The OTS was founded in 2010, taking over from the former Tax Law Rewrite project, which started in 1995 following a previous attempt to simplify the tax system.
12 years on, the Chancellor has decided that the OTS has run its course. He believes a different approach is needed; namely that HM Treasury and HMRC need to be mandated directly to focus on simplifying the tax code. This would embed such an approach into the two government institutions responsible for tax policy formulation and implementation.
This development should not be seen as a criticism of the OTS’s work, which was comprehensive, well-considered and in its 12 years of existence has produced many excellent recommendations. The difficulty has been with implementing them.
The OTS has little clout when it comes to putting the recommendations into practice. The result is that its excellent work has often been left to gather dust on the shelf, rather than forming the bedrock for a comprehensive tax simplification programme.
It remains to be seen how HM Treasury and HMRC will respond to this new mandate. Will they have any more success than the OTS in taming the mountain of complexity that is the UK tax system?
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