Successive autumn statements and Budgets have added layer upon layer of complexity to the UK tax code - making it harder for many to comply and easier for a few to hide their non compliance. This year's autumn statement was welcome in that it was relatively neutral in this respect - it was more about stability than additional complexity. It even included a few minor simplifications around NIC and income tax thresholds and some simplification of employee shares schemes (as recommended in our report with Prelude and IoD) .
Autumn statement ducked the question of more fundamental tax reform and in response to recommendations from the government Office for Tax Simplification the Chancellor specifically said that the time is not right for more radical change.
But there is a growing clamour for more systemic reform. Increasingly people are making the case for simplifying the tax code (including my esteemed colleague and fellow Smiths fan @JONATHAN_RILE ). I have yet to see a sharper dissection of the need for radical tax reform than this piece by the comedian (and financial writer) Dominic Frisby (@DominicFrisby).
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The UK tax code is 10 million words and 21,000 pages. To put that number in some kind of perspective, the Complete Works of Shakespeare is about 880,000 words. So our tax code is about 12 times the length of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It’s about 12.5 times the number of words in the Bible (800,000 words). The UK tax code is nine times the length of all the Harry Potter books combined (1.1 million words). At 1.26 million words Marcel Proust’s ‘À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu’ has the Guinness World Record for the longest novel ever written. The UK tax code is eight times longer than that. Ten million words is more than many read in their entire lifetime.