‘Quiet Spring Statement is a good thing’

The quiet Spring Statement that was both foreseen by contracting experts and lambasted by a few others after it was unveiled on Wednesday is actually to be welcomed, a tax group says.

Not only does a low-key statement stick to what chancellor Philip Hammond promised, but it also holds back the greatest cause of complexity in the tax system – “change,” says the CIOT.

“Having two major fiscal events a year encouraged government to keep fiddling about with the system,” CIOT says, citing the pre-2018 calendar of a Budget and an Autumn Statement.

Frequently, and due to dual fiscal events every 12 months, the government was “not allowing enough time to consult on planned changes,” according to the CIOT’s John Cullinane.

He says that, in the past, “too many consultations have begun when key decisions have already been made” -- a charge levelled at IR35 policy-making, currently and in the past.

“Nobody thinks the tax system is perfect, or that it doesn’t need reform. But we need change to be considered, carefully consulted on, and enacted with good warning”,  Mr Cullinane said.

“With so much uncertainty being generated around Brexit, the government at least seem to be doing what they can not to add to it in the tax area.”

In time, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) hopes that limiting tax changes to one unveiling (in the autumn) will let tax officials step “off the treadmill of constant change”.

It should also reduce “the strain” on the government’s tax policy resources and “free up time for better consultation and scrutiny” of proposals its puts forward.

Or, it could all be just wishful thinking if Spring Statement 2019 was a one-off due to Brexit.

“The chancellor has stuck to his ‘single fiscal event’ promise making the SS a ‘non-event’ in tax terms,” reflected the institute’s blogger George Crozier. “Let’s hope this impressive self-control is not just a temporary, Brexit-induced phenomenon.”

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