Friday 8 August 2003

Dare we call it conspiracy?

The endless torrent of taxation and red tape emanating from the government must surely benefit accountants and lawyers. But are they happy?

Not so, it seems.

Marilyn Jeffcoat, managing director of Edinburgh accountants DM Vaughan, says:

"Tax legislation is so sloppily drafted," she says. "When I first started all the legislation was under the Finance Act and was in one small Butterworth. Now it’s in two books, and is five times thicker.

"That’s because the legislation was originally so sloppy that it needs all this extra interpretation and statutory instruments to provide the real detail."

"The biggest change is just the sheer scope and quantity of legislation and regulations. It’s become an industry in itself," she says.

And where is all this leading?

Ms Jeffcoat says the overall effect on business of increasing tax laws and other legislation could kill off swathes of family-run and small businesses."I used to have to help clients with just their tax affairs, now I have to help them with all their legislation requirements," she states.

"A lot of family businesses which turn over between £500,000 and £1 million will go down, as there’s so few willing younger people coming through.

"We’re talking about businesses that keep ten people in work and may have supported a number of families over a lifetime.

"People are coming to the end of their tether. The rewards are just not there for increasing numbers of people."

Tony Blair's New Labour is certainly different from the nationalising party of the Attlee era. Privately owned businesses continue to exist and prosper. But, as Ms Jeffcoat notes, small businesses are being destroyed by over-complicated taxation and regulation. People are giving up; Atlas is shrugging. I have never been too keen on conspiracy theories, but corporatist big business gains from the destruction of smaller rivals and potential newcomers. Blair loves the glamour associated with wealthy businessmen and I am now of the opinion that he is being used by establishment companies to destroy those who might otherwise grow and challenge them.