Law – UK tax rewrite delayed as draftsmen reassigned duties, reports Jon Bunn.

Ambitious plans to rewrite UK tax law are likely to slip way beyond the 2002 deadline after parliamentary draftsmen were pulled off the project.

A pair of senior drafters leading the rewrite were switched to Finance Bill duties last month, meaning they will be off the rewrite project for up to six months.

Tax experts this week forecast the switch could signal another bumper Finance Bill as Chancellor Gordon Brown sets out his proposals for several areas including capital gains and inheritance tax.

Price Waterhouse partner John Whiting, a member of the review’s consultative committee, said: ‘There’s still a lot of preliminary work being done, but there was a plan to release drafts on capital allowances soon. I presume that has been pushed back.

‘If this happens every year it does not bode well for the rewrite’s timetable.’

Committee member Malcolm Gammie, a barrister, said some good could come from the change: ‘These draftsmen have spent the last six months thinking about how to write legislation in clear terms.

We can only hope that will flow through into the next Budget.’

The draftsmen’s early work was broadly welcomed by tax experts. Revamped legislation concerning trading income and tax relief for trading losses were the first areas to be covered.

But the rewrite still has almost 6,000 pages of direct tax legislation to cover.

Gammie added: ‘This is unhelpful, but the rewrite continues and the Revenue teams will continue to produce material. Five years was a hugely ambitious target – I would be surprised if the work was done in that time.

‘Losing a couple of key people from the team is unhelpful to say the least.’

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