Truck tax forces Finance Bill off road

A flurry of amendments tabled by MPs seeking to ease the tax burden on the haulage industry threaten to make proper consideration of the Finance Bill virtually impossible, experts warned this week.

The complexity of changes introduced by chancellor Gordon Brown had already ensured the Bill, due out next Wednesday, will be a huge document containing unwieldy legislation which senior practitioners fear MPs will be unable to grasp in the four months of scrutiny allowed.

The resulting legislation would increase uncertainty for taxpayers and lead to more disputes with the Inland Revenue. Although the tax law rewrite is due to clarify tax laws, most of the Bill will have to be written in the old, more complex style because it adds new clauses to existing law.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists all said they would table amendments in the wake of Monday’s massive protest by truck drivers against rises in fuel duties and vehicle taxes.

Transport minister John Reid used a report by KPMG to calm the truckers’ fury. He said the report, ‘The Competitive Alternatives’, proved Britain had Europe’s second most competitive road freight industry.

Deloitte & Touche tax consultant Maurice Parry-Wingfield said: ‘The committee cannot do justice to it in the time they have, so they rely on notes provided by the Revenue. There are very few members of the committee that have the expertise to get behind these notes, even if they had the time to do so.’

He called for a two-stream approach with tax rate changes dealt with quickly while complex issues would be scrutinised by MPs and expert witnesses.

Related reading