The President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Vincent Oratore, has called for wholesale change in the way Parliament writes UK tax law. Publishing a paper on the subject yesterday, Mr Oratore described the current set up as 'deeply flawed.'
'There is not enough expert scrutiny and there is insufficient parliamentary time to consider properly the effect that changes in UK tax law will have in practice,' he said.
The Institute hopes the paper - The Making of Tax Law - will trigger a wide-ranging debate on the way in which UK tax law is currently made; the CIOT believes that many facets of the process need improvement but a key part could be played by a new Joint Committee on Taxation, bringing together MPs and peers to form a new body to provide improved scrutiny of tax legislation.
The CIOT argues that such a committee, backed up by a strong professional staff, could play an important role in reducing the amount of badly constructed laws. These can give some taxpayers unintended opportunities to avoid tax while others face unintended losses.
Mr Oratore explains: 'We have a historic and distinctive parliamentary system with traditions and conventions that need to be taken into account. But in this area I believe we can learn something from the Americans, who have a well resourced Joint Committee on Taxation which enables members of both Houses of Congress to play a meaningful and constructive role in the making of tax law.
'The primary responsibility of a UK Joint Committee on Taxation would be to review proposed UK tax law put forward by the government and to think through its policy and implementation implications, before issuing reports containing detailed analysis and recommendations. Such a committee would enhance the role of backbench MPs in this important area, as well as making greater use of the tax expertise in the House of Lords.
'The context is promising. There is a growing consensus among thinkers in this area - within Parliament, among tax professionals and among political analysts, researchers and constitutional experts - that the system could, and should, be better. There is a new government with a commitment to strengthening Parliament as part of what the Deputy Prime Minister has called 'the most radical programme of reform, empowerment, enfranchisement in over a century'.
'My aim over the next 12 months is for the Institute to provide a forum in which all those with an interest in UK tax law reform can contribute ideas and build consensus for the changes we need to make the tax system fit for the 21st century.'