Tax clarity needed to stop businesses leaving the UK

Lord Howe

Lord Howe: proposed Office of Tax Simplification

Business needs the certainty offered by simplification of the UK tax system,
according to tax advisers reflecting on the release of a report by former
chancellor Lord Howe.

Lord Howe proposed an Office of Tax Simplification, a new cross-party
committee to examine government proposals on tax, and a commitment to publicly
flag up changes to tax law no later than the pre-Budget report.

The report followed announcements from several companies that they are
leaving the UK because of the increasing burden and uncertainly of UK corporate

Andrew Green, head of taxation in London at RSM Bentley Jennison, said:
‘We’ve got a very complex tax code and that’s the biggest challenge from a
taxpayer’s viewpoint. What they really want is clarity, and it has tipped the
scales for some businesses in deciding to redomicile. They need to understand
their tax position.

There are a lot who have considered shifting to other jurisdictions in the
past 12 months and tax is one of the first issues on the list.’

John Whiting, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers said: ‘If you look at the
wider context of the UK’s tax system, the way the system works is one of those
factors that decides whether businesses stay or go. It’s not just “how much tax
do I pay”, it’s “what about the system that surrounds it”.’

Shire and United Business Media both shifted their tax residences out of the
UK, while others including advertising giant WPP, have threatened similar moves.

Lord Howe’s proposals, unveiled at the ICAEW’s headquarters in London,
garnered much support from senior members of the profession. Allen Blewitt,
ACCA’s chief executive, said: ‘They are sensible measures that aim to tackle the
unfairness and uncertainty surrounding the UK’s tax regime.’

ACCA research put the UK’s regime bottom of the league table for tax fairness
and transparency.

ACCA members who were polled said the UK’s tax arrangements were ‘compli
cated and frustrating, but most importantly, they said there was a lack of trust
in the system from business and personal taxpayers alike.’

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