Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pensioner taxation

AutopilotOur review of pensioner taxation took 18 months and we met with pensioner groups, charities and frontline HMRC staff to understand where the complexity lies within the system. We also commissioned research with pensioners to explore their awareness and understanding of tax and their experiences of complexity. Further information on the research report is here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/research/report227.pdf

The interim report has already had an impact on HMRC administration. Closer working between HMRC and DWP has led to the development of a data feed which will electronically transmit data on State Pension transfers weekly. They are also working on a review of communications which will help pensioners to understand their tax affairs.

Our final report includes recommendations about tax on savings and allowances for married couples and blind people. We have made a set of recommendations to make it easier for pensioners to manage their tax affairs. This includes replacing multiple tax coding notices into a single document which sets out how each source of income is taxed. We have recommended that the DWP produces a DWP60 which sets out their taxable income from the State Pension and state benefits. This will make things it easier for pensioners to complete their self assessment returns and check that they are paying the right amount of tax.

Our Chairman Michael Jack has noted that many pensioners face a shock once they leave the “autopilot” of PAYE and have to steer their tax affairs themselves without the help of an employer or payroll team. We think the package of recommendations will provide them with the information they need to manage their affairs with peace of mind and hope the Chancellor will look favourably on them.

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ots_pensionerstaxreview.htm

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A secondee’s experience

IMG_0414 (427x640)The OTS is looking to recruit experienced tax professionals on short-term secondments for its review into employee benefits and expenses. Further details of the role can be found on the vacancies page of our website:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ots_vacancies.htm

If you would like to offer input to the employee benefits and expenses review, either in person or via email/telephone, please email the OTS at OTS-Employee.Benefits@ots.gsi.gov.uk

To give a flavour of what it is like to work for the OTS one of our secondees, Sarah Anderson, kindly blogged on her experiences. Over to Sarah:

In July 2011, I rather unthinkingly applied for a position as a secondee at the Office of Tax Simplification. I’d not heard of the OTS at that point but they were looking for people with experience with share plans, particularly with private companies, and it sounded interesting. In addition, the idea of simplifying even a tiny part of the tax code sounded like an excellent idea!

Eighteen months on and I can honestly say that the unthinking application was one of the best things I’ve ever done. For starters, there’s the undoubted kudos of swanning into the Treasury buildings like you belong there and the thrill of bumping into the big guns in the canteen. But even if you’re not as shallow as I am, the experience is one that I’d recommend wholeheartedly.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my 18 months’ secondment has undoubtedly been the opportunity to work alongside the leaders in my industry – particularly the chance to look at life from the perspective of HMRC and Treasury officials. I have always had respect for their experience and expertise; now I have had a greater insight into challenges they face on a daily basis that respect has increased enormously. I hope that one of the positive outcomes of the work of the OTS generally will be to increase trust and understanding between the private sector and HMRC – in the majority of cases, I really believe that our views and objectives are more closely aligned than perhaps we realise.

The experience has sometimes been challenging from a technical perspective. When the OTS produces a report, every single aspect of it is put under the spotlight by various parties: committee members with specialist tax knowledge, HMRC teams with (sadly, too much) experience of tax avoidance opportunities and the broader tax implications, Treasury officials looking at the hidden costs of proposed changes…and, of course, the civil servants always with an eye to the political angle. From the vague, “lightbulb” idea, right through to the precise wording (is it a “charge” or a “penalty”? Does the word “arrangement” have negative connotations?), every point is tested, questioned and argued with individuals who are absolutely the leaders in their field. Sometimes, you lose the arguments. That can, frankly, be terrifying – but like Nietzsche said (or Kelly Clarkson sang, take your pick), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!

The experience has been frustrating at times, downright infuriating at others, and sometimes the demands can really impinge on your day job. On a bad day, I think that we could, and should, have been braver, making more radical in our suggestions on employee share schemes. But I do believe we have made at least some improvements to the tax advantaged share schemes, and I hope our recommendations for unapproved plans will be accepted and remove some of the existing complexities for companies and HMRC alike. 

The reason I chose to work in this area is because I was given the chance to own shares in my employing company, and saw the difference it could make. So I am also really proud to have been involved an exercise that publicises the concept of employee share ownership. And – sad though it sounds – I am really excited when I see improvements to the share schemes legislation and I can say (to anyone who cares to listen): “I did that!”

Sarah Anderson
OTS Secondee on employee share schemes 

Unapproved employee share schemes

BlackberriesThis month sees the culmination of our two major reviews of unapproved employee share schemes, published today, and pensioner taxation, published next week.

Our final report on unapproved employee share schemes comes hot on the heels of the Government’s response to our review of tax advantaged employee share schemes in December. The Chancellor accepted the majority of our recommendations from that report and we sincerely hope our report on unapproved employee share schemes will be met in the same way.

As our Chairman Michael Jack notes, this area of the tax system is a “bramble patch” of complexity. Continuing this metaphor he hopes that the package of recommendations in our report will “enable users to access the blackberries more easily and with fewer prickles” from the “thorns of complexity”.

So what does the report say? Well, we have made six main recommendations, with three smaller, but still significant recommendations. These include recommendations on the general taxation of unapproved share schemes, international aspects, administration (including Pay as You Earn, Form 42 and valuation) and a proposal for a new vehicle for holding employee shares. Full details of our recommendations can be found in the report at the link below:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/ots_unapproved_employee_share_schemes_final.pdf