Update on HMRC’s Tax Assurance Commissioner’s 2015-16 Annual Report

Update on HMRC’s Tax Assurance Commissioner’s

On 20 September Edward Troup and Jim Harra presented the findings from the 2015-16 report: How we resolve tax disputes.

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On 20 September HMRC’s Tax Assurance Commissioner, Edward Troup and Jim Harra, head of HMRC’s new Customer Strategy and Tax Design Group, presented the highlights from the 2015-16 report ‘How we resolve tax disputes’ and answered questions from the audience. Two key questions were raised in relation to: The reduced number of settlement proposals referred to the Tax Disputes Resolution Board and the Commissioners; and The increasing trend of taxpayer settlement proposals being rejected (up to 52 percent in 2015-16).

On the first question Edward Troup commented that the reduction in referrals may have been an anomaly for 2015-16 as there continued to be many referrals this year. The reasons for the reduction in 2015-16 might include:

  • A change in approach in large corporates that are no longer engaging in avoidance or aggressive planning;
  • The collaborative compliance approach adopted by Large Business had resulted in ‘persistent offenders’ getting affairs up to date; and
  • There were now fewer examples of taxpayers with multi-issue disputes – so it might be less likely that thresholds for referral based on total tax at risk would be reached.

On the second question it was suggested to HMRC that the increase in rejection rate might be resulting from a hardening of attitude by HMRC as to what they will accept as falling within their Litigation and Settlement Strategy rather than taxpayers pitching proposals that fall foul of the principles. Edward Troup confirmed that HMRC did not currently have analysis to confirm the possible reasons for this trend but they would consider whether this is something that could be included within future reports.

Edward Troup confirmed that he will hand over The Assurance Commissioner role to another Commissioner soon. HMRC have recently announced the reorganisation of their structure into three groups and are considering how the Tax Assurance Commissioner role fits within that. There is likely to be an announcement towards the end of October.

More information on the 2015-16 report can be found in our article dated 16 August 2016.

For further information please contact :

Kevin Elliott

Chris Davidson

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