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Will Simplifying Tax Boost Growth?

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Victoria Atkins, financial secretary to the Treasury, has issued a pledge to simplify taxes, underscoring government’s efforts to boost the economy, insisting that doing so would “support growth” and make tax “fairer”. This follows the Treasury Committee’s report launched in June which argued that the UK’s tax system needs to be simplified as it currently acts as an “obstacle to economic dynamism”. 

The Treasury Committee report

The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee report, published in June 2023, acknowledges that the UK tax system needs reform as the committee chair, Harriett Baldwin MP, warned that it is “over-complicated, confusing and inefficient”. She believed it “contains numerous cliff edges which disincentivise work, business growth and personal development”. 

The report notes the Chancellor’s agreement that the trend for the tax system to become ever more complicated must be reversed. It observes that disbanding the OTS (Which was done when Rishi Sunak took over from Liz Truss) risks signalling that tax simplification is not a priority for the Government.

“Should the Government proceed with abolishing the OTS, we recommend they report to the Treasury Committee annually on steps taken to simplify the tax system, covering both new and existing taxes. Such reports should set out performance against tax simplification metrics, compare the complexity of the UK tax system with other countries and set out what the Treasury has done to understand taxpayer needs for tax simplification.”

The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee Report, 2023

Tax simplification

As Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt has rolled out various tax simplifications, with its most high profile announcement so far on simplifying tax on alcohol – taxing drinks by strength and moving away from a duty system which had multiple rates and was supposedly more arbitrary. Atkins has said that she and the Chancellor have “put tax simplification at the heart of tax policy design and implementation” and that it remains a priority moving forward. 

“This will be achieved in many different ways – for example, we are cutting paperwork for traders and small businesses, we have built HMRC’s new app to enable taxpayers to settle their taxes quickly and easily, and our recent pension changes have removed tax barriers, helping senior doctors and others remain in work,” Atkins said.

“I want people and businesses to earn money, create jobs and grow our economy, rather than worry about tax. These measures and more will help us achieve this.”

Tax simplification measures also include:

  • increasing the pensions Annual Allowance from £40,000 to £60,000 per annum thereby reducing the number of taxpayers that need to report and pay pensions tax.
  • reforming customs import and exports processes, including reviewing customs declaration requirements to see where they can be streamlined and digitising HMRC’s authorisation processes for a range of customs facilitations. 
  • The introduction of the Self Assessment threshold for people taxed only through PAYE only will change from £100k to £150k beginning from the tax year 2023/24.
  • plans to deliver IT systems capable of allowing tax agents to payroll benefits in kind – benefits employees receive from their employer which aren’t part of their salary – to reduce administrative burdens on employers from April 2024. 

The Treasury is also working with businesses and representative bodies until April 2025 to review tax guidance and forms for small businesses to simplify interacting with the tax system to help them grow – including step-by-step interactive guidance for users.

Final thought

A move to simplify the tax system by following the advice of the Treasury Select Committee would be beneficial. It is important that the Government modernises the system to bring the UK in line with other nations where the tax system is more easy to navigate.

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