And so to Westminster this morning to join the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxation, which does more or less what it says on the can in providing a forum for MPs and those outside Parliament to discuss hot tax topics.
So, what are those hot topics?
Preparations for Brexit
With the precise timing and date of Brexit still unknown, there is almost no scope for new tax laws, whether to impose additional taxes or to change existing measures. The Government is concerned that the UK should maintain sufficient ‘fiscal firepower’ for a no-deal Brexit while remaining a leading force in international tax discussions under the slogan ‘Global Britain’. Having said that, Thursday 11 July (‘L-Day’) will see the publication of draft clauses for the next Finance Bill, which will largely cover pre-announced policy changes, along with accompanying explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes, responses to consultations and other supporting documents.
Making Tax Digital
The Government maintains that registrations for Making Tax Digital for VAT are going as well as had been expected, with progress now being in its predictably slowest phase. Clearly lessons are being learned, but there is no commitment yet regarding timetables for reviewing all that has happened, or indeed for the much larger project of introducing Making Tax Digital for individuals as part of George Osborne’s commitment to scrap personal tax returns.
The ‘gig economy’
Following the Taylor Review, it’s clear that the Treasury and HMRC do not regard this an issue primarily for them. That’s fair enough, but fundamental questions have to be answered regarding the size of the gig economy and what can be done to simplify tax compliance for those who find themselves in it.
Pensions and the NHS
Another hot topic which has been discussed in Parliament and which affects (falls between?) several departments is the impact of the annual allowance taper on NHS consultants and waiting lists. There’s a compelling argument that, as the value of pensions tax reliefs are already curtailed by the lifetime limit, the only impact of the annual allowance taper is to reduce the rate at which an individual gets to the lifetime limit. In other words, could the problem of NHS consultants and waiting lists be eliminated if the annual allowance taper was abolished for everybody? This would cost the Treasury little or nothing in the long term.
The loan charge
The prospect for amendments to the new tax charge seems remote.
Tax avoidance and evasion
The Government is proud of its track record in reducing tax avoidance but insists that its efforts to tackle illegal tax behaviours, which cost the Treasury around £13bn year after year, are stymied by the fact that international criminal gangs using the latest technology are able to keep one step ahead of the taxman. That may account for part of the problem. The Government denies that HMRC lacks resource to tackle evasion, which implies a recognition that MTD for individuals will add large numbers of erstwhile tax evaders to the list of newly compliant taxpayers. Watch this space.