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"Influencers" Jim, but not as we know them....

You have to hand it to the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS).  It has valiantly been producing report after report in an effort to fulfil its remit reflected in its nomenclature. 

No doubt buoyed by the news brought in the Tax Day dispatches last month, that the chancellor had accepted THREE (out of 14) of the recommendations it made in its “Capital Gains Tax Review”, it has just published an “evaluation note” covering two earlier reports including its “Life Events review: Simplifying tax for individuals”.

Admittedly a daunting task, one nevertheless hopes that HMRC, HM Treasury – well anyone in government, will take note and implement the updated suggestions set out in the evaluation note, most of which reflects basic common sense!

It acknowledges that there is a great deal of useful information on the government website, but that more should be done to ensure that it is actively presented to those who need it (particularly those who don’t even know they need it) in a manner and format which is targeted and accessible. 

I have to admit that neither I, nor my semi adult offspring, had any idea that there was an HMRC YouTube which contains a wealth of Tax Facts programmes.  HMRC have laudably high ambitions for the programmes, which aim to ensure that all young people will have been offered access to the programmes before they leave school.  HMRC’s intention is that all young people reaching the age of 16 understand their responsibilities as future taxpayers. When they receive information from HMRC they will know what to expect- who sent it, why it is important and what to do with it.  The fact that none of us (nor my offspring’s contemporaries) were aware of it suggests that more is needed on the part of HMRC to assess the metrics and success of the programmes for the future, hence the OTS’s suggestion of engaging third party “engagers” (HMRC’s very own influencers) to help raise awareness.

These  ‘engagers’ or intermediaries (as distinguished from professionally qualified tax advisers – who already have a role in raising awareness of tax obligation issues) would hand out HMRC information to taxpayers in specific targeted situations to help inform and educate them about certain tax obligations, smoothing the process and helping taxpayers to avoid unnecessary penalties arising from lack of awareness.  

I am loath to compare this to those who are paid to stand outside nightclubs and bars with leaflets and offers to entice clientele in, but the idea is similar – the OTS suggest, for example, that conveyancers could provide an HMRC leaflet to those selling property who may be unaware that they have only limited time within which to make a CGT return.

As both of my children are (at last), gainfully employed I can vouch for the fact that neither had a clue about NI, PAYE or self-employment respectively and would certainly have benefitted from the services of an “engager”.

These notes do not contain or constitute legal advice, and no reliance should be placed on them. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to speak to your usual contact at Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.

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