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The UK tax system: from trust to transparency

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How far does information technology implement the will of Parliament, and to what extent does it displace it? In the ‘good old days’, the tax system was a system of decentralised administration carried on by generalist authorities, while the courts sought to maintain a fair balance between taxpayer and Revenue interests. The introduction of self-assessment was driven by the need and the policy to computerise the tax system, while the administration of taxes became centralised on a largely mechanised and computerised basis. But computer programs are binary; they cannot produce value judgments. The danger is that long-term institutional values may be immolated in the short-sighted causes of greater efficiency and squeezing out tax avoidance.

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