Election is opportunity for tax education, says new Institute President

The general election campaign is an opportunity to improve public understanding of tax, and the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) will play a part in this, the Institute’s new President Charlotte Barbour will say today.
She will say this in her inaugural speech as CIOT President, as she thanks and takes over from Gary Ashford at the Institute’s annual general meeting this afternoon.

She will also:

  • Say the administration of the tax system deserves to be an election issue
  • Praise CIOT’s growth to the milestone of 20,000 members
  • Say the objective of tax digitalisation should be that taxpayers and agents choose the digital option, rather than being forced into it
  • Say that the onus to raise standards in the tax profession must apply to HMRC as well as tax professionals

You can read the speech in full here.

In addition to Charlotte Barbour becoming President, Nichola Ross Martin today becomes Deputy President and Paul Aplin Vice President of CIOT.

Charlotte will say the Institute will pursue its mission of advancing public education in taxation during the general election campaign by informing the political debate on tax:

“Tax is central to the political debate, but where we can add value is by informing that debate, bringing light, rather than heat, to the discussions…

“That’s why, as well as making our experts available to the media, we’re working on a series of ‘explainers’, to publish on our website, and share with journalists and the wider public, on the tax issues we think will be in the spotlight during the campaign.

“Not taking sides, but doing what we always do – informing the political debate, working for greater public understanding.”

Charlotte will also reference the letter sent by her on Monday to the tax spokespeople of the main political parties about improvements needed to the tax system:

“We all know that there are pressing issues around the administration of the tax system which also deserve to be treated as a priority. Issues that, unless addressed, will leave the tax system less efficient, harder to comply with and less effective in both raising revenue and supporting taxpayers.

“For example,

  • Better customer service so businesses get the guidance and prompt payments they need to operate effectively
  • Digitalisation genuinely focused on the needs of taxpayers
  • Meaningful simplification
  • An R&D tax credits system that supports genuine innovation – where the unacceptable attempts we’ve seen to abuse it are tackled without collateral damage to legitimate claims.

“The CIOT will be doing what we can to get these and other, similar issues heard.”

On CIOT’s growth, Charlotte will say:

“One of our challenges is to make sure the CIOT is in the best shape possible as it grows.  In my 35 years as a member, we have grown from around 7,000 members to… more than 20,000. A real landmark!”

On technology and artificial intelligence, Charlotte will say:

“Making Tax Digital seems to have been with us for a long time despite the fact that it is not yet actually in operation beyond VAT.  There remain concerns about the speed and nature of ‘going digital’. It’s a sensible aim. But the objective should be that taxpayers and agents choose the digital option, rather than being forced into it.”

“In this age of transformation we will need to come back to our training – to understand what we are working with in order to appreciate the tax consequences that arise, and to ensure that proper controls are in place. This is why our Diploma in Tax Technology is so important…

“I am firmly in the camp that sees AI and other digital tools as an opportunity – something that should add value and help advisers run efficient, profitable practices.  But we must beware the mantra that ‘the computer is always right’. Anyone who has been following the Horizon-Post Office scandal will know where that can lead.”

On standards and regulation, Charlotte will say:

“Professional bodies such as CIOT are the best route to maintaining standards in the profession. And that’s why, of the three options set out in the Raising Standards consultation, which closed this week, our preference is option one – that all tax advisers should be members of a recognised professional body… Compared to the alternatives – government regulation and a hybrid model – it would be less costly, more effective and easier to implement.

“Now standards, of course, cut both ways. The CIOT, under the leadership of my predecessors Gary Ashford and Susan Ball, has raised our concerns frequently, and forcefully, about poor – far too poor – service standards at HMRC.  Encouraged by us, two parliamentary committees have recognised this problem and called out HMRC for their failure to deliver improvements. We will continue to press for ways to resolve these problems on my watch.”