Evidence given to a Scottish Government committee discussing the benefits of the country having full control over its own tax system has been welcomed by the SNP, who say it demonstrates another “great opportunity” which independence would bring.
The Economy, Energy and Tourism (EET) Committee has been conducting an inquiry into Scotland’s economic future post-2014, regardless of a Yes or No vote in September’s referendum. As part of this inquiry the cross-party EET Committee has been collecting the views of organisations and individuals from across Scotland on the economic issues surrounding the debate.
Yesterday the committee received oral evidence as part of the inquiry from a plethora of experts in the fields of tax and law. Experts invited to give their views included Elspeth Orcharton, director of taxation at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and Moira Kelly, chairperson of the Scottish Technical Sub-committee at the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).
The timescale of implementing a new tax system was raised, with ICAS director Orcharton pointing out that it is “not an easy change” and suggesting that it could take between four and ten years to do properly.
Ms Kelly called the discussions “very collaborative” and “very refreshing” while praising the overarching aim of finding some consensus on what is best for Scotland.
She added: “We’re all trying to get that best tax regime; we’re all coming at it from different sides saying ‘we want to make this as user friendly for revenue, for taxpayers as possible’. This will give us a great opportunity in Scotland to actually derive tax legislation that is suitable for Scottish requirements.”
The White Paper set out plans to create a distinct Scottish tax system, stating it would be “less cumbersome and less open to avoidance” than the current UK regime, which the document labelled as “complex and inefficient”.
Mike McKenzie, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and a member of the EET Committee, applauded the evidence given in front of the committee and referenced the effects of Westminster Government’s tax alterations on business in the North Sea as an example of the opportunity for change independence could bring.
“In just ten years there have been sixteen substantive changes to the fiscal regime in the North Sea – no industry can possibly operate at its best when faced with such challenges,” said McKenzie. “With independence Scotland will have the fiscal and taxation powers to support the industry ensuring it is no longer subject to sudden and unexpected tax hikes by the UK Government, and will ensure the wealth from Scotland’s oil will no longer be squandered, but will benefit future generations through the establishment of an oil fund.”
He added: “The simplification of the tax system will reduce compliance costs and help reduce the massive issue of tax avoidance in the UK.”