Shock at finance bill extras

Tax experts have described as ‘appalling’ and ‘outrageous’ controversial aspects of the finance bill that were dropped in the run up to the general election, but are expected to be reintroduced in parliament today.

The 200-plus pages of proposed legislation to be laid before parliament contains a raft of anti-avoidance measures that were considered too complex by the Treasury and chancellor Gordon Brown to be passed in the limited time available before the election.

John Whiting, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that even those parts of the finance bill that received Royal Assent before the election, should not have been put into law so quickly. ‘It still remains quite outrageous that 200 pages went through with only about four hours’ debate,’ said Whiting. ‘This is not the way to do legislation.’

The main bulk of the anti-avoidance measures pulled from the finance bill concerned corporate tax issues. Whiting said there were still a lot of ‘stress points’ in the proposed legislation that had to be ironed out.

He complained about the lack of discussion and said that, while he recognised changes to the tax system must be made, proper consultation ‘goes a long way’ to help solve problems.

‘Fundamentally you get better quality law if you take your time and consult,’ he said. ‘This is pretty serious stuff, so hopefully people have been listening.’

ICAEW tax faculty technical manager, Anita Monteith, described as ‘appalling’ the fact that the bill was coming out just before a bank holiday and said that faculty volunteers had been poring over the sections chopped out of the initial bill in a bid to gain a head start.

‘I can’t believe that this is the way that the parliamentary system is supposed to work,’ said Monteith.

But the Treasury claimed that Royal Assent for the bill would be granted ‘by the end of this parliamentary session in July’, which would give nine weeks of parliamentary scrutiny.

‘The legislation in this new finance bill was first published on 24 March, in the previous finance bill 2005, and so has been in the public domain for two months. Much of the legislation had also been put out for consultation previously to interested parties,’ the Treasury said.

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