New champion for taxpayers on low incomes calls for better tax guidance and support

The new Chair of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has today urged the Government to provide greater support to help taxpayers on low incomes engage with and understand the tax system. It echoes similar concern expressed by the new President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) John Preston in his inaugural speech yesterday.1

The new LITRG Chair, Anne Fairpo, is herself a former president, current Council member and Fellow of the CIOT.2 She replaces Anthony Thomas, who has served as LITRG Chair since 2012.

Speaking on her first day as Chair of LITRG, Anne Fairpo said:

“Government rightly expects taxpayers of all kinds to comply with their obligations. But to do that people need to be able to understand how the system works and what is required of them.

“Feedback to LITRG staff and volunteers from members of the public strongly suggests that government departments are failing to provide the necessary quality of guidance and levels of support to ensure that unrepresented individuals on low incomes can fully comply with their obligations or understand their entitlements under the tax and related welfare systems.

“LITRG provides a huge amount of information to taxpayers via our websites and guides. We work hard to make sure this is both clear and comprehensive. We will continue to do this. But really this is something which should be being done by government or by voluntary community groups at government expense. The vast majority of taxpayers are trying to be compliant – to pay what they owe and secure what is due to them, while not falling foul of complex rules. Government needs to ensure that the resources are there to provide the guidance and support that they need.”

A major issue for LITRG is ensuring that the digitalisation of the tax system does not make life harder for some vulnerable taxpayers. Anne Fairpo explained:

“I have been involved with IT for a long time, and believe that there is great potential in technology and the web – but I also see the difficulties that arise when people are forced to use technology, particularly where it involves additional cost, or is not robust or straightforward to use. The Government’s compulsory Making Tax Digital programme should be optional for businesses below the VAT threshold, for people will naturally gravitate towards systems that are good, intuitive and easily navigable, without the need for compulsion.

“We will push HMRC to urgently assess and make public how it intends to support the digitally assisted population, and business owners with disabilities that require the use of assistive technology, to achieve the goals of Making Tax Digital.

“We shall continue to monitor the development of tax law and policy from the perspective of unrepresented individuals on low incomes, particularly those with precarious earnings, students, pensioners, disabled people and claimants of tax credits and universal credit, and be a premier source of tax information for the public.”

Paying tribute to Anthony Thomas, Anne Fairpo said:

“Anthony has been a bold, dedicated, and hard-working chair, always encouraging and supporting a busy team in their work for unrepresented taxpayers, and an admirable successor to John Andrews OBE who was the founder and first chair of LITRG. This is reflected in his standing within the tax profession which has helped to enhance LITRG’s profile among our peers.”

Among the achievements of LITRG under Anthony Thomas have been greater protection for vulnerable taxpayers when Direct Recovery of Debt was introduced, the near doubling of Rent-a Room relief and helping persuade Parliament to scrap the proposed changes to tax credits in 2016. Under his watch, LITRG’s many websites grew to reach at least 2.5 million web users a year and many more through advisers using the Group’s materials.

A particular achievement was the ground-breaking First-tier Tribunal case of LH Bishop Electrical Co Ltd which laid down a set of principles that HMRC have now used to define the categories of exemption from mandatory digital record-keeping and reporting.3

Anthony Thomas commented:

“I began my five years as LITRG Chairman straight after finishing as President of the CIOT and it has been a privilege to work alongside such skilled and dedicated staff and volunteers for so long. We have made a difference to people’s lives and I fully expect that to continue under enlightened leadership by Anne Fairpo.”

Notes for editors

1.       A summary of John Preston’s speech can be found here.

2.       Anne Fairpo was called to the bar in 2009 after 15 years as a solicitor. Her experience and expertise covers UK and international corporate tax planning and disputes, acting for a range of clients from small owner-managed businesses to listed multinationals. She is also a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and is a judge in the First Tier Tax Tribunal.  Anne has a particular interest in intellectual property taxation and UK-US cross-border tax planning, with regard to both direct and indirect tax. Anne is also an Information Technology (IT) enthusiast.

Anne is a member of Chartered Institute of Taxation, Revenue Bar Association, VAT Practitioners’ Group and International Bar Association among other organisations. She is also a TaxAid volunteer adviser.

3.       For a summary of LH Bishop Electrical Co Ltd, read here.

4.       Low Incomes Tax Reform Group

The LITRG is an initiative of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) to give a voice to the unrepresented. Since 1998 LITRG has been working to improve the policy and processes of the tax, tax credits and associated welfare systems for the benefit of those on low incomes.

The CIOT is the leading professional body in the United Kingdom concerned solely with taxation. The CIOT is an educational charity, promoting education and study of the administration and practice of taxation. One of our key aims is to work for a better, more efficient, tax system for all affected by it – taxpayers, their advisers and the authorities. The CIOT’s work covers all aspects of taxation, including direct and indirect taxes and duties. The CIOT’s 18,000 members have the practising title of ‘Chartered Tax Adviser’ and the designatory letters ‘CTA’, to represent the leading tax qualification.

Contact: Hamant Verma, External Relations Officer, 0207 340 2702 (Out of hours contact: George Crozier, 07740 477 374)