Tax experts caution government to "practice what it preaches" when it comes to small print, furthering calls for tax simplification

Hayley Kirton
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Small print makes tax too taxing, the experts argue (Source: Getty)

Tax experts have today called on government to "practice what it preaches" and apply the same levels of simplicity they ask for from businesses to the tax code.

Commenting on an open consultation from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) seeking the public's opinions on how terms and conditions could be made more user-friendly, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has hit back, remarking that tax legislation is hardly easy reading.

"Millions of consumers will applaud the government's condemnation of terms and conditions running into tens of thousands of words that we are all encouraged to sign off electronically without any realistic prospect of reading and understanding," said John Cullinane, tax policy director at CIOT. "Millions of taxpayers, who will soon be facing obligations to keep digitalised ta‎x accounts online, will be looking to the government to practice what it preaches and radically simplify the thousands of pages of tax legislation which make up the effective terms and conditions of these online accounts.

"Compliance with the law cannot be brought into the online future when the law itself is unreformed and beyond any single person's ability to comprehend."

Suggestions from BIS include requiring terms and conditions to be not longer than two smartphone screens in length.

However, research published earlier this week by the Centre for Policy Studies remarked that the latest Tolley's Tax handbook, which contains important pieces of tax legislation for advisers to refer to, contained roughly 10m words and was double the length it was in 2009.

The BIS consultation was launched earlier this month and closes on 25 April.

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