AS2013: What the practitioners say

by Calum Fuller

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06 Dec 2013

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Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

AS WAS EXPECTED, this week's Autumn Statement was short on entrance music, pyrotechnics and, indeed, excitement.

Although largely content-free, there were kernels of issues for practitioners to take note of and, depending on the detail of the Finance Bill, act on.

Chief among them were changes to more tightly tax partnerships, which PwC tax director Mark Saunders noted "moves the bar much higher than expected".

He added there is a danger new rules could tread on the toes of legitimate measures: "In some professions, such as the legal sector, there are good commercial reasons why someone has the title of partner without having a real equity stake in the business", he said.

The changes, too, to the way tax avoidance schemes are challenged could have a significant impact on practitioners, with rules to be introduced that will force taxpayers to pay up during the dispute.

MHA MacIntyre Hudson tax partner Alastair Kendrick expects the move will see a windfall for HMRC. He said: "There are a significant number of people who have acquired these schemes who are holding off making any payment. This I guess (subject to wording) will create a windfall for the government and many having paid the liability may decide against taking forward any fight."

The well-trailed taxation of property owned by non-UK residents drew few gasps, although Deloitte's Bill Dodwell warned the "piecemeal" way in which the change is to be introduced could be something we "regret".

Similarly, extended tax reliefs for the film industry were expected, something KPMG's head of tax policy Chris Morgan described as "great news for the UK", although some are disappointed it does not take in video games.

As for business more widely, the cap on business rates have been well-received, and EY's global head of tax policy Chris Sanger said the 2% curb shows the chancellor has taken note of companies' grievances. He said: "The chancellor has shown that he has been listening to the pain felt by businesses through a system that has its origins in the Poor Laws of 1601 and was updated in 1990 alongside the introduction of the poll tax."

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