HMRC get it right

May 27, 2009 10:52 AM

At the TaxPayers' Alliance, we often have to criticise HMRC.  Whether they're harassing law abiding taxpayers, pushing for new powers to take money straight out of people's bank accounts without approval from a court or losing people's personal data - they often need to be criticised.  However, today they've really got it right.


HMRC has made it very clear that paying for accountants to fill out their tax returns can't legitimately be claimed as an expense by MPs.  On this point, at least, politicians have to live by the same rules as the rest of us.  Hopefully, HMRC's position will make it harder for the politicians to excuse their behaviour and make it more likely they will be held to account for this abuse of taxpayers' money.


There is a wider importance to this case.  Politicians have massively increased the complexity of the tax system in recent years.  We recently overtook India to have the longest tax code in the world.  That imposes massive costs on ordinary taxpayers and businesses who have to pay a fortune for accountants or risk getting in trouble if they get their return wrong.  If politicians can avoid these costs, by claiming them on expenses, then they won't really appreciate the burden being placed on ordinary people.  They won't grasp the urgent need for a move towards lower, simpler tax rates.


It is vital that politicians have to play be the same rules the rest of us.  If they don't, taxpayers will rightly be furious.

At the TaxPayers' Alliance, we often have to criticise HMRC.  Whether they're harassing law abiding taxpayers, pushing for new powers to take money straight out of people's bank accounts without approval from a court or losing people's personal data - they often need to be criticised.  However, today they've really got it right.


HMRC has made it very clear that paying for accountants to fill out their tax returns can't legitimately be claimed as an expense by MPs.  On this point, at least, politicians have to live by the same rules as the rest of us.  Hopefully, HMRC's position will make it harder for the politicians to excuse their behaviour and make it more likely they will be held to account for this abuse of taxpayers' money.


There is a wider importance to this case.  Politicians have massively increased the complexity of the tax system in recent years.  We recently overtook India to have the longest tax code in the world.  That imposes massive costs on ordinary taxpayers and businesses who have to pay a fortune for accountants or risk getting in trouble if they get their return wrong.  If politicians can avoid these costs, by claiming them on expenses, then they won't really appreciate the burden being placed on ordinary people.  They won't grasp the urgent need for a move towards lower, simpler tax rates.


It is vital that politicians have to play be the same rules the rest of us.  If they don't, taxpayers will rightly be furious.

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