Historically, the government’s annual tax and spending plans were announced in a spring budget, with any of the changes taking almost immediate effect. More recently, the position has become rather more protracted, with spring announcements which may take effect years into the future and a further mini budget in the autumn. In 2021, the position was made even less transparent with a ‘Tax Day’ shortly after the budget to announce various plans and consultations, then on 3 November a further ‘Tax Administration and Maintenance (TAM) Day’ to report back on those consultations.
Unsurprisingly, the TAM Day announcements barely earned a mention in the press, since they were simultaneously underwhelming and technically complex. Some issues such as the penalty regime for ISA breaches, technical changes to Research and Development relief, and technical changes in the taxation of insurance contracts were dealt with by way of announcing ‘calls for evidence’ to take place over the next few months. A similar call for evidence, to cover the process of first registration for new landlord and the newly self-employed, will have slightly wider relevance.
The outcome of a previous consultation on Making Tax Digital for companies was also published, together with some outline views on how the new tax will be implemented in the future, but no concrete detail. A similar consultation on the VAT land exemption has resulted in confirmation that no changes to the existing system will be proposed, and a consultation on ‘timely payment’ (ie accelerating the pay date for the self-employed) appears to have received little public support – it was confirmed that although more timely payment remains an aim for the Treasury, no changes will take place in the current Parliament but steps will be taken to make existing budget plans more accessible and attractive.
Perhaps the most significant announcements centred on the reports made to government by the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) on reform of the Inheritance Tax (IHT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) systems. These reports included suggestions for changing many of the IHT exemptions and reliefs and removing a number of CGT anomalies. Some of the points were addressed in the March budget (including the extension of the CGT reporting of residential property transactions from 30 days to 60 days) but the more extensive OTS suggestions found little favour and, mostly, have been quietly dropped.
There are two alternative interpretations of these two TAM Day announcements. Some might see them as confirming that the capital tax system is a complex area which has evolved over the years into a rats’ nest of overlapping legislation, but that it produces a reasonable amount of revenue without creating too much administration or public opposition so, even if it is imperfect, it produces about the right result and, in the words of Colbert, plucks ‘the goose as to procure the largest quantity of feathers with the least possible amount of squealing.’ Others of a more paranoid disposition might feel that a decision to increase capital taxes has already been taken and that there is therefore no need to remove anomalies at this stage. What one can still probably conclude is that it remains unlikely that the current system is going to become more benevolent at any point in the near future.*The views expressed are the author's and not ICAEW's.