Are instability, uncertainty in interpretation and complexity in the UK tax system acting as a deterrent to foreign investors?
According to Deloitte's 2017 Asia Pacific Tax Complexity Survey, the three most significant factors in today's business decision-making in that region are stability, consistency in interpretation & enforcement, and complexity. Whilst the survey relates to the Asia Pacific region, these concerns are likely to be reflected throughout the business world.
Whilst the UK, in many ways, provides an extremely attractive environment for UK and overseas businesses, our tax system is in conflict with all three of the factors identified by Deloitte.
Each year the Finance Act appears to get longer. Until it was trimmed - because of the general election - the Finance Bill (No2) 2017 was 776 pages long. Changes are introduced one year and amended the next - practitioners may be justified in feeling that by the time they have finished reading one Finance Act, the next one will have made what they have just read redundant.
With this volume of tax legislation being created each year, and the extensive changes it implements, the stability of the UK tax system may start to be called into question.
To this can be added HMRC's pressure on the tribunals to interpret tax laws constructively - following HMRC's view of what the law was meant to say, even if the words are not so clear.
Finally, each Finance Act appears to add new legislation without removing much of the old, resulting in the UK tax system become more complex year on year.
Given the UK's need, especially following Brexit, to encourage business relations throughout the world, including in the Asia Pacific region can the UK Government afford to continue to ignore what appear to be the three most important factors in decision-making amongst overseas businesses that may be considering investing in the UK? The UK is a wonderful place in which, and from which, to do business - we must take care that we do not deter the overseas investor by creating a tax system that is unstable, uncertain and unduly complex.
And the reference to Elves and myths? A blog by Kitty Miv on lowtax.net, which cites the Deloitte report, goes on to state about the UK:
"the pre-truncated 2017 finance bill ... [apparently] contained more words than JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy combined."
Sadly, it appears that this is a myth. However, at just over 297,000 words, the Finance Bill was longer than books 2 and 3 ("Two Towers" and "Return of the King") combined. That is surely more than enough for even the most keen of readers - especially as there will be new bills in 2018, and 2019 and ....
In 2017, 39% of respondents considered high predictability about future developments of tax law as the most important factor in today's business decision-making. This is followed by 32% of respondents who believe high consistency in interpreting and enforcement of tax law is most important, and 29% of respondents who see low complexity of tax laws as their primary consideration.