Tax rewrite held up

The Inland Revenue has admitted the Tax Law Rewrite is behindhan it bargained for. schedule, with tax experts forecasting it may take at least 15 years to complete.

The Revenue revealed the delay in a document outlining plans for its 1998/1999 schedule. Financial secretary Dawn Primarolo said: ‘For various reasons beyond the control of the project, progress on rewriting legislation last year was slower than was originally hoped.’

But, she added, the rewrite is a ‘massive task, but we are committed to doing it well.’

The document, a review of work carried out so far, says: ‘As the rewrite teams have become fully immersed in their work, they have discovered that our task is even more complex, difficult and time-consuming than we first thought it would be.’

Problems included the diversion of staff to help with the finance bill and the Budget.

Price Waterhouse’s John Whiting, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s tax administration sub-committee, welcomed the Revenue’s commitment to achieve its targets in five years.

But he stressed the project has become a far bigger exercise than was conceived at its inception. He said: ‘It’s a bit like painting the Forth Bridge while it is being extended.’

Whiting said he thought the five-year target was envisaged to ensure private capital involvement but the project could take up to 15 years.

Commenting on the Revenue’s findings, Maurice Parry-Wingfield, a tax consultant at Deloitte & Touche, said: ‘The new timetable offers a lot of meaty stuff for the next 12 months.’ He added that the new plan ‘deserves our full support although it is falling behind’. This was due to a change of government resulting in a drop in staff, a lack of parliamentary counsel and underfunding at the Treasury.

Related reading