Heavier but simple forms to lighten tax return burden

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THE weight of the tax forms that will be sent out next week by the Inland Revenue has more than doubled to 762 tonnes.

Eight million taxpayers will see a huge difference in the forms - not only will they be bulkier, but they have undergone a complete rethink.

They are now a stylish buff and white rather than blue, designed by Woolf Olins. The questions are more direct and there is more space to work out the answers.

For instance, instead of a box headed 'Trade, profession or vocation' there will be more direct questions - business name, and what kind of self-employed work you do.

'Longer but better sums it up,' says Bernie Hepplewhite of the Inland Revenue, who has been responsible for the new form.

The 12-page form has helpful notes in the margin, but there is also a 20- page booklet. There are three standard versions, Form 11 for the self-employed, 11p for employees with more complex affairs and P1 for pensioners and those with low incomes and simple tax affairs.

There are also special forms for Lloyd's names, trustees, clergy and expatriates. The lilac clergy form, for instance starts by listing possible sources of income such as Easter offerings, weddings, funerals and cemetery fees.

Woolf Olins has redesigned 25 forms and is drawing up guidelines for future redesigns. Forms will usually be given easy-to-remember, clear names, although Mr Hepplewhite said some forms, like the P45 and P60, had entered the language.

The forms look back and forward - back to assess past income and forward to allowances. The old forms were solely given the tax year for the coming year, which many taxpayers found confusing. The date at the top of the form has now been dropped. A note explains that the current form is for income and capital gains in the year ending 5 April 1993, and for claiming tax allowances in the coming tax year ending 5 April 1994.

Although the form is definitely simpler, accountants do not believe that their services will be rendered unnecessary.

Keith Graham, a partner in the accountants Westbury Schotness, believes that the redesigned form is a prelude to self-assessment, which was announced in the Budget, although it is not yet up to the standard of the American returns.

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