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The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) is calling on HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to simplify the process of applying for tax reliefs so that fewer taxpayers miss out.
In total, the UK has 1,190 tax reliefs, that each require taxpayers to claim or make an election to benefit from them.
The OTS in its report has considered the administrative processes for making claims and feels that most could be simplified, across income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax (CGT) and VAT.
As a result of its investigation into tax reliefs the OTS has made 15 recommendations that would help to either improve the general operation of claims throughout the tax system or assist taxpayers with specific elections where processes could be simplified.
The OTS has also called on HMRC to improve the functionality of its online tax accounts, both personal and business, including adding the ability to make more claims and elections within the account and store information and supporting documentation about them.
Another key proposal would be to change employee expenses to improve the claim process and reduce the different levels of flat-rate expenses.
The OTS said that more than five million employees each year currently claim tax relief on expenses that are not reimbursed by their employer.
The report also highlighted inconsistencies in the time limits for amending claims and elections and recommends that they should be made the same whether within or outside of a return.
Looking at HMRC’s online forms, the OTS said that many taxpayers found them hard to fill in because users often cannot see what information will be needed beforehand and that the forms cannot be saved part-way through and returned to.
Bill Dodwell, OTS Tax Director, said: “Millions of people make claims and elections every year. However, there are still those who aren’t making claims for all that they are entitled to.
“Claims for employee expenses are a particular focus, together with claims for higher rate relief for pension contributions and gift aid donations.
“We welcome the commitments that the Government set out in its recent vision for the future of tax administration, including the introduction of a single online tax account that is capable of doing more.
“Increasing the functionality of the personal tax and business tax account, as recommended in this report and in our tax reporting and payment arrangement report, would significantly ease the process for many people.”