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Sunday 20 May 2012

TPA – 2020 Tax Commission Speaks (3)

Tomorrow’s final report by the 2020 Tax Commission, presided over by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) and Institute of Directors (IoD), will include one more element which I’ve not covered thus far, and that is the question of regulation. Although this might seem a less than appropriate subject for a body looking at taxation, the reasoning is straightforward.

The comfortable of Tufton Street will speak

And that is that regulation, it will be contended, imposes costs – so something that can be characterised as another form of tax – on businesses. The argument will assert that, if only there were to be less regulation, and for the kind of people who bankroll the TPA that would mean a lot less, businesses could employ and invest more. The impression will be given of a win-win situation.

So what kind of regulations would the Commission care to consign to the dustbin of convenient ideology? Top of the wish list has to be the much trailed idea of making workers easier to hire and fire. But more and more are employed on short-term freelance or fixed term contracts. They are already very easy to hire (call an agency for some CVs) and fire (don’t renew their deals).

But there will be other regulations in the firing line: trading and advertising standards is one area the Commission would like to see slimmed down. There is, however, one problem: the public likes being protected against dodgy merchandise and bogus claims. This will require the full power of the TPA spin machine to persuade even the most gullible of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs.

More regulation removal will be targeted via the argument that it makes taxation more complicated and therefore less “fair”: National Insurance payments will be characterised as a “tax on jobs” and abolition will be urged. Corporation tax at a single rate – favouring the well off – will also be given a significant mention, and at the same time it will be recommended that HMRC employ fewer inspectors.

Other regulation may be in the frame: that on planning applications, listed building consent, environmental safeguards, as well as statutory inspections and workplace health and safety assessments, are all vulnerable. Criminal records checks for those working with the young and vulnerable may be added to the wish list, along with risk assessments for social and sports events.

What would be proposed in their place? Ah well. Most likely is that the Commission will suggest that there should be a form of voluntary self-regulation, and this will be held to be less onerous, equally effective, and of course “fair”. The thought that this sounds rather like the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), now derided as next to useless, will not be allowed to enter.

The TPA’s backers will then be able to please themselves. No surprise there, then.

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