Accountancy body calls on Holyrood to simplify tax system

SCOTTISH businesses should not be placed at a competitive disadvantage when Holyrood gets its new tax powers, accountants have said.

Finance Secretary John Swinney will have a huge influence on tax decisions

The Institute of Chartered Accountants (Icas) called on Holyrood to use its new powers to simplify the tax system, align skills training to meet economic requirements and improve exports.

The next Scottish Government should also be more transparent about its spending and performance, with more independent scrutiny inside and outside parliament, Icas said.

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Holyrood conveners should be removed from “party political considerations” and elected on a “best-person-for-the-job basis”, it said.

Icas has published its suggestions for political parties contesting the Scottish election in May.

It stated: “Further devolution of taxes should not add to the complexity and burden of doing business in Scotland and must not put Scottish businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

“The next Scottish Government should do all it can, within its power, to simplify the tax system.

“The next Scottish Government must renew its focus on education to deliver the right skills and the right people to support the current and future needs of the economy.

“The next Scottish Government should work with the business community to develop a new plan to promote a step-change in exports.”

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It added: “The Scottish Government should do more to provide clearer and more transparent reporting of its spending; its performance against KPIs; and delivery against outcomes.

“There should be stronger challenge and scrutiny of the development of legislation. The next Scottish Government should consider a fourth stage in the legislative process post-amendments and should bring in post-legislative reviews.

“The Scottish Parliament’s committee conveners should be elected independently of party political considerations, based on the ‘best-person-for-the-job’ criteria.”

Conveners are currently appointed by parties and were largely handed to SNP MSPs in the last session.

Icas chief executive Anton Colella said: “We want to see a debate in the coming weeks which recognises that growing the economy by making Scotland a more attractive place to do business is the best way to improve our public finances and benefit wider society.

“Icas believes that a five-year roadmap for Scottish tax policy is vital for the confidence and stability that business seeks.

“Our message is clear, it’s in all our interests that Scotland is perceived as a great place to do business.”