Tax is really complex, but where is the law?

The Scottish budget has heaped more complexity on an already complex income tax system. There are to be two new rates for taxpayers on low and middle incomes.

Already, a UK taxpayer may have income that is charged at default rates, savings rates and Scottish rates. These rates include:

the default basic rate, the default higher rate, the default additional rate, the savings basic rate, the savings higher rate, the savings additional rate, the starting rate for savings, the savings nil rate, the dividend nil rate, the dividend ordinary rate, the dividend upper rate, and the dividend additional rate …

That list is drawn from a quick look at sections 6 to 16 of the Income Tax Act 2007, as revised, published in Tolley’s Yellow Tax Handbook. (Other handbooks are available.) Continue reading

UK government defends finance bill process amid concerns over scrutiny

Members of Parliament will have time to fully scrutinise the UK finance bill’s measures, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride insisted after opposition MPs claimed that the government is seeking to avoid “proper scrutiny and transparency.”

Stride rejected opposition claims that the government is restricting the scope for amendments as MPs debated the bill at its second reading on December 11. Scottish National Party MP Kirsty Blackman asked why the government did not present an “amendment of the law” resolution for debate after the autumn budget on November 22.

My news story for Tax Analysts, December 14 (paywall)

How should we tax multinationals?

My Tax Analysts news story on the debate hosted by the Women in Tax network on November 20 is now free to view.

Governments considering how multinationals should be taxed must address the erosion of public trust in tax administrations, while businesses continue to stress the importance of certainty in tax matters, panellists told a conference hosted by the Women in Tax network at Pinsent Masons’s London office.

Governments must address need to restore public trust in tax, adviser says

Governments considering how multinationals should be taxed must address the erosion of public trust in tax administrations, while businesses continue to stress the importance of certainty in tax matters, panellists told a conference hosted by the Women in Tax network at Pinsent Masons’s London office November 20. Alexandra Readhead, an international tax and extractive industries consultant, said multinationals should be taxed “in a way that creates resources for public trust.”

Lizzie Arnold, a senior policy adviser at HM Treasury, outlined the UK government’s perspective on the taxation of multinationals. She described three aims, the first of which is to create a competitive corporate tax system … Giorgia Maffini, senior tax economist at the OECD, noted that residence and source are the two principles that define how multinationals are taxed. “We are trying to understand whether it’s time to think of another principle,” she said … Corporations are looking for “a bedrock of certainty” to provide stability, said Anna Elphick, vice president of tax for Asia and Africa at Unilever. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, November 22 (paywall)

Tax specialists advocate cautious response to Paradise Papers

More could be done to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, but it is important not to tar all offshore activity with the same brush in the wake of the Paradise Papers, UK tax professionals suggested. One expert said simplification could reduce opportunities for those who seek to abuse the system.

As UK lawmakers and campaigners stepped up demands for greater transparency, Jonathan Riley, head of tax at Grant Thornton UK LLP, told Tax Analysts that the controversy “may represent the last chance for the tax profession to show it takes evidence of artificial tax avoidance seriously and will not promote it.” Riley noted that advisers are subject to many disclosure and compliance rules but tax is “still largely self-regulated.” It will be interesting to see whether the tax and accountancy bodies’ code on Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation, updated with effect from March, is invoked in any cases featured in the Paradise Papers, he said. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, November 17 ($)

UK campaign group urges greater international cooperation on corporate taxes

While the UK government continued to defend reductions in the corporate tax rate, a new campaign group called on ministers to champion the role of tax in building a civilised and fair society and to stop trying to compete for investment through “tax cuts and giveaways.”

Tax Justice UK aims to fill a “void in the debate around tax” in the UK. The November 22 budget should include steps toward “taxing the new economy” and resourcing and refocusing HM Revenue & Customs, it said in an October 25 release. The group was launched in May as a sister organisation to the Tax Justice Network but is independent of it, according to its website. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, October 26 (paywall)

FTSE 100 company defends tax policy and backs multilateral push for public country-by-country reporting

A FTSE 100 company has strongly denied engaging in tax avoidance, and has offered cautious support for steps toward the multilateral introduction of mandatory public country-by-country reporting of multinationals’ profits and taxes.

Responding to a report by Oxfam International, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (RB), a manufacturer of health, hygiene, and home products, said in a July 12 statement that it pays the correct amount of tax in each country where it does business: “As Oxfam recognises, RB’s tax policy is totally legal and the norm for the majority of global businesses. We comply with all our legal obligations and seek to do what is right by all the company’s stakeholders.” Continue reading