Press release

Recommendations to simplify UK’s “spaghetti bowl” of tax reliefs put to Chancellor

The final recommendations on a selection of the UK’s tax reliefs have been published today by the Office of Tax Simplification.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The final recommendations on a selection of the UK’s tax reliefs have been put to the Chancellor and published today by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS).

Following extensive review and consultation on 155 tax reliefs including ones relating to Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax, recommendations have been made as to whether a relief should either be retained in its current state, simplified to ease administrative burdens, or be abolished altogether, with the aim of simplifying the often complex tax reliefs system with common sense proposals. 

The final report builds on the direction set out in our December interim report, measuring the reliefs against consistent criteria, and evaluating their effectiveness and relevance. 

John Whiting, Tax Director for the Office of Tax Simplification said:

It’s clear that many of the reliefs are valuable and clear in their purpose and operation, so we have not sought to change them, but others need simplifying or extending to be properly effective. Some have simply expired and have no further use; a number are poorly targeted leading to negligible value, or their benefit is outweighed by the administrative burden in using them.

We’ve had to make some hard choices to give us a manageable list to review at this stage, but we hope that the recommendations we have put forward today represent a common sense approach, and would help to ease the burdens of the more useful tax reliefs on those that use them.

Since this review started I have been delighted by the interest and support for our task, and I would like to thank all those that contributed to the review along the way.

The full report on the OTS recommendations has been published on the website.

The OTS will now continue to focus on its second ongoing review, review of taxation for small business, with an interim report due shortly.

Notes to Editors

  1. The independent Office of Tax Simplification was established on 20 July 2010 to carry out reviews in order to provide expert advice to the Chancellor on options to improve and simplify the UK’s tax system.

  2. The OTS started its work in September and has initially taken forward two reviews: simplifying tax reliefs and small business taxation. It will report to the Chancellor on both in advance of Budget 2011.

  3. The final report announced today setting out recommendations on 155 tax reliefs can be found on the OTS website

  4. The OTS found 1042 tax reliefs in the UK tax system.  A full list of tax reliefs, along with the review criteria, is published on the OTS website.

  5. The OTS team is led by Chairman Rt Hon Michael Jack, and Tax Director John Whiting and has a staff of 7, drawn from HM Treasury, HM Revenue & Customs and secondees from a broad range of private firms.  Details and biographies are available on the OTS website.

  6. In addition, two ‘Consultative Committees’ have been set up to work with the team to review suggestions and feed in views.  Details are available on the OTS website.

  7. The OTS can be contacted at:

Issued by Office of Tax Simplification Press Office Press enquiries only please contact:
Andrew Bennett
OTS Press Officer 
Phone: 020 7270 6190 / 07917 598392

Published 3 March 2011