To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations were received in response to the Inland Revenue's consultative documents on the General Commissioners of Income Tax; and if he will make a statement.
In July 1987 the Inland Revenue published, with the authority of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord Chancellor, a consultative document on the possibility of setting up General Commissioners in Northern Ireland. Comments were received from professional bodies, individual firms and others, representing a wide range of interests. A clear majority of these were in favour of the introduction in Northern Ireland of local tax tribunals. Where reservations were expressed they were predominantly about the importance of appointing and training appropriate General Commissioners, and about the transitional arrangements for introducing the new system.In view of this broad measure of support, the Finance Bill will include the legislation necessary to enable General Commissioners to be introduced in Northern Ireland. However, the system will not be brought into operation before January 1989. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor will set the date for the change in the light of progress with the appointment of General Commissioners. This will also allow the Inland Revenue to inform taxpayers and their advisers in Northern Ireland how their rights to appeal to an independent tribunal will be preserved and improved by the new system.The Board of Inland Revenue issued a separate consultative document in November 1987 on possible changes to the legislation which determines which body of General Commissioners deal with an appeal (or other proceedings). The proposal was that in some tax offices appeals by companies, trusts and large unincorporated businesses should be brought before the General Commissioners for the division in which the tax office was situated, subject to the taxpayer's right of objection. Comments from professional and representative bodies, individual firms and others recognised that the existing legislation was inflexible and caused difficulty. However, there was concern that the proposed changes to the legislation might in practice be equally inflexible, and about the lack of opportunities for taxpayers to propose a different place of hearing for their appeals.The Inland Revenue is therefore undertaking further consultation on new proposals which will make it easier for taxpayers to agree with tax offices where their appeals should he heard. This should make it unnecessary for the Inland Revenue to make use of directions for many taxpayers.If taxpayers and their advisers find this revised approach more acceptable the aim will be to introduce the necessary legislation in this year's Finance Bill.