It is not difficult to gauge the focus of our tax collectors. Since the Brexit vote, 23 June 2016, and the change in government leadership, HMRC have published a number of consultation documents, all issued during August 2016. Prior to the Brexit vote, there were a smattering of consultations, but none issued after 23 May 2016.
The focus of the August postings are telling:
· 5 deal with tightening sanctions against tax avoidance and evasion.
· 7 deal with “Making tax digital”
The balance deal with a number of miscellaneous items.
It would seem that the new cabinet, and Philip Hammond in particular, may be considering new powers to tackle the so-called “black economy” and businesses that take advantage of offshore tax shelters to avoid UK taxes.
However HMRC promotes the “Making tax digital” agenda, primarily by arguing that simplifying tax management for taxpayers will ease compliance etc., if small and medium sized businesses are required to file information on a more regular basis, this will provide HMRC with a raft of new data that they will no doubt use to identify tax avoiders.
The recent publicity regarding the use of tax havens by large corporations to shift profits into low tax jurisdictions highlights efforts by the international community to tackle this problem. In particular, the efforts of the OECD to establish country-by-country reporting standards.
Encouraging the estimated 10% of economic activity in the UK that is presently under-declared, and therefore under-taxed, into the light of compliance is another matter. And one that will no doubt be of concern to the Treasury under Philip Hammond’s leadership.
All of those interested in the impact of tax on UK business will be waiting to see how these consultations by HMRC convert into new legislation. Perhaps the autumn statement, due to be released 23 November, will clarify the thrust of tax assessment and collection post Brexit…