Boost for tax reform.

Measures to curb the chancellor’s ability to create unlimited tax law have been called for by Lord Geoffrey Howe who has also proposed a new body to oversee the simplification of the tax system.

Speaking in the annual Hardman Lecture at the English ICA, Lord Howe, a former chancellor and currently spearheading the Tax Law Rewrite Project, said a two pronged attack was needed to counter the ever increasing complexity of tax law.

In a speech which was warmly welcomed, he said the situation had to be ‘stabilised’ by cutting the volume of tax law and then ‘simplified’ with a new programme on the same model as the Tax Law Rewrite Project.

He said the system would only be stabilised when revenue departments and chancellors no longer had a guarantee, under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, to make as much tax law as they wanted.

Calling for a tax structure review programme, Howe said it would have as its main objective the development of ‘a strategy for tax simplification that becomes incorporated into the process of generating tax policy itself.’

The project would have a working group which would include members from the revenue departments plus representatives from professional, business and academic bodies.

A steering group would also be formed which could take the form of a parliamentary select committee and might include a senior member of the government.

Lord Howe said that ‘mobilising the resources to make these changes happen – and above the political will to achieve them – is going to be the hardest task of all’.


Lord Geoffrey Howe, writing exclusively for, has outlined a possible solution to the ever increasing complexity of the tax structure in the UK.

Pressure to tackle the problem of the tax system is mounting and Lord Howe has responded in support of the growing complaint that the system is just far to complex to continue working effectively.

Providing a model for reform based on the Tax Law Rewrite Project, Lord Howe says a two-pronged approach is needed combining a drive for ‘stability’ with simplification.

Stability can only be gained if the Treasury and Revenue departments have their powers to make legislation curtailed, he says. Simplification needs a working group drawn from professional, business and academic bodies steered by a dedicated House of Commons select committee, he adds.

Lord Howe writes: ‘I believe that such a structure and process could and would become the natural setting for the consultative processes that must be absolutely central to the making of tax policy as well as of tax law.’

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