Leader – The Budget needs a fair hearing.

Accountancy Age has never been shy in claiming the credit for influencing great events. But even we would be hard put to say that last week’s government admission that the tax burden is rising, not falling, was the result of last week’s Accountancy Age leader. The prime minister’s spokesman made his historic admission as the presses were running with our call for an honest Budget. Coming clean about the direction of tax policy is very welcome but it is only a first step. The culture of openness and consultation needs to go much further. The fiasco that has been the IR35 consultation shows that ministers, and those who serve them, still see accountants as the enemies of fair taxation. The Revenue has an unenviable task. While Gordon Brown publicly proclaims his commitment to fairness, the Revenue and Customs have clearly been told to go out and milk the taxpayer for every last penny. At least Denis Healey had the honesty to make his ‘squeeze the rich till the pips squeak’ policy explicit. This government does not care if they are rich or not. Maximising the tax take is the watchword. In reality Gordon Brown’s fair tax policies can only be made to work fairly if he consults and informs the profession. The mechanisms are there. The profession has shown it can keep confidences and offer valuable implementation advice. There must be no repeat of the IR35 fiasco.

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