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.
CIOT External Relations Officer
Friday 03 July 2015