Tax rise details ‘ridiculously complex’

Link: Finance bill tackles evasion and avoidance

At more than 600 pages, this year’s bill is the largest yet and John Whiting, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has demanded the government take an urgent ‘reality check’ on the level of complexity companies face.

Whiting slammed the seven pages of clauses setting out new corporation tax rules for SMEs as ‘unnecessary’. Instead he advocated abolishing the nil rate of corporation tax as a far more ‘simple’ solution.

Whiting was also concerned by the lack of clarification on new anti-avoidance measures announced in the chancellor’s 17 March Budget.

He said that, ultimately, only future regulation would clear the matter up. One of the government’s more specific tax avoidance measures is a clampdown on pre-owned assets, which Ann Redston, tax partner at Ernst & Young, described as a ‘dangerous new approach to tax-law writing’.

Redston said the measures, first thrust into the spotlight by December’s pre-Budget report to widespread disdain, were a ‘retrospective form of taxation’ and ‘against the principal of certainty in tax transactions’. The charge will hit those who have legitimately sought to minimise inheritance tax bills since March 1986 by giving away assets but still using them.

‘Technically, this is a retrospective measure that can only legally be applied going forward as the transaction has already taken place,’ she said.

Despite Redston’s concerns, the charge will not apply in some situations where experts had thought it would. Individuals can elect for an asset to form part of their estate for inheritance tax purposes ð therefore avoiding an income tax charge, for example.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland also slammed the bill as ‘increasing the burden of tax compliance’, ‘stifling enterprise’ and introducing ‘excessive regulations’.

Ian Dewar, convener of the ICAS Taxation Committee, said: ‘Most people and businesses need some stability and the constant change in taxation risks being counterproductive.’

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