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Tories to end stealth on taxes

The Conservatives have pledged to reform the way that tax law is made, including publishing major changes no later than the pre-Budget report before the next year’s Finance Bill.

Speaking at the launch of the Tories’ tax simplification report in London last week, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne promised to bring an end to the Labour Government’s “stealth tax” regime.

He said: “The Government will no longer be able to bury bad news in the small print.”

The Tories’ report was written by a working group led by former Chancellor Lord Howe.

Osborne said a future Conservative Government would create an Office of Tax Simplification made up of HM Revenue & Customs, Treasury officials and industry professionals whose aim would be to systematically examine existing taxes and propose simplification. The OTS would work in a similar way to the National Audit Office, reporting to a new joint Parliamentary select committee on taxation and overseen by a steering committee appointed by the Chancellor.

Osborne said the Tories would introduce a new convention whereby all proposed technical changes to tax law would be produced no later than the PBR preceding the relevant Finance Bill, together with draft legislation if possible.

He said: “The Labour-dominated Treasury select committee hit the nail on the head last week. It said: ‘For personal tax decisions, the sudden and final nature of Budget decisions has been less about the need to prevent forestalling activity than it has been about the perceived benefit of seeming to pull rabbits from the hat.’

“Sadly, Gordon Brown’s rabbits have too often ended up looking like dodos.”

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