We like counting things in the Office of Tax Simplification. It’s a way of getting a handle on what a massive task tax simplification really is, and helps give us a better idea of where we should direct our efforts. In 2010, we counted up all the tax reliefs in the UK and ended up with a figure of 1,042. Earlier this year, we counted the total pages of tax legislation – 17,795 – and then counted how many were left when you took out repealed legislation, obsolete rules and duplications – 6,102.
Now we have counted the number of monetary tax thresholds, ceilings and other figures in tax legislation – everything that is expressed in pounds or pence (or fractions of pence). We got the idea from our reliefs review, where we found some numbers that hadn’t been changed for many years, but others that were updated pretty regularly. We wanted to explore this further, and see if we could come up with any general themes or lessons for tax simplification.
The paper we are publishing today is the result of this work. It didn’t take long to put together – two or three weeks’ work at most, over the past 3 months. It was a relatively quick job to skim through the 17,795 pages of tax law to list the figures, but rather harder to trace each one back through successive Finance Acts to see when they first appeared and how often they changed since. We haven’t asked HMRC to check the accuracy of the list, so it comes with a bit of a health warning and if you do find any mistakes, please do let us know.
We hope the article and spreadsheet will be of interest, and not just to tax nerds like me.
Jeremy Sherwood, OTS Secretariat
P.S. Our next big counting job is to list and analyse all tax definitions, and we are recruiting a postgraduate student to help us do this – see the OTS vacancies page.