Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

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Tax doesn’t have to be taxing – or so says HMRC, the government authority on all things taxable. I remember seeing the HMRC advert on the tele, explaining how easy it was to submit a self assessment form or family tax credits and thinking – what a load of bollocks.

I know how my heart sinks when I spy the brown envelope on my desk from the revenue with its ominous, dark, bold print. But my mood deteriorates further when I open it open.

“What the hell is this – I thought I’d paid that once” Pause for thought ” Oh, its not a bill, its a statement – oh no, hang on a minute its an amendment” Pause for further thought. “Or is it?”

Is there anyone out there, except my accountant, that truly understands the inland revenue and its phenomenally complex rules structure? Paye, working and family tax credits, income tax, national insurance contributions, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, corporation tax, petroleum revenue tax and stamp duty – bloody hell, its seems never ending.

Well perhaps it is because according to a recent article in Moneyweek magazine the UK’s Tax code is ten million words long, requiring 21,000 pages of space and is the longest tax code in the world.

So what does ten  million words look like? Well remember the Chilcot report that took seven years to complete about the Iraq war? Its four times the length of that. Have you read War and peace, the worlds longest book? No? Nor me. Its 9 times the length of that. Or the bible? Nor me either. Its 12 times the length of that.

The inland revenues tax code is some formidable document. So formidable in fact that individuals study for years to be proficient in merely one small area of its responsibilities.

Of course it hasn’t always been this way and much complexity has been added in recent history by every Chancellor of the Exchequer since Norman Lamont back in 1993 who actively attempted to simplify it. But its been all downhill since then with Gordon Brown, our very own banisher of boom and bust, actually trebling Tax legislation.

A few years later George Osborne took office, promising to simplify taxation and even set up the Office of Tax Simplification. He managed to double the legislation.

I wasn’t expecting much from Phillip Hammond and a good job too as the country is as good as broke with its oversized debt and structural deficit. But one thing he could and should have provided was simplicity. Hong Kong is agreed by international tax lawyers to be the most efficient tax regime in the world. At 151,000 words,  their tax code is one sixty sixth the size of ours which is like comparing a mouse to an elephant. Consequently their admin costs are tiny in comparison and their tax regime is comprehensible – unlike ours.

Am, I the only one who thinks that they may be onto something here?

If the revenue reckon that ‘tax doesn’t have to be taxing’ they should take some advice from Hong Kong and use a phrase from America and….

‘Keep it simple stupid’.


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