If you have not heard of Tolley’s Tax Guides, you are not alone: as the managing director of a limited company with accounts to prepare and VAT return ready to send, I’ve never needed recourse to them. But they are a Very Important Thing for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), because their size enables chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair to churn out another meaningless “research note”.
The “report”, The length of Tolley’s individual tax guides [.pdf], is aimed at telling gullible hacks with copy deadlines and space to fill that the UK’s tax system is too complex. It tells that “the length of ... Tolley’s tax guide ... is often cited to show how much more complex the system has become”. Needless to say, this quote is not backed up with an independent cite.
There are even graphs showing the growing size of the various guides over time. But the way in which the TPA wants you to know that these guides are so long is the length of time that the world’s fastest speaker would take to read them aloud. Er, hello? I never declaimed the contents of the last HMRC Employer Bulletin to anyone who would listen, so I’ve clearly missed a trick.
Perhaps Tolley’s Tax Guides have replaced Shakespeare as set texts for secondary school English classes. Maybe this is how real companies do their tax returns. Or maybe the TPA is making another meaningless comparison just to get their dubiously argued copy in the papers.
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