Examination of Witnesses (Questions 177
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
177. Mr Maas, welcome. For the sake of our shorthand
writer, would you please introduce yourselves?
(Mr Maas) Yes. I am Chairman of the Technical
Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants' Tax Faculty.
I have represented the Tax Faculty on Self Assessment since consultation
started in 1993. In my day job I am partner in Blackstone Franks
which is a small firm of accountants dealing mainly with small
and medium sized businesses. I also give quite a lot of consultancy
advice to small firms of accountants. I have quite a broad experience
of self-assessment but mainly on the problems that arise, to be
fair. People tend not to consult me on what goes right!
(Ms Monteith) I am technical consultant with the Tax
Faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and
Wales. I specialise in personal tax and small business tax; also
on employer issues including payroll.
178. You refer in your memorandum to the system
being more efficient and coherent, but one that has created "major
practical problems". Very briefly, can you set those out?
(Mr Maas) Yes. There are really five major problems:
firstly, the statements of account, which people find completely
unintelligibleeven the accountants; the second is the tax
return form, which is extremely complicated; the third is the
tax calculation guide which runs to 27 pages, and those members
of our Committee who have tried to fill it in have always got
the wrong answer; the fourth is the processing errors, of which
there are an awful lot although, to be fair, probably less now
than in the early days; and the fifth really is the Revenue's
approach to enquiries, which is much more confrontational than
under the old system.
179. We may want to pick up on some of those.
You also say that many of the practical problems derive from the
fact that there was not sufficient consultation on the operational
procedures adopted by the Revenue. Has this improved now? Are
they listening to you?
(Mr Maas) It has improved a bit but the real problem
is that, when self-assessment was introduced, there was a great
deal of consultation on the structure of the tax and the draft
legislation and the Revenue then instituted their own system,
and although over the years they have tinkered with those systems
it is obviously very expensive to scrap systems and start again,
and they have major resource problems which really prevent them