Archive for the ‘Reference’ Category


Pensions: WASPI women, check your tax account

March 11, 2017

Look, I’m one of the women who lost out when “pension age equalisation” turned out to mean levelling women’s retirement age upwards instead of men’s downwards, so I’m a bit sensitive about pensions, right?  And I’m a tax maven, so when the personal tax account was introduced I signed up (at here) and found I could also check my NI record.  So, out of curiosity, I did, although I was pretty sure that, after working more than 40 years, I had enough years’ NI contributions to qualify for the full flat rate state pension that will be in place by the time I collect mine.

This was widely reported to be a flat rate of £155 a week and I confidently expected that to appear on my personal tax account.

It doesn’t.

It’s explained, fairly clearly, here, or at more length here, that it’s not just the number of years you’ve been paying NI contributions that count but also whether or not you’ve been contracted out.  Put simply, I was “contracted out” for much of my career so my starting amount is less than the flat rate.  If I want to get the full rate when I retire I have to pay contributions for a few more years.  And, no, that’s not unfair – I’m already benefiting from those contracted out contributions as part of my occupational pension.  But it IS surprising.  Most of us get our news from the media, and I had heard “flat rate”, “35 years” and assumed I was OK.

So now occasionally I tweet that people in my position would be well advised to check their own personal tax account to see how many years’ NI contributions are recorded and what their state pension is likely to be.  No more surprises!

I thought I would make this a blog post, though, because it’s a bit too much to explain in 140 characters or fewer, and I also wanted to put in the links.  But also because every time the subject comes up there are a few pensions experts who turn up and tell me either that I’m wrong, I’m stupid, or I’m whining.  This does not amuse me.  Please stop it.  If a reasonably well educated reasonably intelligent retired tax inspector can be confused by the pension rules, it’s a fair bet that there are other people in a similar position.  I’m not saying the contracted out rule is unfair, I’m just saying it’s worth knowing it exists.  So if I tweet this at you in future, please accept it in the spirit in which it’s intended: happy to help (if it’s helpful) and please stop telling me I’m a whining crybaby if it’s not.  Sheesh!  Pensions experts, eh?  Tax mavens are MUCH nicer!


Bah Humbug

December 30, 2013

Am I just hungover or is there something wrong with the HMRC TIIN archive?  If you go to the HMRC website and look at the library page here: there’s a chronological list of TIINs but it stops at December 2012 and says

All recently issued TIINs can be accessed from the chronological list below, and earlier publications are available on the National Archives (Opens new window).

But if you click on the National Archives link it takes you here:  … which is just the archived version of the page you’re looking at in the first place and doesn’t get you to the older TIINs at all.

Is it me?  I think I’ll come back to this when my head’s stopped throbbing quite so much.  Sigh.



July 30, 2013

Dear Hive Mind

Is there anyone who would find a podcast of this blog at all useful/interesting please?

Or, to put it another way, is there anyone who might read this blog if they had the time but thinks they would find it easier to listen to a podcast of it on the train?

(the “just because I have the technology doesn’t necessarily mean it’s such a good idea to use it” post!)


Tax simplification and better regulation

December 11, 2012

Does the use of “better regulation” tools like consultation and impact assessment promote a simpler tax system? (And, yes, I know it all depends what you mean by “simpler”, thanks)

Well, the coalition has four objectives for the tax system – they’re written into the Coalition Programme for Government, no less.  They  say (at item 29, page 30)

The Government believes that the tax system needs to be reformed to make it more competitive, simpler, greener and fairer

So I did a “quick and dirty” analysis of OLD (the “overview of legislation in draft”) published today on the Treasury site – yes, I know it’s on HMRC’s too, but a helpful twitter correspondent pointed out that HMT had it earlier. (Oh, and while I’m here: hint to the Treasury.  When you compile the TIINs into one document, you could add numbers instead of bullet points, so that we didn’t have to manually count them to realise there are tax information and impact notes for eighty-four measures in it.  And a decent editor could have cut out quite a few extraneous blank pages.  And added page numbers that were actual consecutive numbers instead of “A267”.  Ahem.  Yes, well.)

I had a quick look at the “policy objective” field for each of the 84 TIINs and tabulated which ones say they are aimed towards making the tax system

  • more competitive
  • simpler
  • greener
  • fairer

and the results are:

 More Competitive   2
 Simpler  10
 Greener    1
 Fairer  20
 Other  53
and, yes, I’m well aware that this adds up to 86 rather than 84, but there were two measures which plainly said that their policy objectives were to be fairer AND more competitive, and simpler AND fairer.
Like I say, it’s only a “quick and dirty” analysis and if you go through and do it for yourself you might come up with a slightly different answer, depending on how much inference you’re willing to put in.  I resisted inferring policy objectives this time around and stuck to straightforward statements.
Why does this matter?
Well there are some obvious questions – the “greenest government ever” ™ can only manage to come up with ONE tax change aimed at being green?  (It’s page A115 by the way: capital allowances for business cars, and it’s fair to say that it’s one where I actually did have to infer that the “environmental objective of reducing overall CO2 emissions” was a green objective.  It makes a difference of a fair few millions in tax and thousands in administrative burden, but produces an unquantified “indirect impact” of reduced carbon emissions.)
A remarkable number of measures are in the “other” category because the policy makers don’t seem to have answered the basic question of “why are we doing this?” which, yes, I recall from being involved in designing the TIIN process, is actually one of the considerations they’re supposedly taking into account.
Look at page A267, for example. Why are we cancelling the fuel duty increases?  Because “This measure will ease the burden on motorists and businesses”.  OK then.  That isn’t one of the objectives the coalition set itself, but you could, I suppose, say it’s a legitimate policy objective (even if it is startlingly anti-green in context!)
But what about this, from page A171:
This measure will encourage UK bingo promoters to grow their business and expand their customer base by amending bingo duty legislation to modify the restrictions and allow UK bingo promoters to link with overseas operators to offer ‘combined’ games of bingo
Are you seriously telling me that encouraging UK bingo promoters to “grow their business” is a legitimate objective of tax policy?  Or, if it is, is it not part of the overall narrative of making the UK a more “competitive” tax system?
But look at page A75 and tell me where there is an actual policy objective and what it might be:

Policy objective

The measure ensures that the switching of assets in a trust settled by a non-UK domiciled individual to investments in OEICs and AUTs is exempt from IHT charges. It also ensures that no tax will have arisen on those trusts which held OEICs or AUTs when the changes introduced in 2003 came into force.

I’ll have a closer look over the next few days at the ten measures aimed at making the system “simpler” – again, watch this space.



Don’t ask me?

November 23, 2012

I had a very kind note from a reader which said:

Hi Wendy

I suspect that the Government is getting fed up with your repeated responses to consultations – they are not used to people actually responding. The reason I suspect this is that they appear to have changed the rules on time allowed for responses, to give you much less time to get your thoughts together.

Much as I would like to think that I had some power over the government’s actions, I don’t think it’s just me!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Cabinet Office has already quietly posted some revised consultation guidelines onto its website.

And on 14th November BIS responded to a Freedom of Information Act request I made by saying amongst other things that

You asked for agendas and minutes from the last four meetings of the consultation co-ordinators. Our records indicate that the consultation co-ordinators have not met for over 18 months, and prior to that we have no agendas or minutes held on file. We believe some Departmental Better Regulation Units might still run their own consultation discussions, but the Better Regulation Executive has not been advised of any such meetings.

I deduce from those two pieces of information that there hasn’t been a Whitehall wide discussion that has led to the restriction on consultation deadlines but that someone else, someone central, is driving this change.

My guess would be that the person in the driving seat is Oliver Letwin, if only because he is the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office in charge of Getting Things Done (or, at least, ensuring that the government carries out its programme)

And, interestingly, he is appearing before the Merits Committee, or, as they are now called, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee on 11 December to give evidence on exactly this point, the new approach to consultation.

There was a Guardian Public Leaders Network discussion of this issue last week which is worth a read (if only because it was the first time I’d come across the charmingly-named outfit “Guerilla Policy” – see here for their thought-provoking piece on the class element in consultation) and there is a call to arms from the institute of Employment Rights.

The message from all of these is: you have another week.  If you have thoughts (and, more particularly, evidence!) about how consultations work and whether the twelve week expectation is a Good Thing or not, well, you should put your evidence in to the Lords to inform their discussions with the Minister.

Yes, I shall be responding.  But the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee takes ownership of submissions and may publish them in due course:

Submissions become the property of the Committee which will decide whether to accept them as evidence. Evidence may be published by the Committee at any stage. It will normally appear on the Committee’s website and will be deposited in the Parliamentary Archives. Once you have received acknowledgement that your submission has been accepted as evidence, you may publicise or publish it yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. If you publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.

so I think it only polite to wait and see what response I get.  But please note that this is a call for evidence and the Committee specifically asks for signal boost:

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy direct.

In other words: tell your friends!


Catching up

October 5, 2012

Sorry I’ve been quiet: first couple of weeks of my PhD studies and I’ve been running around trying to get my act together.  However let’s catch up on what’s going on in the wonderful world of tax consultations.  And I see we have a number of consultations closing today, as well as a nice collection to keep us busy over the next few weeks.

And, given the government’s inability to produce a list of its consultations in order of the date they close (why?  Why?  How hard could it be??) I thought I would publish here for your delight and delectation the ones I’ve found that are coming up.

5  Oct  Use of rebated fuel for gritting activities in rural areas
5  Oct  Inheritance tax: simplifying charges on trusts
5  Oct  Delivering a cap on income tax relief: a technical consultation –
9  Oct  Amending the Stamp Duty Land Tax Transfer of Rights Rules
9  Oct  Stamp duty land tax: sub sales
10 Oct  Setting the strategy for UK payments
12 Oct  Decommissioning Relief Deeds: Increasing tax certainty for oil and gas investment in the UK Continental Shelf
15 Oct  Foreign currency assets and chargeable gains
15 Oct  Lifting the lid on Tax Avoidance Schemes 
15 Oct  Foreign currency assets and chargeable gains
17 Oct  AT treatment of small cable-based transport
22 Oct  The attribution of gains to members of closely controlled non-resident companies
5 Nov  Life insurance policies: time apportionment reductions
8 Nov  Consultation on vulnerable beneficiary trusts
23 Nov  Information powers (Informal consultation)
23 Nov  Implementing the UK-US FATCA Agreement
5 Dec  VAT: exemption for education providers

If it’s Tuesday, it must be September

September 4, 2012
I can see it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks as there’s a cluster of consultation deadlines coming up.  Since the Treasury persist in publishing their tax tracker in date order of publication rather than what would actually be useful, order of deadline, sigh, here’s a handy list of the ones coming up in September.  Note particularly the 9 September deadline given in the consultation document for the residence consultation differs from the date given on the tracker.  The ninth is a Sunday, the 13th the following Wednesday – take your pick.

If you’re a #citizenstakeholder and only have time to look at one, make it the first, on Real Time Information – it’s a doozy!



Trackless wastes

August 1, 2012

Yes, I know I wrote on Monday about the Tax Tracker and yes, I know they published another iteration of the tracker ON Monday, sigh.

Turns out I missed one, anyway – there’s a formal consultation due “in the summer” on “Life insurance policies: time apportionment reductions”.

I had another look at the list of consultation closing dates over the summer and the only alteration I could find was the addition of:

Closes 22 October: The attribution of gains to members of closely controlled non-resident companies

I note in passing that there’s a remarkable number of “informal” and/or “technical” consultations, which I take to be officialese for “yes, I know we said we’d consult on tax changes, but we don’t want your opinions, peasants; we just want to talk to knowledgeable tax specialists who will Understand.”

You think I’m exaggerating?

I obtained some internal HMRC correspondence under an FoI request which contained amongst other things the interesting news that my response to the consultation on the proposals to add a top up to Gift Aid “is of rather poor quality”.  While the ex-Civil Servant in me finds this extremely funny, the Angry Citizen in me finds this… less so.

Because what are we consulting for, please?  I mean, if all that is wanted is to crowd-source the bread and butter work of policy making – to save the government money by getting rid of civil servants so that instead the government can rely on the tax and legal professions and interested industry bodies to do the tedious work of updating and checking legislation for them, well then, yes: my response on the Gift Aid consultation was, indeed of “rather poor quality”.

Because I didn’t do that.  I didn’t try to do the job of the policy team for them and work out any kinks in their proposals.  Because, you know, I used to do that kind of thing for a living and I’d be a scab if I now started doing it for free!

What I did try to do, was to give my response as a citizen to a proposal which will affect me, as a citizen, a taxpayer and as a person who gives to charity.  The fact that I thought it was a misconceived proposal should have been a useful datum.  I’m not saying it should in any way be decisive; but it should be part of the picture.

And any other citizen who chooses to comment on the workings of government and the development of policy ought also to be able to feel that their contribution is taken on board as part of the picture.  It’s government of the people, by the people, for the people; not GCSE civics.


Diary time

July 30, 2012

No, not a post advocating the reintroduction of the Milk Marketing Board – that would be dairy time (although, incidentally, I do wonder why the farmers don’t join together and form local cooperatives and sell their own milk…)

No, no – today is just a quick run round the latest tax tracker which was published last Friday.  And, oh look, remember those consultations “to be published” in May, and then June, and then July?  Well we’re now down to a mere seven which are to be published “in the summer” (or even “in the autumn”), and only three of those are “formal”, ie will come with a consultation document open to all of us, and (one hopes) a TIIN showing the costs and benefits.

They are:

  • Personal Independence Payments: trusts for vulnerable people
  • VAT: exemption for education providers, and
  • Integrating the operation of income tax and National Insurance contributions

Because none of those sounds at all controversial or difficult, right???

Also, I have written before about the frustrations of trying to work with the Direct Gov consultation website and its multiple links to departmental pages, and the frustration of finding the Treasury consultation page gives an unsortable PDF rather than something that’s usable – although there’s a fuller list on the web page, in order of publication.  Well, here, for your diary, is a list of the tax consultations which are open over the summer in what I hope is a more useful format, ie in the order in which the consultation closes!!!  Because, complaining apart, the slow-motion car-crash that was the last budget does at least have the saving grace of being subject to consultation before it gets enshrined in law.  So don’t miss the consultation you’re interested in because you were on holiday when the consultation closed!

16 Aug Consultation into the Taxation of Controlling Persons (HMRC led)
16 Aug Withdrawing a notice to file a self-assessment form (HMRC led)
20 Aug Taxations of unauthorised unit trusts (HMRC led)
23 Aug Ensuring fair taxation for residential property transactions
30 Aug Consultation on a disincorporation relief
6 Sep Securing compliance with Real Time Informaton (RTI) (HMRC led)
6 Sep Life insurance: Qualifying Policies (HMRC led)
10 Sep Corporation tax reliefs for the creative sector
13 Sep Statutory residence test/ ordinary residence/ statement of practice 1/09 Disclosure of tax avoidance
14 Sep General anti-abuse rule (GAAR) consultation (HMRC led)
18 Sep Enterprise Management Incentives: extending access for academic employees (HMRC led)
18 Sep Office of Tax Simplification’s report on tax advantaged employee share schemes (HMRC led)
1 Oct Decommissioning Relief Deeds: Increasing tax certainty for oil and gas investment in the UK Continental Shelf
5 Oct Use of rebated fuel for gritting activities in rural areas (HMRC led)
5 Oct Delivering a cap on income tax relief: a technical consultation
5 Oct Inheritance tax: simplifying charges on trusts (HMRC led)
9 Oct Stamp duty land tax: sub sales (HMRC led)
15 Oct Foreign currency assets and chargeable gains (HMRC led)
15 Oct Lifting the lid on Tax Avoidance Schemes (HMRC led)
17 Oct VAT treatment of small cable-based transport (HMRC led)

Beware of the leopard: TIIN instructions

May 18, 2012

I am publishing at the end of this post (click on “read the rest of this entry”) the instructions on how to prepare a TIIN, a tax information and impact note.  They were sent to me by HMRC on 16th May 2012 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.  The file is reproduced by a simple cut and paste from the RTF file supplied: I haven’t cleaned up the formatting or made any changes from what was sent to me.

Before you click to look, think about this.

The guidance on how to complete a regulatory Impact Assessment, the equivalent document for non-tax changes, is clear and publicly available.  This enables independent scrutiny via the Regulatory Policy Committee.

The RPC assesses impact assessments against well established guidance set out by the BRE IA Guidance, IA Toolkit, One-in, One-out Methodology, and HM Treasury’s Green Book.

Isn’t it now time that the government also made public the standard it sets itself when considering the evidence for making tax changes?  This guidance should be on the HMRC website and kept updated, so that everyone can see the contents – not hidden in the filing cabinet in the locked office behind the “beware of the leopard” sign.  Or on a retired tax inspector’s blog, for that matter!

Read the rest of this entry ?