The most politically contentious legislation may be delayed until after the election, potentially affecting the requirement to force small businesses and landlords to keep digital records.
The government is set for urgent negotiations with Labour over the final shape of the bill, as tax experts warned of the dangers of pushing through complex clauses with minimal debate.
The Chartered Institute of Taxation this week wrote to Philip Hammond, the chancellor, urging him to keep only urgent or essential measures, such as renewing the imposition of income tax. It warned against “the rushing through of a huge finance bill without the chance of amendments and scrutiny in the final days of this Parliament”.
Charlotte Barbour, director of taxation at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, said most of the measures should be left to be debated after the election, given the government’s commitment to greater consultation. She said: “It makes a mockery to ask for better policy making and then push through the finance bill in a day.”
Other reforms set out in the bill include anti-avoidance measures, new allowances for trading and property income and an end to permanent “non-dom” status — the rules that allow many foreign residents to keep their foreign income outside the UK tax net.
James Hender, head of the private wealth group at Saffery Champness, an accountancy firm, said a delay carried a risk of further alterations, particularly if there was a new government with a different approach to taxation.
He said: “For example, non-domiciled individuals were at long last beginning to see light at the end of what has been a long drawn out and complex tunnel as their tax status was scrutinised and amended. Now, with a conclusion in sight and affairs begun to be set in order, we have further uncertainty about the final shape of the rules and when they will actually bite.”
Andrew Hubbard of RSM, an accountancy firm, said it would be a mistake to nod through the legislation — not because of “any fundamental objection to the proposals but simply because legislation of this complexity needs proper scrutiny to flush out the almost inevitable drafting errors which will have crept in”.
Earlier this week, Philip Hammond said there would be “the usual end-of-Parliament process of negotiation with the official opposition” about the finance bill measures. This discussion between the government and opposition on what bits of the bill can be rushed through Parliament — known as the “wash up” process — will result in legislation that is controversial or needing amendment being delayed until after the election.
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