Clause 8

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 19 Hydref 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 5:45, 19 Hydref 2010

I imagine that it can be frustrating for HMRC staff to find themselves having to answer simple questions borne out of the complexity of the forms and the time lags it takes to send out paper-based arrangements, and so forth, when they are also receiving phone calls from companies, entrepreneurs or ordinary members of  the public who have perfectly reasonable inquiries to make. The amendment is, as I have said, a welcome step in its own regard.

I want to ask the Exchequer Secretary whether he would take this opportunity to discuss the accessibility and intelligibility of tax forms more generally. Certainly many of my elderly, retired constituents, who may well be in receipt of much of their income through savings that they have accrued over the years and find themselves returning declarations about interest deducted at source, will be even less able to access readily the meaning behind some of the complex terminology in the current CT61 form, as well as in other forms.

Has the Exchequer Secretary thought about consulting the Plain English Campaign on the design of those forms? Can he say that if unnecessary acronyms, gobbledegook and jargon can be avoided, he will make sure that they are avoided, while at every opportunity trying to explain arrangements in layman’s terms?

Will the Exchequer Secretary answer a question specifically on the whole set of downloadable forms in terms of the wider self-assessment arrangements? I have had constituents who have noticed that when they want to fill in their self-assessment forms, they are sent a batch through the post and then have to go online to find the relevant forms to download. That can be a “hunt the thimble” exercise. Can he assure me that the web version of the arrangement will have a facility for the taxpayer to find the tax office address to which they must submit the CT61 form? It may be that the online version allows a one-click return of the form so that people do not have to print it out and go through that rigmarole. I hope that that will be possible.