The Revenue gets larger than life and user-friendly

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THE new tax returns, which are due out next year, will ask far more questions, but should be much easier to understand.

The Inland Revenue is keeping the revised format under wraps. When we telephoned this week a Revenue spokesman said: 'It was finalised about five minutes ago and we still need to get the approval of the Finance Secretary. Copies should be available for you to look at in the new year.'

However, the Independent has received sneak details of the contents of the new form. If the draft is anything to go by the new return is much bigger - about 12 A4 size pages instead of the previous eight smaller pages - and much more user-friendly.

The curt formal request at the beginning of the current tax return to complete the details and send the form back post haste has been completely re-written.

You are now told why you have been sent the form - 'to give your tax inspector the information necessary to work out your income tax and capital gains tax liabilities'. The information will also be used to calculate how much, if anything, you have to pay in Class 4 National Insurance contributions.

There are also short explanations about declaring your income and capital gains, claiming tax allowances, where to go for help, and what happens next.

Another noticeable change is the use of explanatory notes in the left-hand margin of the return. The new format is also much more user-friendly with boxes to tick, and helpful examples of the various benefits in kind.

There is a particularly comprehensive section on the new rent-a- room scheme for homeowners who want to reap the tax benefits from taking in a lodger.

The Revenue deserves a pat on the back for making such a concerted effort to make the form easier to complete. The only problem is that by being so helpful in its explanations the form is undoubtedly bulky.

If you have the courage to plough through it, you will be pleasantly surprised at the new format. However, the size may well deter the faint-hearted. Until you read the ever so user-friendly warning - 'you may have to pay interest on the tax you owe and perhaps also a penalty' if you fail to submit the form.

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