In all of the furore following the election results, it will be all too easy for tax policy to be neglected.
It is amazing to think that less than two weeks ago, I had an article published in another place summarising the tax manifesto promises of all the seemingly significant political parties.
I must instantly confess that this did not include Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Having just had a look at their 13-page document, half of which is puff, the only mention of tax comes under the heading of “Further increase the personal tax allowance”, in line with all of the higher profile parties on this side of the Irish Sea. Even that commitment is vague.
Given this in-depth analysis of the subject, is Arlene Foster going to insist on being consulted before any taxes are raised? In any event, she has her own problems since, not too long before the election, questions were raised with regard to her probity following some unexplained irregularities in connection with Renewable Heat Incentives, whatever those might be.
Since all of you are accountants, you will almost certainly recall that the Finance Bill was severely curtailed as a consequence of the calling of a general election with almost no notice.
The general consensus was that the numerous policies which were pulled, including the surprisingly controversial Making Tax Digital, would be enacted following the inevitable Tory landslide.
For accountants on Mars with a slow Internet connection, it might be necessary to remark that the election did not quite run according to Mrs May’s expectations.
This means that we have a complete tax mess with no certainty about when or whether the missing clauses from the Finance Bill will be debated, let alone enacted.
All kind of difficulties lie ahead. Philip Hammond’s cunning plan to raise a couple of billion by stealthily increasing National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed spectacularly bit the dust, causing significant embarrassment all around and a hole in the Budget.
That failure was due to the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto, which specifically stated that National Insurance Contributions would not increase during the term of the Parliament. The 2017 manifesto watered this down, fixing VAT but leaving more flexibility elsewhere as a result of the silence with regard to income tax and NIC.
It seems to be a not very well kept secret that Theresa May was planning to give Mr Hammond an opportunity to spend more time with his family once she received her strengthened mandate. Instead, he has been reappointed but, one imagines, does not have the full confidence of the PM, who in turn, does not have the full confidence of her own party, let alone the country.
Does anybody, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other senior figures in the Government, now have any idea about how tax policy is going to be pursued?
It is currently unclear whether anybody knows the answer to this question but action is required. Otherwise, the deficit is going to increase, those in the tax avoidance business will flourish and tax will never become digital.