HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc270-1W
Brian Cotter

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Inland Revenue Business Support Teams there are; what areas the teams serve; and if he will make a statement. [122823]

Dawn Primarolo

There are 66 Business Support Teams covering the whole of the United Kingdom. Each team is made up of a number of Business Advisers who are located in one or more sites across each Area Management Unit. The Teams provide education mainly around payroll administration, but also cover aspects of self-employment, self-assessment and the construction industry.

The Chancellor is today announcing a major review of our organisations dealing with tax policy and administration.

The review will report to Treasury Ministers and be chaired by Gus O'Donnell, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, working closely with the revenue departments and their Chairmen.

The Chancellor is asking that the work he completed in time to announce initial conclusions and any next steps in this year's Pre-Budget Report.

The remit for the review will be to examine the best organisational arrangements for delivering the Government's tax objectives, both now and into the future. The review will also consider the case for changes in the law, where necessary, to allow the full benefits of particular arrangements to be realised and pay particular attention to the need to ensure the continued effectiveness of the core business of revenue collection and administration.

Specific points the review will cover will include: ways to enhance service delivery to taxpayers and how these are most effectively ensured. Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise together deliver some of the most important functions for the Government, for the public, and for the business community. They have a very large number of customers in common. The review will have a particular remit to examine whether, through closer working between the revenue departments or through organisational change, costs to honest taxpayers and compliance costs to businesses can be reduced; the coherence of administrative systems, including information and efficient use of resources across the broad area of tax administration, taking into account future technological developments which will open new avenues for enhanced services; how best to ensure consistent and effective enforcement of the law against those who do not pay their fair share, particularly those who make a business out of cheating the tax system. As part of this review we will examine work being done separately by the Government on the links between tax organisations and the law enforcement agencies; the most appropriate structure for delivering policy advice to Ministers. Currently officials working on strategic tax policy questions are spread across three departments. A more co-ordinated approach to fiscal policy advice is desirable, and the review will look at how we can best create a focus for tax policy work; and a new framework for accountability for those working on tax, to set out more clearly the roles and responsibilities of all those involved. Greater clarity will provide better certainty both for officials and Ministers. The review currently being conducted by Gus O'Donnell, which was announced in the Government's response to the Fourth Report 2003 of the Treasury Select Committee, will form part of this work.

The primary focus of the review will be making public service delivery more effective and efficient. The review will be conducted in discussion with unions and other stakeholders.

Since 1997, Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise have worked effectively with the Treasury to play a key role in support of this Government's reforming agenda. Their record is one of success and a tribute to the staff of the revenue departments and to their Chairmen, Sir Nicholas and Sir Richard. The revenue departments do a first-rate job and this review is intended to build on their success to ensure we make the best of the resources that we have.

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