The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has welcomed a government promise to hold more early stage policy consultations and to reintroduce the online tax consultation tracker.
The commitments are made in a policy paper published this afternoon by HM Treasury - The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process.1 The paper also confirms what the new consultation process around a single fiscal event (the Autumn Budget) will look like.
CIOT Tax Policy Director John Cullinane said:
“This is a very helpful document which sets down in writing the government’s commitment to further improvements to the process for making tax policy.
“In particular we welcome the commitment ‘to consult more frequently from an earlier stage of policy development’2. More early stage consultation was a central recommendation of the Better Budgets report, published in January 2017 by CIOT, the Institute for Government and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.3
“Too many consultations begin when key decisions have already been made, shutting off potential better options to achieve the same goal. Calls for evidence, like the one launched last week on ‘rent a room relief’, and early stage consultations, such as that on corporate tax and the digital economy, launched on Budget day, are hopeful early signs that the government will be doing more early consultation, getting input from business, tax professionals and others to inform the process before a proposal has been drawn up.
“A regularly updated tax consultation tracker is something else we have been making the case for, both in Better Budgets and in ongoing discussions with Treasury and HMRC officials. We are pleased that the government have confirmed their intention to re-introduce such a tracker, and we look forward to the promised further details before the end of 2017.4
“The Government’s recommitment to just one fiscal event a year – with the ‘Spring Statement’ having a more limited role – is welcome. The move to a single fiscal event is something the CIOT and our Better Budgets partners had argued for. We believed that it would enable more time to be spent on consultation and scrutiny and would reduce the strain that two big fiscal events a year put on government and consultees alike. This isn’t just about enabling organisations like CIOT to do more. It offers more opportunity for outreach to bring in views from a wider range of consultees.”
However CIOT has identified areas where the government could go further. John Cullinane continued:
“Parliamentary scrutiny of tax legislation still has a lot of scope for improvement. In particular we believe oral evidence sessions before Finance Bill public bill committee, bringing in both expert witnesses and representatives from groups affected by particular changes, could lead to better-informed policy-making. This has cross-party support in Parliament yet the Government seem reluctant to allow it.
“Also, the consultation process should not end with the passage of legislation. There is room for more effective and systematic post-implementation reviews to determine whether measures are achieving the objectives set out for them.”
Notes for editors
1. The government paper can be read here.
2. “[T]he government already routinely consults on the detail of tax policy changes once they have been announced. But the new tax policy making cycle provides an opportunity to consult more frequently from an earlier stage of policy development.
“Calls for evidence and early-stage consultations allow open development of policy options and the evidence base within a broad area of the tax system. They are particularly valuable and appropriate where a large-scale reform is under consideration, where options are not readily defined, or where existing information is limited…
“The opportunity for early consultation will always need to be proportionate and balanced against the government’s responsibility to manage the public finances- including the risk of forestalling. But for major or longer-term tax policy changes, the government aims to consult, where possible, at an earlier stage.”
The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process, HM Treasury, Dec 6 2017, section 3.1
3. “Step 4: Start consultation at an earlier stage
“Too many consultations begin when key decisions have already been made, shutting off potential better options to achieve the same goal. The Government should consistently stick to its commitments in The New Approach to Tax Policy Making. It should also start consultations by setting out and obtaining views on different options, or by putting out calls for evidence to allow it to gain the widest possible understanding of an issue.”
Better Budgets, CIOT/IFS/IfG, Jan 2017, page 4
4. “The government will also re-introduce an online consultation tracker, so stakeholders can see where in the policy development cycle each measure is, and when consultation will take place. Further details on this will be set out before the end of 2017.”
The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process, HM Treasury, Dec 6 2017, section 3.2