Difficult issues must be debated

Driven by an apparent desire to reduce regulatory and compliance costs, it can only be applauded that such an issue has been put forward for consultation and that an attempt is being made to consider some very pressing and difficult issues.

At the ICAEW’s tax faculty we have been campaigning hard for many years for tax simplification. Our Towards a Better Tax System project has highlighted how complex the system has become and its particularly burdensome effects on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Positive steps to ease excessive burdens on business can only be welcomed and we look forward to discussing the proposals with the Inland Revenue.

That is not to say that the path to real simplification and workable solutions will be easy. One suggestion in the consultation document is that specifically defined small businesses should have their taxable profits aligned with their accounting profit.

On the face of it this could be very helpful if this involved finding a sensible way of dealing with the adjustments that are currently necessary between the two sets of accounts.

The question here is how will this be put into operation? The profits shown in the accounts are just the starting point for the taxable profits, which currently have to take into account such disallowable items as entertaining and legal expenses, and cope with adjustments between depreciation and capital allowances.

It is how such issues are dealt with that will be crucial to the proposal’s success but we welcome the chance to debate these issues and seek alternative ideas.

Other elements of the paper require particularly careful consideration.

For example, there is a suggestion the Revenue would like to become more involved in setting accounting standards if the accounting profit is to be paramount.

Accounts do not pretend to be perfect but are intended to give a true and fair view, hence the use of a materiality test.

This is unlikely to sit easily with the Revenue’s normal methods of workings and there would be a concern if any change led to increased costs or even increased enquiries that might wipe out any potential cost savings from the proposal.

– Francesca Lagerberg is the senior technical manager in the tax faculty of the ICAEW.

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