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Photo Of tortoise and hourglass for time | AccountingWEB |Tax in election limbo as TAM day falls short
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Tax in election limbo land as TAM day falls short

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Is that it for tax until the general election? The underwhelming tax administration and maintenance day gave tax watchers little to chew over, leading Richard Hattersley to assume that we’re in maintenance mode until the country goes to the polls.

25th Apr 2024
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This may come as a shock to you, but last Thursday was tax administration and maintenance day. No, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much.  

As the editor of AccountingWEB, it’s always comforting having these big tentpole events in the accounting calendar to look forward to and build our content around. Take the Budget, for example. Hours of work goes into planning an event like that. Not only do these days give us plenty to write about but often result in our biggest day of site traffic of the year. 

So imagine our delight three years ago when the government announced the arrival of tax administration and maintenance (TAM) day. The idea was to move away from having all the consultations and tax policies land in a crash, bang, wallop fashion on Budget day. 

It became part of the three-step Budget process, consisting of the Budget, legislation tax and TAM day (the BLT, if you will). As Budgets increasingly become political broadcasts, TAM day provided tax mavens with a whole day to pore over consultations sans political rhetoric. 

And from a purely selfish point of view at AccountingWEB towers, the decision to create a brand new day in the Budget process enabled us to stretch out the tax festivities. 

The disappointment of TAM day

So imagine our reaction when the Summary of tax administration and maintenance policy paper landed on gov.uk. 

“Is that it?!” was muttered at least a dozen times during our morning news meeting. We then spent the rest of the morning frantically looking around the website in the same way that someone flips over cushions and rummages behind the sofa when trying to find their missing house keys.  

The summary detailed only four measures. Two of which were consultations and the other two, more teasers than a consultations, will be coming later in the year. That was that then. Nothing was held back until later in the day. 

Compared to the 23 technical tax updates this time last year, the underwhelming four announcements did little to get hearts racing. The mandation of postcode provision for Freeports and investment zones? Be still my beating heart. 

What could have been announced on TAM day?

When it was all said and done, TAM day was too disappointing to even be called a damp squib. It was a drenched squib. So, the whole affair begs the question: what’s the point of making an announcement if you have nothing to announce? But then, if nothing was really announced on TAM day, did TAM day really happen?

But it’s not like the government didn’t have anything to announce. So, deep breath, here we go. 

  • Spring Budget follow-up: As this recent question on Any Answers demonstrates, we still haven’t received any further information on the abolition of the furnished holiday lettings regime. 

  • Farewell P11Ds: The mandation of payrolling benefits from 2026 was announced at the start of the year. We’d already heard that this wasn’t going to go out in a public consultation in the traditional way. That said, professional bodies have already made representations to the tax authority about this and any potential challenges en route to April 2026. 

  • Simplification: Sure, teases in the Spring Budget of abolishing national insurance goes some way in simplifying the tax system, but there has been little tangible ground made since the abolition of the Office of Tax Simplification. Last year’s TAM day emphasised how simplification now sits within HMRC. The package of measures back in April were niche at best. Modernising stamp duty for shares, anyone? So where were the proposals to simplify tax for the majority of UK taxpayers? Not in any of the four measures released last week, that’s for sure. 

  • Umbrella companies: Then there is non-compliance in the umbrella market. This was actually one of the four measures featured on TAM day, but with just a three-paragraph statement, you wonder if it was just there to meet the word count. All the statement said was that the government is “concerned about the scale of non-compliance in the umbrella company market” and that it will publish the response to its consultation in “due course” and HMRC will publish new guidance “later this year”. The meagre statement did little to assure the umbrella industry and plans to tackle tax avoidance were delayed yet again to an unspecified date. 

And I am sure you could think of more. The only “maintenance” I could see on tax administration and maintenance day was the maintenance of tax itself until the general election.

So has the government given up – or have they frankly run out of parliamentary time to do anything substantial – and are just spinning plates until the general election? 

Tax hinges on the date of the election

The prime minister has earmarked a general election for the second half of the year. And don’t forget that there is also a six-week purdah period required for an election. So the government really does have a short window if they want to do anything, especially since summer recess starts from 23 July. 

The rumours in Westminster are that the government will attempt to squeeze in an Autumn Statement before voters go to the poll, with the current thinking being that this could be in September. 

Considering how close to the election this will fall, I can imagine this Autumn Statement being more of a theatrical performance of the Conservative Party’s manifesto, rather than any measures that will see the light of day before polling day. With rumours already splashed across last weekend’s newspapers of a potential stamp duty and national insurance cut, the possibility of another fiscal statement seems as if it’s already circled in 10 Downing Street’s kitchen calendar. 

So with the days running out for the government, perhaps they decided to save their plans for the Autumn Statement, or even to sneak into the finance bill expected this summer. Quite possibly, the government is just squirrelling all their tax plans for maximum impact the closer we get to the election. Or maybe they really have just run out of ideas.    

Replies (2)

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By FactChecker
25th Apr 2024 20:27

Loved the idea of TAM day as the tomato in a BLT - but not sure what equates to the bread that neither adds to the taste nor to the nutrition (oh, silly me, that'd be the Men from the Ministry).

Anyway, you missed the obvious opportunity to use "The Dog That Didn't Bark" as the title - given that the lack of any underlying cohesive strategy from the Treasury is a mystery worthy of Sir Doyle.

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By Postingcomments
01st May 2024 09:41

For someone whose job it is to fill up the internet, I get that the more HMRC releases, the better.

For me, changes to the rules is overhead. Time that I have to spend, but I'd rather be doing chargeable work. So, the fewer changes, the better.

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