In June 2014 The Lab hosted an Assembly on tax and how to restore public trust in the tax system, in association with the ICAEW Tax Faculty.
The Assembly sought to ask big questions about the system: What works in the tax system and what doesn’t? Is there a fundamental need to rethink the tax system? Are the right things being taxed? Does the current system deliver the right result for society as a whole? If it doesn’t, what needs to be changed? Why has public trust been damaged and how should it be repaired? What part do we all play in the tax system and what should be our roles and responsibilities in helping to build a better tax system?
Participants were 80 people with a very broad range of views, from the tax profession, government, civil society, academia and journalism. This diversity did not cause conflict or vitriol in the room, but a strong degree of common purpose that somehow we do need to work together to redefine the tax system in a way that the public accept as legitimate.
To frame the event, we had interviewed a spectrum of stakeholders on what they felt the goals of the tax system should be, what was working well and what needed reform.
There were also opening remarks from Zoe Williams of The Guardian, Rory Meakin of the Tax Payers Alliance, and Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. We also heard a little about PwC’s recent experiment in citizen juries on tax.
Most of the day was spent in small group discussions identifying what we all thought were the most critical root causes to get to grips with. Public disengagement from the tax system was a common concern, and the ICAEW will be looking at how their educational work can help to address this. There was also frustration in the way that the tax system has become more complex over the years, making avoidance easier and helping to exclude many from the discussions as they become ever more technical.
We plan to launch this into a longer-term Lab process, in a similar way to AuditFutures.