New tax form tries the polite approach

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST official copies of the Inland Revenue's new tax return have been printed and, as expected, it is very long. Running to 12 A4-size pages rather than eight smaller pages, as at present, the form is likely to push more taxpayers into the arms of accountants, writes Sue Fieldman.

Although it looks forbidding, the return is far easier to understand than at present, and includes a host of explanatory notes on how to complete it.

Perhaps most helpful of all is the new heading to the form. It has no complicated references to tax years, but a clear explanation that the details required are of your income, deductions, and capital gains for the year ended 5 April 1993 and that the claim for tax allowances is for the year ending 5 April 1994.

The design has also been freshened up. The new form has sympathetic blue type on white, and uses orange panels. The dictatorial instructions about how to complete the form have been replaced by polite requests and further information on where to turn for more information and assistance.

The other noticeable change is the explanatory notes on the left-hand margin of the return. These helpful hints tell you which section to refer to in the explanatory leaflet which is also sent out.

However, the return requires you to submit more detail for virtually every question, and there are new sections which you must complete if you have a company car, or let a room in your home.

The Revenue should be congratulated for its obviously concerted effort to make the form more user-friendly. But the form has become so long that the faint-hearted may be deterred from completing it at all.

Until, that is, they read the easy-to-understand warning at the beginning: 'You may have to pay interest on the tax you owe and perhaps also a penalty' if a completed form is not submitted.