LITRG engages parliamentarians on tax and disability issues
Members of LITRG's disability team were pleased to be invited to address the Parliamentary All-Party Group on Disability at their meeting on 11 October. This gave us the opportunity to raise awareness among parliamentarians of our December 2003 Report, Disability in Tax and Related Benefits: The Case for a Modern and Coherent Approach - the report can be accessed below.
In our presentation we focused on those issues and recommendations in our Report which have not so far been accepted or sufficiently worked on by Inland Revenue, HM Customs & Excise and their successor department HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and on which we continue to campaign. We called for:
- The elimination of out-dated and potentially insulting language in definitions of disability that still persist in tax and VAT legislation, and their replacement by the Disability Discrimination Acts' definition (unless an existing definition gives a better tax result for the disabled)
- A relaxation of the rules for expenses of employment or self-employment, so that a person with a disability could be given relief for their extra costs in putting themselves in a position to work
- Improving the current Fast-Track procedure for the disability element of tax credits, so that, among other things, it might actually work as quickly as its name suggests. Its main defect is that it requires claimants to be off work for 20 weeks - which does not help those who are back at work within that time, but who experience loss of earnings. And it does nothing for those who carry on work despite their disability
- The establishment of a central disability unit in HMRC to help eliminate inconsistencies and inadequacies, and more positively to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people within the terms of the Disability Discrimination Acts. We have also asked for the appointment of a disability champion in order to focus efforts
- Remedial training for front-line staff so that their goodwill towards people with disabilities is matched by their expertise in how to meet these customers' special needs. LITRG has conducted modest mystery shopping exercises which show that there is a patchiness in HMRC people's knowledge, even in the general helplines.
We also covered two related issues
- Council Tax Disability reduction. As it is up to each individual local authority to publish this reduction, results are inconsistent across the country
- A study of how the UK manages disability-related VAT in comparison to other EU countries. This study is being funded by the Nuffield Foundation and researched on LITRG's behalf by PwC. The study's findings will be the subject of a later article on this website.
We asked members of the Group if they would support our campaign as they went about their parliamentary business or made their own contacts with HMRC.
A lively discussion followed our presentation, which we hope indicates that we have engaged the attention and sympathy of this important group.
Contact: Robin Williamson (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)