Tax framework and get out clauses
Impressive. the government’s consultation on a tax framework for business came out this morning and it runs to …all of two pages. Yes, that’s right, just two whole pages.
I know no one wants to wade through reams of material, but you might have thought such a big subject would be worthy of a little more coverage.
But what leaves the reader even more surprised is the content. It attempts to outline principles for guiding tax legislation and in this the Treasury appears to have whittled the stick with which critics will be able to beat it.
Principles include a commitment to maintain an attractive location to do business; ensure fairness in the tax system; create a tax system that will minimise distortion in commercial decision making; avoid unnecessary complexity and changes to the system and will continue work on lowering compliance costs.
All worthy aims if it weren’t for the fact that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that these are the very principles that have been ignored by the Treasury over the past few years.
But here’s the killer. The principles say:
“The relative weighting of these principles will vary depending upon the circumstances, and as a result the government will need to make trade offs between these principles.”
That will be seen by many as the get out clause that allows government to treat the principles as it pleases.
The principles are also incredibly broad. Ensuring Britain remains an attractive place to do business doesn’t tell us much about what that might mean in terms of a policy applied to potential tax legislation. What dies it mean for rates? What does it mean for the compliance burden and how that might be judged to be out of hand?
So many more questions than answers right now, even if these principles seem to have taken things in the right direction.