Businesses are the key to a strong economic recovery, but they are being strangled by red tape. They must devote a large share of their resources to complying with regulations rather than engaging in the entrepreneurship that creates wealth. Under New Labour, the regulatory burden has increased substantially. It is extremely difficult to measure the costs of that red tape, but, in one field - the costs of tax collection - there has been serious work. There are huge and increasing costs imposed by Britain’s incomprehensible tax system.
Gordon Brown’s years of tinkering have introduced more and more complexity. The UK now has the longest tax code in Europe. A new Institute of Economic Affairs study, Taxation and Red Tape, reveals that there are 8,300 pages of primary tax legislation in Britain, compared with 1,700 in Germany and 1,300 in France. Indeed, we probably have the longest tax code in the world outside India - which is, of course, notorious for its bureaucracy. The average Finance Act since 2000 has been three times as long as the average Finance Act in the 1980s – a damning indictment of New Labour’s record.
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