Top of the Tax

We recently had the last Budget of the Coalition Government and the Parliamentary term has drawn to a close. The five year term has flashed by and it all began with the Emergency Budget back in June 2010.

Here are my top five “tax” highlights in reverse order (like they used to do on various music chart shows on TV):

Number 5 – Corporation Tax Regime

The decrease in the main rate of corporation tax over the last five years to 20% (From 1 April 2015) was certainly welcomed in the business world. The UK headline corporation tax rate is the joint lowest in the G20. Great news you may think.

However, a study carried out by the boffins at Oxford University did point out this is not the full story if we take into account our capital allowances regime which is not as favourable as other’s around the world.

To be fair, there have been a number of corporation tax changes as part of the ‘road map’ introduced and initiated by the previous Labour administration as well as the outgoing Coalition Government which has made our corporation tax regime much more favourable.

Number 4 – General Anti Abuse Rule (GAAR)

This was much trumpeted policy announced in the first year of the Coalition Government.

I was not impressed with the GAAR proposals and to be honest, I do not know many people who were. There are a number of countries that have a GAAR but the number of cases bought to their domestic courts can be counted on one hand. Unfortunately the GAAR was written in such a way that it leaves me questioning the effectiveness of the rules. Instead of trying to provide certainty, it provides more pages to the tax legislation.

If the GAAR is so great, why is there still a need for so many specific targeted anti avoidance rules?

Number 3 – The Pasty Tax

This was one of the tax proposals announced as part of the so called “omni shambles” Budget back in 2012. This was actually a proposal to levy VAT on all hot takeaway food and was going to affect foods such as pasties and sausage rolls which could be purchased hot but had no VAT charge.

What was surprising was the (disproportionate) public and media attention it received.

There have been a number of tax measures which have been much more important and contentious but they seem to have gone largely unnoticed in the general media.

This was actually supposed to be a VAT simplification measure.  In the grand scheme of things from the public finance perspective, it was never going to be a big money spinner! A change of heart followed (or sort of).

Number 2 – Margaret Hodge MP and the Public Accounts Committee (“PAC”)

Who could forget the grilling the committee gave the big wigs from Google, Starbucks and Amazon a few years ago.

Manin the tax field have questioned the effectiveness of the committee to really understand and get to grips of the underlying issues.

However, the PAC has encouraged the debate about tax which has to be a positive. If we can all have a sensible debate about our tax system and how we can make it better this will lead to a better outcome for all concerned.

Number 1 – “The carrier bag tax”

There were many contenders for the number one slot including numerous celebrities involved in tax avoidance schemes, George Osborne, certain financial institutions and some very well known multinational businesses. I decided to bowl a “doosra” to bamboozle you.

This is a new levy (rather than a tax in strict terms) which is being introduced this October in England, which has gone largely unnoticed by the general public. In a few months time, large retailers (not just the usual large supermarkets) will have to charge a minimum of 5p for single use plastic carrier bags. This could go unnoticed or cause public annoyance. We await the public decision. It is usually the smallest things that cause the largest annoyance.

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