Market leading insight for tax experts
View online issue

‘Largest Finance Bill in UK history’ has 686 pages

printer Mail

The task of simplifying the UK’s tax system is becoming ‘near impossible’, a leading tax expert said after the publication of the latest Finance Bill, which has three volumes, 227 clauses and 38 schedules.

The measures in the Bill have been through the ‘proper’ tax policy making process in ‘the vast majority of cases’, HM Treasury said. More than three-quarters of the clauses were announced at Budget 2011, over 400 pages of legislation were published in December 2011 for consultation and the government has received over 450 comments, it added.

Explanatory notes (508 pages) are available on the Treasury website.

‘Publishing the largest Finance Bill in UK history at 686 pages, just a week after Osborne's Budget promised tax simplification, highlights the uphill task ahead,’ said Francesca Lagerberg, Head of Tax at Grant Thornton.


'The good news is that at least half of the Bill consists of measures that have been heavily consulted upon over a number of years'

Francesca Lagerberg, Grant Thornton

‘As the Office of Tax Simplification battles to streamline the already complex landscape, the government has issued an eye watering three volumes of legislative bloating as the primary rules grow and grow. Their task was tough before; it's now becoming near impossible,' she added.

‘The good news is that at least half of the Bill consists of measures that have been heavily consulted upon over a number of years, such as the controlled foreign company legislation and patent box rules, but the complexity and length of the legislation calls into question how we can ever turn our tax system into a cohesive, comprehensible form. A simple-sounding relief to help start-up businesses covers over 50 pages alone.’

The Bill is the ‘Finance (No. 4) Bill’ because it is the fourth Finance Bill of the current Parliamentary session. It will become Finance Act 2012 on Royal Assent, expected in July.

‘This year’s Finance Bill shows just how committed the coalition government is to rewarding work, simplifying the tax system and tackling the nation’s debts,’ said David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

‘The measures in this Bill will create a tax system which supports a strong economy and promotes a fair society. In other words, a tax system that works for Britain.’

The Institute of Directors press office tweeted that the Bill, at a ‘whopping 670 pages’, must be ‘the plan to make tax simpler’. The UK ‘easily keeps’ the crown for the longest tax legislation, Deloitte said on Twitter.

But the CBI chose, in its immediate response to the Bill, to focus on the controlled foreign companies (CFCs) reform (at clause 180 and schedule 20).

Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Adviser, said: ‘These proposed CFCs rules strike a fair balance between protecting UK-generated tax revenue and building a competitive tax system for the next 20 years.

‘This new structure provides enhanced protection for our tax base, while recognising that UK companies operate internationally. We need to be able compete in a fiercely competitive global marketplace to attract inward investment to this country,’ he said.

Earlier this week Robert Peston, Business Editor at BBC News, claimed that the CFCs reform and other tax measures suggested a ‘reverse takeover’ of government by big business and Treasury officials.