Call this simplicity?
Let us return to the subject of simplification, so dear to all our hearts. HMRC has now produced a handy list to explain when its new powers come into effect (PDF).
Now I shall ask you to use your imagination. Let’s pretend you are not a highly tuned expert who unhesitatingly knows his or her way around the tax system, but an ordinary punter who knows your way around the internet and wants to check something that a mouthpiece in a call centre has told you. How easy is that?
Due to come into effect from this 1 April are a number of powers contained in the Finance Acts for 2008 and 2009, and further down the road we see the powers included in the various 2010 Finance Acts.
Effect is generally given by Statutory Instrument. For example, the information and inspection powers contained in Schedule 36 of FA 2008 came into force from 1 April 2009, with the date fixed by SI 2009/404.
Let us take an example:
S.119(1) FA 2008 reads In section 9ZB(1) of TMA 1970 (correction of personal or trustee return by HMRC) –
(a) after “correct” insert
(b) insert at the end
(b) anything else in the return that the officer has reason to believe is incorrect in the light of information available to the officer.”
You then go to the official government site for the TMA and find this : This is the original version (as it was originally enacted). This item of legislation is currently only available in its original format. Which of course does not include S.9ZB at all.
A more contemporary version can be found here on the General Commissioners website, as it happens.
9ZB(1) An officer of the Board may amend a return under section 8 or 8A of this Act so as to correct obvious errors or omissions in the return (whether errors of principle, arithmetical mistakes
9ZB(2) A correction under this section is made by notice to the person whose return it is.
9ZB(3) No such correction may be made more than nine months after–
(a) the day on which the return was delivered, or
(b) if the correction is required in consequence of an amendment of the return under section 9ZA of this Act, the day on which that amendment was made.
9ZB(4) A correction under this section is of no effect if the person whose return it is gives notice rejecting the correction.
9ZB(5) Notice of rejection under subsection (4) above must be given–
(a) to the officer of the Board by whom the notice of correction was given,
(b) before the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the date of issue of the notice of correction.
This does not of course include the FA 2008 changes, and S.9ZB(1) should now read:
An officer of the Board may amend a return under section 8 or 8A of this Act so as to correct
(a) obvious errors or omissions in the return (whether errors of principle, arithmetical mistakes or otherwise),
(b) anything else in the return that the officer has reason to believe is incorrect in the light of information available to the officer
It doesn’t end there, of course. There are many legal glosses on many of the words, words like “obvious” or “reason to believe” or “information available” which may not mean quite what you, Jo Public, think they do. But I think that’s enough to be going on with, don’t you?
If the ambition is that the citizen should be able to read and understand the law, we’ve got a hell of a way to go.