HMRC is trialling the use of ‘visualisation maps’ to help people make sense of the UK’s labyrinthine tax laws and regulations.
HMRC has described the initiative as a tax law version of the science fiction series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Currently British tax law runs to 6,102 pages, four times the length of the complete works of Shakespeare.
The maps are mainly aimed at government officials, and according to HMRC the trial is still in its infancy so they are unable to provide examples.
However, an HMRC spokesperson explained that the visualisation maps graphically display legislation, policy and tax processes. The aim is to make it easier for government civil servants to understand their department’s work.
Officials hope that by seeing legislation clearly visualised, government workers will be able to spot where efforts are duplicated, and where there are inconsistencies in the law.
“Government authorities in the Netherlands have been using these visualisation maps across a range of policy areas to test for areas where there is duplication or inconsistency”, said an HRMC spokesperson. “We are exploring whether the same approach could help HMRC improve the administration of the UK’s tax regulations.”
The maps are the being trialled as part of the government’s ‘Good Law’ initiative, which aims to make legislation more coherent and accessible. “These tax visualisations tie into three tenets of the Good Law initiative, namely that laws must be clear, coherent and accessible”, said HMRC.
The main aim of the ‘Good Law’ initiative, launched in 2013, is to encourage ministers and officials to write laws in plain English.
The visualisation maps trial is being led by Nick Birks, head of HMRC’s customer insight and knowledge team. In a blog post written late last year, Birks explained, “HMRC administers a galaxy of tax law built up over decades in response to different priorities, but that’s where the connection ends. Although we have experts in every area of legislation, there’s no complete guide available to them showing what all these are.”