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Wanted: ideas to reform UK VAT

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 20 May 2024

Deadline extended

This article was updated on 5 June 2024 to reflect that the deadline for submitting applications has been extended from 30 June 2024 to 31 July 2024.

ICAEW is seeking research proposals by 31 July 2024 for simplifying the UK’s VAT system, with a £5,000 prize for the winning entrant.

A survey of members of the OECD’s Forum on Tax Administration found that the UK’s VAT system places a bigger burden on businesses compared to countries with a modern VAT system, such as Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. ICAEW believes that the complexity of UK VAT hinders effective policymaking, reduces the efficiency of tax collection and administration, and presents a barrier to HMRC’s digitalisation efforts. 

ICAEW is seeking innovative and practical ideas on how to reform the UK’s VAT system to meet the challenges of the coming decade. Entries should identify current challenges within the system and may explore the potential impact of a modernised VAT system on consumer behaviour, economic growth or fiscal stability. Entrants are encouraged to look at international examples of successful VAT reforms. How could those lessons be applied to the UK in the context of the evolving global landscape and the UK’s post-Brexit autonomy?  

Entries, which must be in 2,000 words or less, should be submitted by 31 July 2024 with a completed application form and the entrant’s CV. In addition to receiving a prize of £5,000, the winner will have the opportunity to present their research at a prestigious VAT conference to be held at Chartered Accountants’ Hall in London in 2025. 

Ed Saltmarsh, ICAEW Technical Manager, VAT and Customs, said: “The UK has one of the most complex systems of VAT in the developed world, hindering businesses and HMRC, and ultimately impacting taxpayers and consumers. The VAT registration threshold stifles small business growth, while the numerous exemptions and zero rates create uncertainty and can lead to absurd disputes, such as whether poppadoms are crisps, or Jaffa cakes are biscuits. We’re looking forward to seeing the VAT reform ideas that entrants come up with to tackle the challenges of the next decade and wish all entrants the best of luck.”   

Call for proposals: VAT reform

ICAEW is seeking research proposals focused on addressing specific challenges within the UK's VAT system.

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