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One minute with... George Bull

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How did you end up in tax?

Having graduated with a degree in geology in the mid-1970s, oil companies were recruiting production engineers, not exploration geologists. I took the open civil service examinations and ended up in the Inland Revenue.

What are you working on at the moment?

The HMRC proposals on changes to the taxation of LLP members and partnership/LLP service companies, along with the OTS review of partnership taxation, are all providing lots of opportunities to contribute to the debate and to ensure that clients are fully briefed.

What is the key lesson you’ve learnt from your career to date?

What you see is not all there is. Take time to listen, probe and understand before you begin to give advice.

Name a memorable moment of your career to date.

Coming second to David Gauke in the ‘tax personality of the year’ award a couple of years ago.

If you could make one change to UK tax law, what would it be?

To lift the tax burden on small businesses, perhaps by introducing a regime which taxes them and their proprietors in the same way, regardless of the legal structure adopted by the business.

What advice would you give Parliament more generally?

Politicians’ overriding desire to be re-elected means they operate on a shorter timescale than most corporate business plans and pretty well every individual’s personal financial planning. Constant meddling with the statute and regulations relating to the tax treatment of pension contributions introduces instability into the tax system and worry for taxpayers. MPs (of all people) would do well to remember that a 40% taxpayer is not a fat cat by any standards.

Parliamentarians repeatedly call on businesses to be truthful, transparent and accurate in reporting their tax liabilities. The same parliamentarians would do well to ensure that the way in which they address tax issues also bears these hallmarks. For example: no more deliberate muddling of illegal tax evasion and legal tax avoidance; no more heaping complexity upon complexity in the tax system, then expecting an under-resourced tax authority to administer it; and no more vilification of companies that have legitimately claimed tax allowances in exactly the way intended by statute.

Tax simplification – is enough being done?

We have to recognise that the UK, as one of the world’s most sophisticated economies, will never have a simple tax code. As simplification proceeds, we should bear in mind the old adage: ‘a country deserves a tax system that looks as though it was designed to be that way’.

Is there a recent development in tax that concerns you?

I am deeply concerned that the network of tax treaties seems to have created conduits for the proceeds of crime.

Tell us a secret about yourself.

I love high places. One of the great moments of my life to date has been ascending Mount Kilimanjaro with two friends and watching the sun rise from 19,000 feet. In September 2013, as part of a road trip with one of my sons, we spent the night under the stars in the mountains overlooking the Yosemite Valley.