HC Deb 08 July 1969 vol 786 cc1152-3
32. Mr. David Howell

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what studies he has made with a view to introducing self-assessment as the basis for personal tax collection.

Mr. Diamond

The Inland Revenue keep under review the tax systems of other countries, including those where there is self-assessment; but my right hon. Friend has no present intention of introducing it here.

Mr. Howell

In that case, has the Chief Secretary noted that the United States tax authorities succeed in collecting tax from three times as many taxpayers as the British tax authority, but with roughly the same number of staff as the Inland Revenue? As this arises largely from their self-assessment system, will the right hon. Gentleman see that tax simplification in this country is pursued vigorously so that we can get the same sort of labour-saving and cost-effective system?

Mr. Diamond

Of course one would welcome any increase in labour-saving and cost-effectiveness, but, as the hon. Gentleman who knows these matters well is fully aware, there are other arguments to be taken into account, including the very high level of penalties, publishing of figures, and things like that. I do not think, especially having regard to the amount of tax deducted at source that we have in this country, that there would be anything like the same labour saving.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the introduction of a system of self-assessment would also involve the general introduction of P.A.Y.E. and the abolition of Schedule D? Would this be welcome on the benches opposite. If so, would he introduce it?

Mr. Diamond

I am always anxious for tax simplification, but the difficulty about this is that every right hon. and hon. Member is against it as soon as the tax affairs of an individual constituent, and the egality of treatment of that constituent, are affected.