Well, it seems the time has come to say Sayonara, or possibly auf wiedersehn, pet. After over twelve years of completely failing to reform the tax system, I am hanging up this particular quill. Anyone desperate to read my thoughts will now have to turn to the Cricket Paper where I write about things I love for a change.
After more than twelve years and nearly 400 pieces, perhaps it is time to stop.
When I started all this I was recently self-employed and chairing the tax committee of the FSB (no, not the former KGB, whatever you may think). I was going to London a lot and a member of many HMRC-driven committees where I was able to see a lot of people with fixed ideas (mostly not HMRC, as it happens) and I would pop up every now and then to say that I didn’t think a business that turned over £3m a year was actually a small business, and the system ought to be right for what became known as micro- or even nano-businesses.
I think most of you can see exactly what that has achieved, given the way in which Making Tax Digital seems to be working out. Jeremy Corbyn did have the sense to say that businesses below the tax threshold should be exempt, but then he’s not in power.
But all these things came to an end when I parted company with FSB (not the KGB, that’s for life). Other people were left to carry on the struggle.
There were times when I thought I understood tax law (or enough of it to get by). I had been trained by the Inland Revenue, then spent twelve years with an accountancy firm. But you take your eye off the ball in this game and you are liable to be hit with a two-footed tackle, possibly from behind.
I still have problems with the way in which the market is dominated by the BIG accountancy firms, who can charge astonishing rates and give the job to the office junior. I had occasion to deal with one of them over a report on small business for the Inland Revenue. The partner said to me afterwards that he now knew 100% more about small business after talking to me. I was tempted to remind him that 100% of nothing is nothing.
But mostly they are there like the army of the dead. If this were Westeros, we’d be joining forces with HMRC against them. I have to say that I know that it isn’t, but what would we do for a dragon or two.
And tax simplification…many have tried, but all efforts have run into the sands of complexity, and of course, there are those who see simplification as creating loopholes for their clients.
So I suppose this is leaving not with a bang but a whimper…which rather sums up the progress of tax reform.