion of annual savings delivered in the last Parliament.

The Conservatives will increase the annual tax charges paid by those with non-domiciled status, ensuring that they make a fair contribution to reducing the deficit, and continue to tackle abuses of this status.

The manifesto states that ‘hardworking taxpayers’ supported the banks during the financial crisis and so the banks should in turn support them during the recovery; the party will therefore keep the bank levy in place and restrict established banks’ ability to pay less tax by offsetting their profits against past losses.

The Conservatives are also seeking to legislate a criminal offence for those companies which fail to put in place measures to stop economic crime, such as tax evasion, in their organisations and making sure that the penalties are large enough to punish and deter.


The party will continue devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales, and implement the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland. They will also progress plans to give English MPs a veto over English-only matters, including on Income Tax.

A Conservative government would implement the recommendations of the Smith Commission so that more than 50 per cent of the Scottish Parliament’s budget will be funded from revenues raised in Scotland and it will have significant new welfare powers to complement existing devolved powers in health and social care. The party will agree new rules with the Scottish Government for how the block grant will be adjusted, to take account of the new devolved tax and welfare powers, and ensure that where responsibility for taxation has been devolved, tax changes only affect public spending in that part of the country.

There would be a ‘funding floor’ to protect Welsh relative funding and provide certainty for the Welsh Government to plan for the future, once it has called a referendum on Income Tax powers in the next Parliament. There is also make a promise to make the Welsh Government responsible for raising more of the money it spends so the Welsh people can hold their politicians to account.

For Northern Ireland the Conservatives would complete the devolution of Corporation Tax powers to the Assembly, consistent with the Executive fulfilling its commitments on finance, welfare reform and efficiencies in the Stormont House Agreement.

HMRC and the tax system

The Conservatives would establish the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) on a permanent basis and expand its role and capacity.

For further information see

Conservative Manifesto 2015

Analysis of other party manifestos will follow.

The CIOT is of course strictly politically neutral and nothing in these posts should be interpreted as endorsement for or opposition to any of the policies mentioned.

James Knell
CIOT External Relations Officer
Thursday 16 April 2015

Media and Politics
Manifesto Tax Policies - Labour
15 April 2015

Labour were the first of the major parties to publish their manifesto, launching it on Monday April 13th. The most eye-catching tax announcement – the abolition of non-dom status – had been pre-announced the previous day, alongside a range of other measures badged as an anti-avoidance ten point plan.

The party’s central economic message seems to have four main strands: Labour will balance the books where the Coalition Government has failed; the party’s promises are fully funded (so no additional borrowing); the party will change the economy (high skills, higher wages, stronger and more balanced growth); the burden will be shared fairly (clampdown on avoidance, higher taxes for the rich).

This is how the promises in the manifesto and the accompanying document, ‘HMRC: Labour’s Plan to Tackle Tax Avoidance and Evasion’, break down by area of tax –

Income tax / national insurance

Labour would raise the additional rate of income tax (on income over £150,000) back to 50p and would reintroduce the lower 10p starting rate of tax introduced and then scrapped by Gordon Brown. The latter would be paid for by ending the Conservatives’ Marriage Tax Allowance. Labour promise not to increase the basic or higher rates of Income Tax or National Insurance, but the manifesto says nothing about thresholds.

Pensions and tax

Labour will restrict tax relief on pension contributions for the highest earners to help fund a cut in tuition fees. The manifesto provides no further details but the party has previously said that they would do this by reducing relief on pension contributions for people earning over £150,000 a year from to 20 per cent.

Labour support greater flexibility for those drawing down their pension pots, but there must be proper guidance for people to avoid mis-selling. The party would reform the pensions market so that pension providers put savers first, and protect consumers from retirement rip-offs.

Property taxes

The party would introduce a Mansion Tax on properties worth over £2 million. No further information is provided but in an Evening Standard article in October Ed Balls
gave a number of assurances and clarifications which so far as we know remain Labour policy:
• a banded system (eg £2-3 million) with valuations not needed for most properties “as it will be clear which band… the property falls into”;
• owners will be able to submit a self-valuation to HMRC, as with ATED;
• those owning properties worth £2-3 million will only pay an extra £250 a month but those with properties worth tens of millions will make “a significantly bigger contribution”;
• protections for those who are asset rich but cash poor – those earning below the income tax higher rate threshold will be guaranteed the right to defer the charge until the property changes hands;
• No property under £2 million will be included and the threshold will be raised each year in line with average rises in house prices;
• Labour will look at asking overseas owners of second homes in the UK to make a larger contribution than people living in their only home.

Labour would also give local authorities powers to introduce higher council tax on long term empty properties.

Inheritance tax

No proposals in this area. Labour responded to the Conservative announcement on inheritance tax by saying that this should not be a priority for extra spending compared to, eg, the NHS or cutting taxes for ‘most working people’.

Capital gains tax / investment income

Some of the measures in Labour’s anti-avoidance plan (see below) would have impact in this area, most notably abolishing non-dom status, scrapping ‘shares for rights’ and rewriting carried interest rules. On the latter, the FT has reported that Labour has “said it would not attack the core principle that private equity profits — known as carried interest — are treated as capital gains, rather than income. But it planned to tighten the carried interest rules so that private equity managers would not pay lower rates of capital gains tax – instead of income tax – in cases where they had little of their own money at stake.”

Tax credits / low earners

Labour have promised not to cut tax credits. Labour support the principle behind Universal Credit – that there should be a smooth transition into work – “but it must be affordable and fit for purpose, so we will pause and review the programme”. ‘Make Work Pay’ contracts would give tax rebates to businesses who sign up to paying the Living Wage in the first year of a Labour Government.

Business taxes

Labour will put small businesses first in line for tax cuts. Instead of cutting Corporation Tax from 21% to 20%, benefiting larger firms, the party will cut, and then freeze business rates for over 1.5 million smaller business properties. Labour promise they would “maintain the most competitive corporate tax rates in the G7”.

The party also has a number of proposals which would affect particular sectors. A Bank Bonus Tax would fund a ‘compulsory jobs guarantee’. An increase in the bank levy would fund the expansion of free childcare for working parents. There would be a levy on tobacco firms (a 15 per cent levy on the sector’s annual £1bn of profits was the proposal announced last autumn) to help increase NHS spending. Businesses who sign up to paying the Living Wage would get a tax rebate.

Additionally some of the measures in the anti-avoidance ten point plan (see below) would affect businesses, especially multinationals.


Labour would seek international agreement to make country-by-country reporting information publicly available, and will act at home if agreement is not reached. British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will be required to produce publicly available registries of the real owners of companies based there. The party would extend the sharing of tax information to developing countries and increase DFID’s help to governments to collect more of their own taxes, tackle corruption, and ensure good governance.

VAT and duties

Will not raise VAT, or extend it to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers or public transport fares.

Avoidance and evasion

Labour published a ten point plan to tackle tax avoidance the day before publishing their manifesto. Labour have said they will expect the Treasury to, on the first day of a Labour government, present a draft Anti-Tax Avoidance Bill to the Chancellor, setting out the necessary legislation to deliver the ten point plan. They have also said these measures would appear in a Labour Government’s first Finance Bill.
1. Abolish the non-dom rules, while introducing a temporary residence rule for those genuinely in the UK for a short period of time, such as university students
2. Re-write carried interest rules which allow private equity managers to get away with paying less tax than ordinary working people even when they have not been investing their own money
3. Close loopholes used by hedge funds to avoid stamp duty
4. Force the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to produce publicly available registries of beneficial ownership
5. Increase penalties for tax avoidance including new penalties for those who are caught by the General Anti-Abuse Rule
6. Close loopholes like the Eurobonds loophole which allow some large companies to move profits out of the UK and avoid Corporation Tax
7. Scrap the “Shares for Rights” scheme
8. Tackle disguised self-employment by introducing strict deeming criteria
9. Tackle the use of dormant companies to avoid tax by requiring them to report more frequently
10. Make country-by-country reporting information publicly available

Labour say these measures will cut avoidance and evasion by at least £7.5 billion a year in the next Parliament. However the IFS has suggested that the figures put forward by all the main parties on what can be raised in this area lack credibility. Labour say they will use the proceeds of abolishing the non-dom rules to help get the deficit down; other measures will fund the NHS Time to Care Fund, abolition of the ‘bedroom tax’ and cuts in tuition fees. Any remaining revenues will be used to help get the deficit down.

Labour will also ask the Bank of England to focus on risks from the informal economy, including avoidance, evasion and the tax gap, in delivering its financial stability objective. The manifesto includes a target to reverse the (absolute terms) increase in the tax gap under the current government and get back to avoidance and evasion falling at £1.5 billion a year.

On evasion, Labour say it “is unacceptable that HMRC has taken forward just one prosecution out of over 1,000 people with accounts at the Swiss branch of HSBC who are known to have not paid tax that was due”. This is one of the justifications for their review into the culture and practices of HMRC (see below).


Labour will keep its vow and implement the Smith Agreement in full. Rates of income tax will be set in Scotland. They promise to “go further, with a Home Rule Bill to give extra [unspecified] powers to Scotland over tax, welfare and jobs”.

HMRC and the tax system

Labour promise an immediate ‘root and branch’ review into the culture and practices of HMRC “so that everyone follows the same rules and we increase the rigour of the tax system”. Additional information on this has been set out in a paper, ‘HMRC: Labour’s Plan to Tackle Tax Avoidance and Evasion’, published the day before the manifesto was published. The review would cover HMRC processes for managing investigations, prioritising resources and the focus of HMRC’s leadership on tax avoidance and evasion. The review would have full investigatory powers and support from the Treasury. It would begin on day one of a Labour government.

Labour also promise to deploy resources more effectively within HMRC – for example, by liberating resources currently tied up in administering the Government’s “shares for rights” scheme – to provide HMRC’s specialist investigation, enforcement, compliance and anti-avoidance units with the expertise they need.

The party would build on the ongoing programme of improvements to HMRC’s digital service: “Such improvements will save money for both HMRC and the taxpayer. We recognise that different size businesses have different needs and that one size doesn’t fit all.” There is praise for measures such as updates to online help, including video tutorials and webinars, and improvements to individual web-based accounts which have allowed businesses to calculate and pay a wider range of taxes online more easily. “These services are not without their problems, but a Labour Government will ensure continued investment in digital services, aiming to save money for both HMRC and the taxpayer.”

Finally the party argues HMRC needs to be more visibly accountable to the taxpayer. As well as a general promise to “encourage stronger independent scrutiny of the tax system and the government’s efforts to tackle tax avoidance” the party proposes strengthening the powers of the National Audit Office to scrutinise tax reliefs and wants the Chancellor and Chief Executive of HMRC to give evidence to the Treasury Select Committee annually on the Government’s efforts to tackle avoidance and evasion and the progress made on reducing the tax gap.

For further information see

Labour manifesto 2015
HMRC: Labour’s Plan to Tackle Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Analysis of other party manifestos will follow.

The CIOT is of course strictly politically neutral and nothing in these posts should be interpreted as endorsement for or opposition to any of the policies mentioned.

George Crozier
CIOT Head of External Relations
Wednesday 15 April 2015

Media and Politics

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