Government to publish tax consultations on 23 March

In a change to the usual timing, the government will publish a number of tax-related consultations and calls for evidence at the end of March

To allow for more transparency and scrutiny, documents and tax consultations that would traditionally be published at a Budget will be published on 23 March.

This will ensure tax professionals will have a better opportunity to feed into consultations and policy discussions, which will strengthen policy-making, the Treasury said.

None of the announcements will require legislation in the next Finance Bill or have an impact on the government’s finances.

Several consultations are an important part of the government’s 10-year tax administration strategy to create a tax system fit for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Financial secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: ‘We are making these announcements separately to the Budget, but still all on a single day, in order to give a range of important but less high profile measures greater visibility among members of parliament, tax professionals and other stakeholders, and greater scope for scrutiny by them.’

Announcements which have implications to the government’s finances, that need to be captured in the Office of Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) economic and fiscal outlook, and announcements of measures to be legislated in the Finance Bill, will be made on Budget day on 3 March in the normal way.

Chris Sanger, EY’s head of tax policy, said: ‘While we’ve had the Budget date etched in our diaries on 3 March since late December last year, today’s announcement from Treasury confirms the approach we’ve increasingly been accustomed to in recent times.

‘Over the last few Budgets, we have seen consultations on future tax policies, rather than being all announced and released on Budget day, being slowly drip fed following the big day. This has led to much uncertainty as to when these important documents were going to be released, and risked the consultations being lost amidst other publications.

‘What we have seen announced today essentially formalises the Budget into a three-step process:

  • the Budget with all its fanfare on 3 March, delivering a high-level outline of the Chancellor’s direction of travel on how he intends to progress tax policy;
  • about a week later, the publication of the Finance Bill outlining more detail on what is to be announced immediately, and;
  • a week after that, the publication of the detail of what the future is likely to hold in the form of a series of consultations.

‘This formally strips the Budget of some of its content, reducing perhaps the mad scramble to read the volumes of pages published the moment the Chancellor sits down, but may mean that MPs need to wait longer to understand what is really being considered. 

‘This two-week window may allow the government to gauge the reactions to the high-level messages and hints given by the Chancellor at the despatch box, and potentially to change the content of the consultations. 

‘Making sure these consultations are collated on one day avoids the risk of consultations being missed as dates slip past Budget Day.  However, today’s announcement moves us from the traditional crash-bang-wallop of a Budget, to a three-movement symphony, of: Budget Day, the Finance Bill Day and now Consultation Day.’

In a letter confirming the change to the release of consultations, Norman also set out some more detailed figures on potential fraudulent use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Norman said that HMRC has written to around 27,000 CJRS claimants where there is a high risk that the claim is incorrect. This was to give those claimants an opportunity to correct their claim without being exposed to a penalty.

They have similarly asked 24,000 SEISS claimants to check they were entitled to their grant.

HMRC is also conducting one-to-one interventions for CJRS and SEISS focused on those who have deliberately sought to abuse the scheme. It is too early to quantify the money that will be recovered from this work.

Action against the most egregious of these cases will include penalties and criminal investigation. HMRC now have legal powers to recover any money that has been overclaimed and they have already made an arrest in relation to suspected criminal activity.

Sara White |Editor, Accountancy Daily, published by Croner-i

Sara White is editor of Accountancy Daily, published by Croner-i, and in...

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