No Greece tax comparison, says new CIoT president

THE INCOMING PRESIDENT of the Chartered Institute of Taxation has expressed concerns over tax comparisons between Greece and the UK in both the media and public arena.

Speaking at CIoT’s annual general meeting in Westminster as he succeeds Anthony Thomas, Patrick Stevens said the tax system in Britain is far from broken and allowing the impression to take hold that it was dangerous.

Drawing a contrast between the British and Greek taxpayers, he said: “The only people who pay anything close to the right amount of tax in Greece are overseas companies and groups doing business there… [Consequently] the country is completely broke.

“We [Britain] are so far away from the situation in Greece that you cannot compare it”, he said, adding he felt newspaper stories concerning the British tax system were unhelpful and it is the “perception rather than the reality that is really important”.

He said: “There has been a pretty steady stream of headlines in newspapers about the mistakes made by HMRC, their inefficiencies, the hidden economy, deals done with some large companies and the ability of some companies to do business in the UK while paying very little tax.

“Every time those headlines appear, one or more of the passengers on the Clapham omnibus thinks our system must be broken and there is no need for them to join. That affects our members.”

HMRC had taken criticisms in recent months for errors and poor service, including the news a quarter of tax helpline calls go unanswered.

However, HMRC this week published a progress report showing it is on-target in improvements it is making over a nine-month period to better its service.

A vote also took place at the meeting, approving the proposal to merge with the Institute of Indirect Taxation (IIT), which – subject to a ballot by the IIT later this month – will see the two bodies merged under the CIoT banner in by early July.

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