Business rates agency must clear appeals urgently, MPs say

The UK government must explore alternatives to business rates, and the Valuation Office Agency should resolve outstanding appeals urgently because long delays are unacceptable, the House of Commons Treasury Committee said …

The “Check Challenge Appeal” process, introduced in 2017 to reduce the number of speculative appeals, requires ratepayers contesting a valuation to provide detailed evidence. But some business groups had told the committee of long response times experienced under the new system. The committee was told that “in extreme cases, a business could ‘potentially wait 950 days before it can lodge an appeal against its rateable value.’” Statutory limits for checks and challenges should be reduced to “a more reasonable time frame, preferably a maximum of six months each,” it said.

My news story for Tax Notes ($), October 31: U.K. Business Rates Agency Must Clear Appeals Urgently, MPs Say

MPs urge former Treasury minister to investigate loan charge

Former Treasury Minister Mel Stride must not be allowed to “mark his own homework” following his election as chair of the House of Commons Treasury Committee, a committee member warned.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the loan charge called on Stride to investigate the conduct of HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs in relation to the charge, and to investigate “why it was deemed acceptable to retrospectively change the law and sweep away statutory protections.”

Stride was the financial secretary to the Treasury from June 2017 to May 2019, and leader of the House of Commons until Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019. Amyas Morse, the former head of the National Audit Office, is leading a review of the charge and is expected to report to Treasury by mid-November. Tax professionals giving evidence to the review said the loan charge controversy has damaged the integrity of the tax system.

My news story for Tax Notes, October 25, now free to view: MPs Urge Former Treasury Minister to Investigate Loan Charge

Only tax reform will solve doctors’ pension crisis, union says

Proposed changes to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service pension scheme are a “sticking plaster solution” that will not solve a crisis that is “forcing senior doctors to turn down work,” a doctors’ union warned.

Only fundamental tax reform will solve the problem outlined by the Department of Health and Social Care in a September 11 consultation, the British Medical Association said. HM Treasury said in August that it would review “how the tapered annual allowance supports the delivery of public services such as the NHS.”

The BMA submission seems unlikely to garner much attention from Treasury while the Brexit impasse remains unresolved …

My news story for Tax Notes ($), October 24: Only Tax Reform Will Solve Doctors’ Pension Crisis, Union Says

Johnson Pauses Brexit Bill as MPs Reject Timetable

My news story for Tax Notes ($), October 22: Johnson Pauses Brexit Bill as MPs Reject Timetable

HMRC to revoke Brexit regulations after complaint

HM Revenue & Customs will withdraw regulations giving HM Treasury officials the power to change customs, VAT, or excise law by public notice, after a legal charity threatened to seek a judicial review.

The Cross-Border Trade (Public Notices) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 were stated to be made in the exercise of powers conferred by section 51 of the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Act 2018. They were set to come into force on exit day — when the United Kingdom leaves the EU — and have effect for six months. Any public notice would have effect for no more than 60 days.

HMRC decided to revoke the regulations following a challenge from the Public Law Project, a registered charity …

My news story for Tax Notes ($), October 18

Tax commitments rewritten in Brexit deal

Changes in the presentation of “level playing field” commitments in relation to the future EU-UK relationship will make little difference in tax terms, a London-based corporate tax practitioner said.

Detailed commitments on tax, the environment, labour, state aid and competition have been removed from the legally binding withdrawal agreement that was rejected by MPs, and replaced by “short references” in the nonbinding political declaration, BBC economics editor Faisal Islam noted on Twitter on October 18.

The United Kingdom has been “ahead of the EU in implementing global anti-tax evasion and tax avoidance measures,” Clifford Chance LLP partner Dan Neidle tweeted on October 17. The intention is that specific commitments will be included in a future free trade agreement, Neidle told Tax Notes, adding that there is no guarantee of that happening. “This looks like a dramatic change — but in reality these commitments had very little real-world effect,” he said. Read more:

My news story for Tax Notes ($) October 18

Inheritance tax – beyond reform?

Inheritance tax raises strong emotions, not least because “it affects people only occasionally, in sometimes significant and surprising ways, and at a sensitive time”.

That observation, made by the Office of Tax Simplification, will strike a chord with many executors and inheritance tax practitioners. My recent article for Financial Accountant magazine is free to view here.