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Tuesday 3 April 2018 – 16:30

Every month AAT highlights some of the key public affairs and public policy activities undertaken on behalf of our 140,000 members. 

Below you will find some key highlights for March 2018. 

If you would like any further information about any of these issues, please contact Phil Hall, AAT Head of Public Affairs and Public Policy, on Twitter or on email.

AAT ISA Working Group reports

Last summer AAT established a working group to look at reforming the increasingly complex Individual Savings Account (ISA) landscape. As AAT Chief Executive Mark Farrar has often said, there is now an ISA for every day of the week.

It’s not just the number of ISAs that are the problem, it is the fact they interact so poorly with each other, have different eligibility requirements and different savings limits. They are quite simply a muddled nightmare for many prospective savers.

The AAT ISA Working Group, consisting of MPs, savings industry experts and accountancy professionals, published their report on 6 March.

Recommendations were varied but included removing the ISA name from the Help to Buy scheme, closing the Lifetime ISA to new entrants and folding all remaining ISAs into a single, simple, easily accessible “Everything ISA”.

Politicians from across the political divide have backed the report, think tanks have reacted positively too and there has been universal support from industry with the UK’s leading investment firm, Old Mutual Wealth and investment broker AJ Bell both publicly backing the proposed reforms.

The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) and HM Treasury officials have expressed an interest in the work too and it generated considerable media interest including national coverage in the Financial Times, Telegraph, Times and Daily Mail.

More activity is planned next month.

Parliamentary engagement

Last month we directly engaged with well over twenty Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and independent MPs and Peers on issues including SMEs, broadband access, ISAs, apprenticeships and GDPR.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships

Lord Blunkett, Baroness Frognal, Lord Aberdare, Lord Young and Lord Flight were joined by numerous stakeholders including SEMTA, the National Apprenticeship Service and the Association of Colleges to hear apprentices from KPMG, British Gas, Heathrow and Microsoft talk about their experiences as an apprentice.

Hayley Stedmans from KPMG told those present how she didn’t know what to do when she left school so studied an AAT qualification. This led her to apply for a KPMG apprenticeship where she took further AAT qualifications and embarked upon a “rotational apprenticeship” with the company. Her first placement was in technology, she loved it so much that’s where she returned to on completion of her apprenticeship.

To summarise the comments of policymakers and all the various stakeholders present – schools will largely only do what they are paid for, what they are measured for and what they know about. Policymakers need to change what’s measured, paid for and known about. The message at these events is now consistent. The question is, when is anyone going to do anything about it?

Consultation responses

The Government responded to last year’s Broadband Universal Service Obligation consultation and briefly mentioned AAT in relation to our views on affordability:

“AAT acknowledged the challenges of meeting uniform pricing obligations given the likely lower revenues to be raised from less densely populated areas, but considered it essential that there was no disparity simply based on geographical location, and that uniform pricing would help ensure this was the case.”

The HM Treasury Call for Evidence on VAT published last month also made reference to AAT (see next item).

March was a quiet month for the submission of consultation responses with just one being submitted. Many more are in the process of being drafted – on topics such as modern working practices, VAT, entrepreneurs and the taxation of work related training.   

  • Modernising ATOL – response to the CAA

View this response and others here.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

On 13 March, HM Treasury launched a review into the VAT threshold. Their consultation document made specific reference to AAT (no other professional bodies were mentioned) and we will endeavour to respond later this month.

The Treasury Select Committee also launched an inquiry into VAT last week which AAT will also be responding to.

These developments provide a welcome opportunity to again utilise the AAT 2017 VAT  Survey results where several hundred AAT members expressed their views on the VAT threshold and very few said they’d like the VAT system to remain as it is today.

Spring statement

As widely anticipated, the Spring Statement largely focused on macro-economic matters and unlike the Budget was not a significant event for AAT. 

Still, AAT welcomed the move to a single fiscal event – bringing us into line with every other major advanced economy in the world – as it provides greater certainty for business, policymakers, the public and of course accountants, who help millions of businesses and over 12 million people with their tax affairs each year. 

Following this welcome change, the Government should now commit to publishing a broad, clear tax strategy and stick to it as AAT members highlighted in our 2018 survey and as nearly two thirds of MPs (63%) agreed when we surveyed them in December last year.  

Other events, meetings and engagement

  • We held meetings with representatives from the CBI to make them aware of our views on issues relating to SMEs, tax and apprenticeships
  • We attended an IFS/CIOT event on tax reliefs where we were able to highlight our own views on issues relating to R&D Credits, EIS and various other tax incentives
  • We attended two Resolution Foundation events and raised awareness of AAT policy positions on the need for Government to publish a simple, broad, clear tax strategy and stick to it as well as our idea to switch Stamp Duty liability from the buyer to the seller
  • Attendance at the APPG on Financial Services & Insurance proved a useful evening as we learned about various organisations approaches to improving product development, customer service and digital engagement
  • A brief meeting with Lord Adonis, a former Education Minister and most recently Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission meant AAT were able to raise awareness and understanding of our desire for Apprenticeship Levy reform
  • An evening debate on returnships proved useful with AAT having highlighted the need for more returnships in our consultation response to the Treasury Select Committee last year, AAT is now examining the possibility of offering these ourselves
  • The APPG on Responsible Business provided an excellent forum for AAT to express 2017 member survey results on the National Minimum and National Living Wage as well as to express concerns about an unreformed gig economy inevitably leading to lower tax receipts
  • AAT was invited to attend the inaugural APPG on Business Support and will seek to become actively involved wherever it may benefit our members to do so
  • On a single day last week we also took part in five separate Parliamentary events relating to gender issues providing a great platform to highlight AAT’s achievements, views and policy recommendations in this area.

Source: AAT News

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