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UK tax code is longest in the world

8th Sep 2009
Deputy Editor Sift Media
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Is our national penchant for word salad affecting our legislative approach?

This week Lexis Nexis revealed that the UK’s tax code has more than doubled in size since 1997, going from 4,998 pages in 1997, to 11,520 this year.

The original Tolley’s Yellow Tax Handbook was spread over two volumes, which is a mere pamphlet compared to last year’s 10,134 page missive, and this year’s four volume bumper edition.

The increase would have been even greater if the publishers had not changed the page layout in 2007 and increased the number of words on each page to prevent the guide running into five volumes.

Complexity
LexisNexis said the UK now had the longest tax code in the world, creating numerous problems for interpretation and locating legislation.

Mike Truman, tax expert at LexisNexis, said: "The complexity of the UK tax system has been increasing the burden of compliance on businesses and individuals alike for many years.

"Although initially Alastair Darling looked as if he might bring simplification to the system as chancellor, it seems to have been a false dawn, and we have seen little evidence of the tide of legislation ebbing”.

“While the end of the tax law rewrite programme will allow some transitional provisions to fall out of the code, there has been a tremendous increase in the pages of legislation devoted to revenue powers and anti-avoidance", warned Truman.

“There is a desperate need to curb the temptation of all Chancellors to meddle with the tax system, and to focus instead on removing unnecessary complexity”.

Word salad
The press seems rather surprised at this little revelation, but it’s clear this is something that’s been brewing for quite a while.

We live in a country where people prefer to say three words when one will suffice. Last year, Barack Obama told the Americans ‘it’s time for change’. I can’t actually remember what Gordon Brown was telling us at the time. (I think most of us drifted off to sleep when he started waffling about ‘fiscal stimulus’, and many haven’t woken up since).

This government is full of talkers (hell, that’s how they got here in the first place; we all ate it up when they said ‘education, education, education’), so is it any surprise that this penchant for word salad has spread into our legislation?

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By istephens
09th Sep 2009 13:47

Yellow Book

The Yellow Book was still a single volume when I started in tax (1982).  The paper has got thinner ever since.

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