Law Society slates IR tax rewrite plan

Inland Revenue plans to rewrite the whole of English tax law have been attacked by revenue experts at the Law Society.

The Government has launched a three-month period of consultation on the scheme, which will involve a team of 40 lawyers and other tax specialists. The team will spend five years rewriting nearly 7,000 pages of legislation, at a cost of £5 million a year.

But the Law Society's revenue law committee says reform of the current “production line” approach to new legislation is what is needed, not a rewrite.

In its 1996-7 memorandum, which has just been published, it says: “What is required is reform of the system itself – to ensure that, year by year, new tax legislation is fully discussed and, where necessary, amended to make it widely understandable.”

However, the committee is divided over the merits of the rewrite. Ironically, one member – Ron Downhill, a tax partner at Berwin Leighton – is one of three special advisers appointed by the Inland Revenue to oversee the consultation.

Jill Hallpike, secretary to the committee, said: “Ron is quite in favour of it, but he is in a minority. The current chairman, and Malcolm Gammie [of Linklaters & Paines], who will succeed him, are more pessimistic.”