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Tax without design

The system is increasingly haphazard, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned

KEY POINTS

  • Income tax system has moved away from coherence in past five years.
  • Withdrawal of personal allowance and child benefit thresholds not indexed.
  • Better to take away tax free pension lump sum than to reduce limits.
  • Political pressures that prevent a more coherent approach being taken.

In giving this year’s Chartered Tax Advisers’ Address last week the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Paul Johnson tested the changes to the tax system in recent years against a criterion set out by former US Treasury secretary William Simon: namely “Does it look like someone designed it on purpose?”

That is not a demanding criterion to apply but unfortunately movement seems to have been in the opposite direction. Johnson set out some of these issues in...

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