Research and analysis

OTS papers on aspects of Complexity in the tax system

The OTS has published a focus paper on tax complexity, together with updated versions of its various complexity-themed papers.

Documents

OTS focus paper on complexity

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OTS paper on length of legislation (Apr 2012)

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OTS paper on thresholds - updated Feb 17

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Thresholds list (Dec 2012)

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OTS paper on layered legislation - updated Jan 2017

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OTS paper on definitions - updated Feb 2017

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OTS list of tax definitions

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OTS paper on the principles of avoiding complexity - updated Feb 2017

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OTS complexity index paper 2017

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Details

Since its formation, the OTS has been working on an underpinning project on aspects of complexity in the tax system: essentially looking at why the tax system is complex. Starting in 2011, we have published a variety of papers on the subject, most notably various iterations of the OTS’s Complexity Index. It seems timely to revisit these papers and this has led us to write a short paper in our Focus series to draw the various threads together. In parallel we have updated a number of the original papers and publish them here on a single page to bring them all together.

The papers are as follows:

  • Length of legislation:

    How long is the UK’s tax code really? (first published April 2012; we think the methodology remains valid and so we simply republish it now, though it is applied to the 2012 tax code rather than the current version).

  • Tax thresholds:

    How many are there and how are they operating? (first published February 2013; the paper has been updated a little but we have not updated the listing of 425 thresholds and 214 monetary penalties we compiled).

  • Layered legislation:

    Could legislation be written differently? (first published September 2013; refreshed and extended for republication).

  • Definitions in tax legislation:

    Do they simplify or do they add to complexity? (first published October 2013, with a response document published April 2014; we have collated the two documents and added some further updating).

  • How to avoid complexity in the tax system:

    Some principles (first published June 2015; the analysis and four key principles remain entirely valid so we reissue with some minor revisions).

  • Complexity Index:

    We have published a number of iterations of our complexity index, until now the most recent version in July 2015. We have rewritten the covering paper which describes the methodology and in particular included some text on how the Index might be applied to developing policy and legislation.

We also started a project on Avoidance and Complexity; the paper outlines what we did.

The Focus paper on Complexity is intended, as with all of our papers in the series, to focus attention on the area and to promote discussion. The OTS work in the general area of complexity is ongoing and will continue. We want to look at specific issues, but also develop and promulgate tools and techniques that encourage ‘good practice’. We would welcome contributions and comments.

Published 28 March 2017