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By Ben Stupples
The U.K. Treasury may increase the amount of transparency it provides on tax policy, marking a boost to politicians pushing the British government to allow greater scrutiny of possible tax laws.
Her Majesty’s Treasury will seek “practical ways” to increase transparency in the process behind making tax policy, Treasury Financial Secretary Jane Ellison said in a March 30 letter— made public April 11—to Conservative politician Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the U.K. Treasury select committee.
Ellison’s correspondence with Tyrie came in response to a Jan. 23 letter from the chairman that called on the government to improve the transparency of its tax policy process. In the letter, to allow effective scrutiny of tax policy, Tyrie suggested improving the government’s online tax consultations tracker by including a note on the latest stage of each consultation and links to relevant documents.
“With regards to the tax consultations tracker, I am supportive of the direction of travel you have set out, in particular the scope for using such tools to further increase transparency in the policy making process,” Ellison wrote in the March 30 letter, made public by the U.K. Treasury select committee.
“If there are practical ways in which we can provide useful information that would better suit the needs of interested stakeholders, then the Government will seek to do so,” she added. “I have asked my officials to consider this” tax transparency proposal “in more detail, and to report back to me.”
While the Treasury considers measures for more tax transparency, the Treasury select committee has said it plans to increase the level of scrutiny it gives to the government’s planned tax measures.
In recent years, there have been “marked improvements” over the scrutiny of the government’s planned tax legislation, but “more needs to be done,” Tyrie said in a April 11 emailed statement.
In line with its strategy to increase the scrutiny it gives to tax policy, the Treasury select committee also announced April 11 four evidence sessions over the next four weeks—including one on April 26 with U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond on the 2017 Spring Budget—that focus on U.K. tax issues.
The day before the evidence session with the chancellor, the committee will meet Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officials to discuss the British government’s plans for a digital tax system.
On April 18, meanwhile, the select committee will take evidence from the Charted Institute of Taxation, the Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants on tax measures announced in the Spring Budget and the Finance Bill.
The following day, it will hear from the Resolution Foundation, a London-based think tank, and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed on the tax treatment imbalance between self-employed individuals and those in full-employment at companies across the U.K.
At last month’s Spring Budget, the chancellor sought to address the imbalance by increasing taxes for those who are self-employed and earning annual profits of by 8,060 pounds or more by 2 percent within the next three years. A political backlash saw him scrap the move, however, just a week later.
Known as National Insurance Contributions, or NICs, the lower employment taxes the self-employed pay compared to those in full-time work amounts to a subsidy of 1,240 pounds per self-employed person each year, or 5.1 billion pounds in total, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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