Transparency is a great thing – in a democracy, it’s only right that we should give people as much information as possible about public policy, service performance and taxation, so they can make as informed decisions as possible. That’s why we applaud Nigel Evans MP for presenting his Ten Minute Rule Bill on Tax Transparency to the Commons today for its First Reading.
Nigel’s bill seeks to encourage shops, bars, petrol stations, restaurants and so on to print on customers’ receipts the amount of tax they have paid on their purchases. That way, the tax burden would not be hidden from people, or disguised in the eventual shelf price.
Just as we believe people should be allowed to see how their money is spent, they must also be allowed to see how, where and when it is collected from them. Hidden taxation is unfair and deliberately seeks to distort the public’s perception of how much tax is gathered.
From a briefing note on the Bill, it’s pleasing to see that the legislation will not force shops to buy new tills or to splash out on new equipment, but that as tills are upgraded shop owners should be encouraged to set them to print tax onto receipts, too. In practical terms, the technology is available and easy to use – a growing number of places already include VAT on receipts.
This Bill, of course, is encouragement rather than compulsion – it can only be a matter of time before a retailer does this themselves to explain that part of the reason prices are so high is that the taxman insists on taking such a massive slice!
UPDATE: Nigel Evans has written an article for the Telegraph on the issue here.