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UK launches Office for Tax Simplification

By the CNN Wire Staff
British Chancellor George Osborne compared the country's tax code to a "spaghetti bowl of relief and exemptions."
British Chancellor George Osborne compared the country's tax code to a "spaghetti bowl of relief and exemptions."
  • Office is intended to cut through 11,000-page tax code
  • Osborne: Tax code is a "spaghetti bowl" of rules
  • Office will identify areas where complexities can be reduced
  • United Kingdom
  • Tax Law

London, England (CNN) -- The British government Tuesday created the Office for Tax Simplification, designed to cut through the 11,000 pages that currently make up the country's tax code.

"We have one of the most complicated and opaque tax codes in the developed world," Chancellor George Osborne said in announcing the office. "It is a spaghetti bowl of reliefs and exemptions and allowances which makes our tax system less competitive than it should be."

The new office will identify areas where Britain can reduce complexities in the tax system for both businesses and individuals, then give those findings to Osborne to consider.

Osborne said the tax code doubled in size over the past decade, a period in which he said the United Kingdom slipped from 7th to 13th in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

"I want to create a simpler tax code, a more competitive tax code that says to the world that Britain is open for business," Osborne said. "And I hold out a dream -- a distant dream, but one that gets a little bit closer today -- that people might actually understand tax laws they're being asked to comply with."

Heading the new office is Michael Jack, who was a member of Parliament for 13 years following a career in business. He was financial secretary to the British Treasury for two years in the 1990s, where he established the Tax Law Rewrite project to rewrite the country's direct tax legislation in clearer and simpler language.

Joining him is John Whiting, who is the tax policy director at the Chartered Institute of Taxation and previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for 25 years.

"I've long argued that we need a simpler tax system in the U.K.," Whiting said in a statement. "In our complex world, a truly simple tax system for all is probably impossible, but working towards a simpler system will help all who deal with it: taxpayers, especially the unrepresented, tax advisers, and tax authorities."

Neither Jack nor Whiting will be paid, Osborne's office said. They will lead the office for a year until permanent appointments are made.