Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Proposals for Tax Reform after Brexit: VAT

This is the first of a series of proposals from me, to enhance the UK after Brexit. It is NOT Green Party policy, but I would like it to be!
Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UK is a tax on spending with numerous exceptions, which makes it a complicated system.
There is a strong argument for reform of VAT after Brexit, in particular in relation to imports. Currently VAT is charged on some, but by no means on all, imports. However, the VAT charged on imports can be set off against VAT charged on subsequent sales, i.e. it is fully recoverable if you are VAT registered.
After leaving the single market, the UK will be free from EU VAT regulations. My proposal consists of three stages:
1. Reduce the VAT rate to 15% from the current high level of 20%, which would reduce the cost of all purchases, both imported AND UK produced, by about 4%.
2. Put VAT on all imports, most importantly on overseas service and management charges, which are used by offshore companies to avoid UK corporate taxes. VAT would also be imposed on all food imports, including the over-pricing of commodities by multi-nationals, which is also used to avoid taxation, and on meat. This would be a disincentive to the long distance transfer of foodstuffs (and animals)and encourage more local production, upon which VAT would not be charged. It is also likely to reduce meat consumption, in favour of locally produced vegetables.
3. Stop VAT on imports being recoverable. This would undoubtedly increase the cost of imports, but it is likely that:
(a) it would be an incentive to produce more goods and services locally in the UK and reduce the record levels of imports, now running at £582bn a year;
(b) it would be allowable as a business expense, thus being partially mitigated for importers by a reduced corporation tax bill (if they pay their taxes);
(c) competition would encourage importers not to pass on all of the extra costs to their customers, to avoid being priced out of the market;
(d) the extra cost to consumers for imports would encourage people to prefer locally sourced goods and services;
(e) the extra cost to consumers would be more than mitigated by the overall reduction in VAT on ALL their purchases, both imports and locally sourced;
(f) be a major disincentive for tax avoidance using charging for "fictitious" overseas services, such as management costs or over-priced commodities.
(g) it would, at current rates, bring in an additional £80bn+ in revenue to the UK treasury, which could be used to improve the NHS and social care;
(h) it is likely to reduce consumption overall, as part of a "de-growth" economic strategy, which was recommended for economically developed countries,after the 2013 climate change talks in Warsaw.
Such a change would challenge EU rules and would probably flout World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules as well. But it would be in line with the Green Leaves proposal to shun all free trade agreements, like TTIP and CETA.
However, it is also likely that retaliatory action might be taken by other countries, in the form of tariffs on UK exports, but as imports to the UK outweigh exports from the UK, this is something that can be negotiated favourably on a bilateral basis with each country or trading bloc, particularly the EU, whose exports to the UK are already £70bn more than the imports from the UK.