Simplifying the UK’s tax system and improving tax policy-making

Held on Tuesday, July 9th


  • Kathryn Cearns and Bill Dodwell (Office of Tax Simplification)

  • Mark Littlewood (Institute of Economic Affairs)

  • Carys Roberts (Institute for Public Policy Research)



Tax simplification is in the news – thanks to would-be Tory party leaders/British prime ministers. Michael Gove promised to abolish VAT and bring in a “lower, simpler” sales tax. Dominic Raab suggested that the threshold for national insurance contributions should be the same as for income tax (why not go the whole hog and merge the two?).

One body that has advocated a closer alignment of NICs with income tax and the streamlining of more than 1,000 tax reliefs is the Office of Tax Simplification. The OTS is the independent adviser to the government on simplifying the UK tax system. Its aim is to recommend to the Chancellor ways of making taxpayers’ experience as simple as possible. Its most recent reports include Simplifying everyday tax for smaller businesses and Technology Review: a vision for tax simplicity.

The OTS is under new leadership, with Kathryn Cearns becoming Chair and Bill Dodwell, Tax Director, earlier this year. We are delighted that they have agreed to lead our discussion on how to simplify taxes and improve policy-making.

  • Kathryn Cearns is a chartered accountant with extensive senior-level experience in the public and private sectors. She chaired the Financial Reporting Advisory Board to HM Treasury, 2010-16, and the ICAEW’s Financial Reporting Committee for 10 years to 2017. She was formerly consultant accountant at the law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills.

  • Bill Dodwell, also a chartered accountant, is a former head of tax policy at Deloitte and former president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. He is currently editor-in-chief of the CIOT’s Tax Adviser magazine and a member of HMRC’s advisory panel on the General Anti-Abuse Rule.

To lead the response, we have:

  • Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA, the free-market think-tank that advocates low taxes. Former roles include chief press spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and advisor to David Cameron. He has appeared on BBC Question Time, Newsnight and Sky News, and writes a column for The Times.

  • Carys Roberts, Chief Economist and Head of the Centre for Economic Justice at the IPPR and Editor of its Progressive Review. Carys was a key contributor to the Commission on Economic Justice’s 2018 report, Prosperity and Justice. She, too, has featured on national media – broadcast, print and online.

This is an important issue, with many economic and political angles. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, please let us know by emailing or by calling the Centre on 0207 621 1056. As usual, there will be a sandwich lunch.


Kind regards,

Jane Fuller