HC Deb 01 May 1995 vol 259 cc42-3W
Sir Thomas Arnold

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the implementation of tax self assessment by the Inland Revenue. [21135]

Sir George Young

Self assessment will apply to those people who receive tax returns. The main legislative changes required have now been enacted, partly in the Finance Act 1994 and partly in this year's Finance Act. Self assessment is a more modern and straightforward system that will give taxpayers greater clarity about their tax affairs.

The Inland Revenue has been consulting with interested parties on the introduction of self assessment since 1990, and that consultation is continuing. The intention is to explore ways to make the new system as practical and simple as possible to operate, and particularly to keep any compliance costs to a minimum.

Self assessment will first apply to the tax year 1996–97 and the first new tax returns will be issued in April 1997. The Inland Revenue recognises the importance of ensuring taxpayers, employers, tax practitioners and its own staff are well prepared for the new system. It has developed a comprehensive programme to achieve this. It includes: extensive training of its staff on the new system and procedures, and to help them provide guidance to taxpayers about self assessment; a comprehensive customer service programme to inform and assist taxpayers so that they can understand the new system and comply with their obligations; extensive and continuing testing of the new tax return form, and consulting on its design, to make it as simple as possible for taxpayers to complete; a full trial of self assessment, involving some 5,000 taxpayers, which recently started in Leicester; and a major public information campaign, using television and press advertising, directed mainly at the 9 million or so taxpayers who receive tax returns each year. This will start in June. An education programme for employers and accountants will also start in the summer.

I am also arranging for presentations to hon. Members.

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