Income tax rates are too complex

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Rebecca Cave believes the 2016/17 income tax rates are far too complex to explain easily.

It should be possible to explain to an ordinary taxpayer what tax rate they will pay without resorting to detailed questionnaires and calculators.

That won’t be possible following the changes introduced by the Finance Bill 2016.

The changes to personal tax rates are so convoluted that people drafting the Finance Bill felt it necessary to include a table to summarise them.

Here it is:

 

 

 

Rates payable on:

 

Type of taxpayer:

 

Savings income

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About Rebecca Cave

Consulting tax editor for Accountingweb.co.uk. I also co-author several annual tax books for Bloomsbury Professional and write newsletters for other publishers.

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04th Apr 2016 11:44

non accountant question

What does 'most dividend mean' to me this is a meaningless title.

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04th Apr 2016 12:50

I think it's read in

Barbara French:  I think it's read in conjunction with the top heading 'Rates payable on:'

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04th Apr 2016 11:57

I saw this and thought - that is rubbish so i made a stab at

going through everything so that i could pick it apart, point by point, but after about three paragrpahs i got so totally confused - and bored - that i now concur.

 

The disappointing tying si taht the clients wil blame us for not explaining the system adequately to them...

 

Usual February discussion "What do you mean i haven't paid enough tax? I haven't changed anything since last years return was done and i never paid anything like this kind of tax before. I still only earn £49,950 and it is hard enough to live on that now i have moved to Scotland!"

 

Life will just get better and better what with having to explain to the client why his ancient Excel schedule doesn't count as a digital accounting system and also that HMRC want him to pay his tax monthly now by allowing them to tae the money directly out of his bank account, just before wages day no doubt...

 

Methinks now may be a good time to leave the building...

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04th Apr 2016 12:08

Office of tax simplification

Have been busy again I see.

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04th Apr 2016 14:36

OTS loses again

Tom 7000 wrote:

Office of tax simplification have been busy again I see.

but as always they have been hands down by the Office of Tax Complexification  aka The Treasury

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04th Apr 2016 12:20

Interesting bu not the point, most definately

 

 The article is interesting and informative.

Unfortunately its misses the "Emperor's new clothes point".

 The final paragraph illustrates the bog we have got ourselves into.

 Am I the only person to sincerely believe that the statement

 "We need help from tax software..."

Simply illustrates the failure of the profession to collectively assist the taxpayer., or to have any input at all into the workings of the tax system?

 It is a constitutional and democratic failure on the part of HM Goverment, that such a statement should be considered "Ordinary".

 Whether you are left-wing, right-wing, or batwinged this state of affairs is not administratively necessary. Nor is it proper that members of the profession should supinely accept the view that it is the taxpayers' function to pay for and support software houses, however honourable they may be.

Unfortunately yet again the accountancy profession as a whole, jointly and severally, is simply not prepared to make any meaningful protest against the increasingly Byzantine workings of the tax system.

 It is not a question of politics, it is a question of nothing more than straight -forward basic competent management.

 The next time some po-faced representative of the ICAEW or ACCA tells me that "Working together" (as clearly on available evidence does not work) is a virtuous occupation, I shall pee in his or her coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

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04th Apr 2016 12:39

I agree, and they are going to get more complicated

I agree, and they are going to get more and more complex.

 

Why George Osborne   keeps changing everything is beyond me, to hide up stealth taxes???, or to muddy the waters so its harder to work out how much tax we are going to paying and how does it compare to earlier years. 

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04th Apr 2016 12:38

Marginal rates

The 60% marginal rate between £100k and £122k is crazy, stuck as it is in the middle of a 40% band.

As is the %-depends-on-how-many-kids-you-have band between £50k and £60k.

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By CBPTS
04th Apr 2016 12:46

Income tax rates are too complex

Is not the savings allowance £1,000?

So much of the HMRC web site refers to 'exceptions' to 'this rate/penalty' or 'only this tax year or that' or 'in these circumstances'.  It goes beyond the simple fact.

There should be a banner warning 'Customer beware, we make the rules and you should watch out as they may be/always are changing'

I always have said that HMRC would retire me, is there a 'when to retire' app, yet?

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04th Apr 2016 16:01

savings allowance is £1000 or £500 or nil

@CBPTS - you are correct , the savings allowance is not £5000 , that is the extend of the savings rate band. I have corrected the article above.

The savings allowance is further complicated as the level of the allowance depends on the taxpayer's highest marginal rate of tax.,a nd its not really an allowance, as it is not a dedcution form income. Instead the savings allowance applies a zero rate to a slice of savings income.

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04th Apr 2016 17:18

..

taxwriter wrote:

 ......the savings allowance is not £5000 , that is the extend of the savings rate band. I have corrected the article above.

The savings allowance is further complicated as the level of the allowance depends on the taxpayer's highest marginal rate of tax.,a nd its not really an allowance, as it is not a dedcution form income. Instead the savings allowance applies a zero rate to a slice of savings income.

Another week, another rage about Income Tax in 2016/17.  Both the article - and the quote, with its use of the ambiguous term "the savings allowance" - may indicate where some of the problems are.

If an amateur (apparently) can give a coherrent, scalable, explanation of the underlying relationship between the 2016/17 common allowances - what does that say about us?

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showpost.php?p=70422918&postcount=9

Sure, the Scottish complication is an added burden, but isn't getting to grips with that - and the other issues - where we can add value?

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04th Apr 2016 12:47

Not Meaningless - Actually

It is a matter of the generic terms used to describe income from Investments, and, where hitherto,  the term dividend is / was used by some OEICs and Unit Trusts who are paying income on a routine basis and were taxing at the 20% rate before paying that income to the recipient.

This, as opposed to a dividend from a Share that carried a dividend tax credit at 10%, and therefore one ninth was deducted before payment.

Under the new rules, Investors will have to examine more carefully, the type of income they are receiving. It is early days, so I have yet to view the new OEIC and Unit Trust income statements.

 

 

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04th Apr 2016 12:59

It's a constitutional thing...

The reason why this complexity is being introduced is not to confuse taxpayers but to make sure that from next April 2017 onwards those nasty Scottish MPs won't be able to vote on the tax rates that apply in the rest of the UK as English and Welsh MPs will have the right of veto over rates other than the Scottsh Rate.  Following further Welsh devolution the Welsh will set their own rate but English MPs will have the right of veto over rates other than the Scottish and Welsh rates.  Don't blame HMRC for this mess.  Don't blame the Office of Tax Simplification either.  If you want to blame someone blame the politicians who enthusiastically endorse dismantle the "United" Kingdom in the name of devolution.  Rebecca also neglected to point out that the existing 'Scottish Rate of Income Tax' will disappear next April as the Scottish Parliament will have control over income tax rates and rate bands (although the only proposals so far are Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems advocating a 1% increase overall and the SNP proposing to retain the current Higher Rate threshold and increase it not to £45,000 but to the current £43,000 indexed by CPI to September.  That will create an odd marginal rate of 52% for Scots taxpayers who are above their higher rate threshold but still within the NIC higher threshold over which they will not have control).

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By Paul FD
04th Apr 2016 12:59

Complexity and nonesense

I agree with all of the above but this accountant has done his bit to address the supine nature of the profession - as described by David Gordon above. You are indeed correct but I've taken up the cudgels with my MP over the utterly undemocratic and completely stupid idea that as part of making tax digital we will be reporting quarterly. There has been other threads in AW on this point so I won't repeat them but the software houses must be laughing all the way t the bank with this bonanza coming up - and we are supposed to pick up the pieces. Contact your MP - particualrly if you live in a conservative consituency (like I do) and explain that the idiocy of what's coming out of the Treasury - and the complexity of rates is symptomatic of a probel when we are led by idiots.

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04th Apr 2016 13:13

We've been here before.

This matter was dealt with quite well, when members sorted it out in February

www.accountingweb.co.uk/node/597098

Regretably, Barabara may not understand the position, reading the link may help her, since interpretation was dealt with.

She said: "A non accountant question"  It is however, clearly one for those who design their own tax comps to check their tax software.

 

 

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04th Apr 2016 13:28

It is a matter of biology.

 

 Our amazing brains are notwithstanding other abilities are not, in simple scientific fact, designed to deal with numbers.

 Last week I purchased from a well known high street store, three of an item of on the shelf price of £24.75. There was however a buy two get third one free offer, then because they had a special offer on the Loyalty card, I received points to the purchasing value of £9.00 off my next purchase.

So, instead of paying £74.25 shelf-price it actually cost me £40.00 for the three items. Why do they do this? 

 Answer: because the marketing boys know full well how their customers' minds work. We as customers cannot help it. Even me, as a cynical crusty old accountant.

 Inherited parliamentary and civil service wisdom in these matters is also expert on customer psychology. "They" know full well that if the tax system was simpilfied administratively, as it could be, so that "We" as Joe Public, would have our faces rubbed in the sum of tax being paid, there would be riots: Income Tax, Corporation Tax, NI, IPT, IHT, VAT, petroleum duty, air travel tax, council tax, et al.

 So, per basic marketing strategy, they chop it up and obfuscate, and we as basic Homo[***] Sapiens accept it, because this is how most of us are "Programmed". How else may one explain the continuing puzzle that millions do not see National Insurance as "Tax"?

So that when the "Tax" is lowered a bit, and then covered by an increase in NI, most persons do not complain.

 It is worth a Ph.D in taxpayer psychology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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04th Apr 2016 13:31

let me give you a scenario

HMRC significantly over complicate the tax rules and systems and paint the non tax payers as bad guys and put rules in place that allow HMRC to dip in and out of the miscreants bank accounts to gate the tax etc. Hooray everyone says they cant hide it anywhere now, but what about if they don't declare everything?

HMRC then say that every business has to have a digital accounting system that allows HMRC to dip in and out of their accounting records to compare them with other businesses that say they have traded with them.

The Government then insist that Broadband coverage is not good enough in the UK and upgrade it to bring the UK up to speed with the rest of the planet.

 

Public opinion then comes along and says that The government and HMRC have put too big a financial burden on the businesses by making them go out and buy a digital accounting system that is HMRC compliant.

 

HMRC Then bring out a free version of the digital accounting system which will be totally compliant and what is better FREE? Taxpayers and businesses can then use that and save themseleves hassle and money by constantly being in contact with HMRC and also report monthly on the income that they have received and HMRC can then dip in and take the tax that it thinks is due.

 

So where is the accountant in all this, as always the unpiad lackey of HMRC setting up the taxpayers/businesses thinking that HMRC are still their best buddies making it easier for them and their clients...

 

You can probably see where all this is going, anything digital does not need human intervention and will in all probability mean that the tax take is sooner and more "real time" giving HMRC another one of those windfall things that keep popping upBUt you say the tax system is far too complicated to simply take the live figires from an accounting system and base the tax figures on it.

 

Is everyone ready for the tax simplification wave which comes once the UK is so robust that HMRC can now afford to give up the reliefs and allowances that many businesses have benefitted from over the years, such as farmers averaging, herd basis etc etc.

 

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04th Apr 2016 13:39

What about the £1,000 or £500 PSA; and Savings Allowance limit?

Re Savings and interest credited - should your "list" not also include reference to "after deducting" the personal savings allowance (PSA) of: NIL (additional rate taxpayer);  up to £500 (higher rate taxpayer); or up to £1,000 (basic rate taxpayer) - and the £5,000 savings allowance has another complication i.e. an income limit..........it has all been "simplified" of course (no doubt with OST approval). 

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By Moo
04th Apr 2016 14:50

The Scottish rate

I totally get that the new rates and allowances are too complicated for me to get my sweet little FCA CTA head around and it doesn't worry me (much) that I will rely on tax software to do the maths for me.  What worries me Is that I deal with many clients who live in Scotland, or move to Scotland, or move from Scotland and I can see no indication that there is a question on the 2016 SA100 asking where the taxpayer thinks they are resident.  HMRC have already made a mess of putting the S suffix on PAYE codes so I have little confidence in them getting the country of residence right, which in 12 months time will actually matter quite a lot.

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By Robbo
04th Apr 2016 15:24

Tax simplification

HMRC seems to spend its time thinking up ways to bypass agents while government continually complicates the system & makes it impossible for the average person to understand

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04th Apr 2016 15:45

Too true !!!

 

Just spent more than a day working out whether or not to bring into this TY dividends that we would normally have paid ourselves after 6th April.

Needed more than one paracetamol after that exercise.

"The more we can bring forward the better" I thought .... BIG mistake !

Any sum that pushes you into higher tax bands and loss of personal allowance THIS year while saving you tax at a higher rate but at a lower band NEXT year is possibly but not necessarily a loser !

Yes, this government has introduced the concept of a higher tax rate operating in a lower tax band, depending on your type of income - I suspect this is part of the simplification drive.  NOT !!

In the end I had to sit down and work it out in £5000 increments to see where was the "sweet spot " of max tax saving, taking into account the different financial situations of the 2 shareholders.

An utter nightmare, thanks to George !

 

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04th Apr 2016 16:26

Land Value Tax

I've  said it before but not for a while.

And. Surely, the more complex the present system gets, and it shows no sign of doing anything else, the better it is for accountants (even if the work is excruciating it is still work.....).

Henry George and all that.....

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04th Apr 2016 16:40

Tax does not have to be complicated

I have not heard their strap line above for a while. I guess someone must have pointed out that this was something they were unable to live up to so it was stopped.

Anyway, we have 4 submissions a year to look forward to, so the new line should be "it's going to be messy"

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04th Apr 2016 17:18

It's a machine Jim- but not as we know it

 

 Stop it, Stop, it, Stop it.Pleeeese!

 The tax system is not digital.

Taxation is in this country, (supposed to be) a mutually agreed contract between the subjects of the crown, for the transfer of funds from the individual to a central fund, under the trusteeship of those we appointed, a) to decide who should give and who should receive and b) those paid servants employed to carry out the administration of the preceding.

For them to redisribute and or spend those funds in whatsoever manner we the voters and our dependents have democratically approved.

There is nothing "Digital"  about this.

 The digital bit, spot the pun, is solely and exclusively machinery, similar to pen and pencil, designed to assist in the aformentioned task. It is a tool. I repeat this because some nerds will faint at this rude comment.

It is a fabulously intricate tool, an amazing bit of human ingenuity, but it is still only a tool.

 The one thing that we may be certain of, since the first cave-man hit his thumb with the first wobbly stone hammer, is that tools in the wrong hands go wrong.  The adjunct to that theorem as every DIY victim will confirm is, the more complicated a tool the greater risk of disaster.

It takes me back nearly sixty years to the first management accounting principles I learned. 

A wizz-bang accountant may design the most perfect management system since Moses brought down the ten commandments, but if the widget the company is selling is not fit for purpose the accountant might just as well wipe his bottom on his perfect management system. Although these day that would be painful, seing as the stuff is "written" on a hard disk.

Our taxation system is currently under the control of members of parliament, 95% of who would rather wet themselves than work at understanding what they are supposed to understand.

It is then administered by a body HMRC, whose sole contribution to efficient taxation is to have spent at least two decades ensuring that the business of ensuring that it somehow works sort of, is passed from HMRC to the taxpayer and his representative.

In these circumstances this flawed digital tool is designed not to enhance the administration of tax, but is designed to remove the last vestige of HMRC responsibility for assessing tax from the civil servant.

 The tool cannot usefully work because the widget it is supposed to help manufacture is a dud.

 It brings to mind that wonderful bit of Gulliver's Travels wherein we meet the mad scientist who reasons with mad but impeccable logic- Cucumbers absorb sunlight in order to grow, therefore we ought to be able to extract the sunlight for our own use.

 Swift was of course five hundred years ahead of his time. We may now extract "Sunlight" from cucumbers. Unfortunately it takes £squillions worth of nuclear engineering to do this.

 -and billions to build HMRC designed tax administration systems, which might have been better spent on hiring sufficient tax officers who also know what they are doing.

 

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By DJ76
04th Apr 2016 20:08

Complex Tax Rates

My father was a blue collar worker who left school at 14 with only a basic education, but he  understood how personal taxes and NIC worked, and on a few occasions when he had to complete the old style Tax Return he got it right.

This should be the case today, and it isn't.

This is why so may taxpayers are frustrated and the reason why  there are so may calls to HMRC.

It's a dreadful state of affairs, and it certainly looks as if the useless Office of Tax Simplification is a worthy successor to the Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit's day.

 

 

 

 

 

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05th Apr 2016 14:34

There are 2 reasons why it is so complicated

1 Governments use taxation to influence financial behaviour

2 This Government promised not to increase the main tax rates

A truly simple system would be flat rate for any income above a certain total amount with no other allowances or reliefs but then someone says "that's not fair on...and we want to help..." and so it starts to get more complicated again.

Once upon a time, earned income was only partly taxed and investment income was subject to a surcharge

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05th Apr 2016 17:01

3rd reason

Tonyaustin gave us two very good reasons.  May I offer a third ?

3.  the BoE is committed to permanent low interest rates, otherwise all the overexposed chickens, aka banks, would go to the slaughterhouse.  So great big bubbles are appearing in asset values, aka houses, and the government is trying to burst some of these by selective taxation.  Won't work by the way.

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05th Apr 2016 18:21

The Economist Explains

and the last paragraph could substitute "accountants" and "lawyers" for politicians.

I think the economist is too pessimistic though, progress has been made, most of it in the early part of the twentieth century, progress will be made again.

in case the link doesn't work, here it is in text http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/11/economist-expl...

None of the reasons given by the two previous contributors are the underlying reason why it is, and must be, so complex to try to tax income of any kind, corporate or personal. Tax rents, tax land.

For those of you who don't know what it is (that's all of you then)

http://www.landvaluetax.org/what-is-lvt/

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06th Apr 2016 16:46

BTL taxation isn't Land Value Taxation

It's a transactional tax.  Like all other transactional taxes, it distorts the free market, will at the margin reduce the number of transactions and cause market participants to look for loopholes and workarounds.  We're already going to get a workaround to save Granny Annexes.  Look out for more legislation over the years as battle is fought between would be landlords and the Treasury.

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06th Apr 2016 20:53

I was right, you don't know what it is.

and you clearly didn't bother to follow the links before commenting and demonstrating that you don't know what it is. It isn't a transaction tax. Here's a quote from Adam Smith-I think accountants like him generally, or at least think they do.

"The annual produce of the land and labour of the society, the real wealth and revenue of the great body of the people, might be the same after such a tax as before. Ground-rents and the ordinary rent of land are, therefore, perhaps, the species of REVENUE which can best bear to have a peculiar tax imposed upon them."

“It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”

both quotes are from The Wealth of Nations, the chapter towards the end of the book on the land tax.

Milton Friedman, another Economist likely to have fans among accountants,

"So the question is, which are the least bad taxes? In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago."

Martin Woolf, current Chief Economics writer of the FT, "Land value taxation is a "no-brainer"It is both fair and efficient. It should be adopted."

However, the best, most celebrated and, in his time (the late 19th century), best selling writer on land value tax, still resisting being written out of economic history by the neo-classicals, is Henry George in his "Progress and Poverty". It sold millions and is very readable, you should read it, about £3.50 for a kindle copy. 

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06th Apr 2016 17:21

ok, this is about tax, but I have just been on an accounting update course. So depressing.  Why is is all so complicated?  It just hinders businesses surely? 

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07th Apr 2016 16:35

The Swiss solution

Leaving aside splitting hairs on what is a transactional tax and what isn't - how about the Swiss solution :  Buy a flat or house there to enjoy as a second home, and, unless you let it properly or as holiday rental, for a minimum number of weeks a year, they say - "OK Mr Second Home Owner, your second home is empty, so you are enjoying the benefit of being able to use it rent-free at your convenience.  So please pay us the appropriate income tax on the hypothetical rent you would have received but are forfeiting for your own convenience, had you been renting it out."

That would bring a lot of empty second homes onto the market either for sale or for rent and lower house prices without resorting to punishing people like private BTL landlords who are actually causing homes to be built and a service to tenants.

 

I'm writing this against my own interests, but it is a thought, isn't it ?

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07th Apr 2016 17:21

I agree with Micky to an extent

mickeyparish wrote:

Leaving aside splitting hairs on what is a transactional tax and what isn't - how about the Swiss solution :  Buy a flat or house there to enjoy as a second home, and, unless you let it properly or as holiday rental, for a minimum number of weeks a year, they say - "OK Mr Second Home Owner, your second home is empty, so you are enjoying the benefit of being able to use it rent-free at your convenience.  So please pay us the appropriate income tax on the hypothetical rent you would have received but are forfeiting for your own convenience, had you been renting it out."

That would bring a lot of empty second homes onto the market either for sale or for rent and lower house prices without resorting to punishing people like private BTL landlords who are actually causing homes to be built and a service to tenants.

 

I'm writing this against my own interests, but it is a thought, isn't it ?

it is a very good point - BTL's are providing places where people live so they do not push up house prices. But surely the route problem is not holiday lets or landlords, it is lack of social housing and housing vs expanding population.  I read today about a person who is taking advantage of the right to buy their council house but wanted to cash in. This is wrong.

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08th Apr 2016 14:31

BTL hasn't raised house prices?

Well, How you can say that astonishes me!

The Swiss thing is certainly better than our present system but is still inferior to a full LVT.

With a full LVT landlords (and maybe large commercial and efficient ones, rather than our wannabee nouveau plutocrats) would compete on how well they run their estates, price and quality, they may even segment the market as a modern organisation engaged in that business ought to do, rather than on how good they are at confiscating what is rightly public revenue, namely, land rents. With LVT the land rents would be collected as public revenue.

Incidentally, you could argue that the Swiss system, although better than ours is flawed in two ways,

1. It does not collect the land rent on the principal residence of the multiple property owner.

2 It taxes the whole of the rent of the second+ property when it should only confiscate that element related to the location value, that is, the land rent, leaving that part related to the building untaxed as it should/could be.

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08th Apr 2016 16:34

Steve has nailed it

We're straying from the main subject, but it is nonetheless interesting to examine this one aspect of over-complex taxation in more detail.

"the route problem is not holiday lets or landlords, it is the lack of social housing and housing vs expanding population"

Exactly !  Supply and demand.  Trying to squash one aspect of demand is like squashing a bean bag - the beans on the other side of the bag balloon up instead.  The demand is there and there is inadequate supply.  Keeping the price down by artificial "targeted" assaults on property owners will only have the effect of reducing supply.

 

 

 

 

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