What's on the Office of Tax Simplification's agenda?

Held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016


  • Angela Knight (chair, Office of Tax Simplification)

  • John Whiting (tax director, Office of Tax Simplification)

  • Colin Ben-Nathan (partner, KPMG)

  • Stephen Herring (head of taxation, Institute of Directors)


Jane Fuller, CSFI co-director, discusses the Office of Tax Simplification's agenda for 2016 and beyond.



When the Office of Tax Simplification was set up by the UK government in 2010, it embarked on what it quaintly called a “voyage of discovery into the world of tax reliefs and allowances” – all 1,042 of them. The areas of greatest complexity included national insurance, employee benefits, inheritance and capital gains taxes. With the “alignment” of NI and income tax still at the top of the OTS’s agenda (see its March 2016 report), the journey looks more like a mission to Mars than a stroll in the park.

Assuming that we all agree that tax simplification is a Good Thing, the OTS should gain more traction from being put on a permanent, statutory footing this year, as an independent office of the Treasury. Further heft has been added by the appointment of Angela Knight as its chair. Among the challenges faced by the OTS is that the UK tax code continues to grow and amounts to about 21,000 pages. Another is that the man the OTS advises, the chancellor George Osborne, has come no closer to declaring a self-denying ordinance on tax breaks for favoured projects than any other chancellor.

So, we have plenty to debate with both Angela and the founding tax director of the OTS, John Whiting, and we look forward to hearing whether there is any light at the end of the UK’s complex set of tax tunnels.

  • Angela Knight, a former MP and chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, now serves on the boards of Brewin Dolphin, Tullett Prebon and Transport for London, and is Vice President at the Securities Industry Management Association.

  • John Whiting, a non-executive director of HMRC and a Board Member of Revenue Scotland. He had a long career as tax partner at PwC before becoming the first Tax Policy Director of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

They will not, however, get everything their own way. Joining them on the panel will be:

  • Colin Ben-Nathan, a tax partner at KPMG and a member of the OTS’s Consultative Committee looking at the alignment of NI and income tax. He is a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, where he chairs the Employment Taxes Sub-committee.
  • Stephen Herring, head of taxation in the Institute of Director’s policy unit. Before joining the IoD in 2013, he served a total of 28 years as a partner in three firms (Grant Thornton, Ernst & Young and BDO). He is one of the eleven members of the HM Treasury Tax Professionals Forum.