Simplify tax system if you want to curb avoidance

George Osborne presented his pre-general election budget last week. Picture: PA

George Osborne presented his pre-general election budget last week. Picture: PA

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The Budget is one of the set-piece dramas of British political life. Yet every Chancellor of the Exchequer, every year, adds greater complexity to Britain’s tax system. This in turn muddies the grey areas of tax avoidance.

With more than 1,000 tax reliefs and exemptions forming a part of a tax code that is already 2,915 pages long, last week’s Budget added complex changes to personal tax for savers through the new Personal Savings Allowance.

Today, ICAS (the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland) launches a manifesto for the general election, guiding our politicians, and future government, on where we think business and our profession want to see action.

First and foremost, we believe the time has now come to draw a line in the sand and get serious about simplifying Britain’s tax laws.

Every political party is talking about tax avoidance, but one important element that lies in their hands is cutting the complexity of Britain’s tax code.

This will bring much-needed clarity and is essential in helping to reduce avoidance.

The next government must stop tinkering around the edges and start tackling the problem.

All governments talk about simplifying taxes – yet none of them have tackled the issue head on. The next government must put action ahead of words in the public interest.

The next few weeks will be rich in rhetoric in what many are calling the closest and most important general election in a generation and ICAS, as the world’s first professional body of accountants, wants to ensure that some key business issues are given due consideration.

These issues will hold the answer to growing the economy, wealth creation and fairness.

The Scottish, UK and global economies remain in a difficult place. The next five years will be crucial. Our contribution to the general election debate seeks to encourage our politicians to focus on the issues which we believe are key to the economy.

• Anton Colella is chief executive of ICAS. The ICAS election manifesto can be accessed at www.icas.org.uk/manifesto

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