CIOT: Poll suggests growing confusion over Scottish taxes

CIOT: Poll suggests growing confusion over Scottish taxes

Ahead of this afternoon’s vote to set Scottish Income Tax rates for 2023/24, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has published the results of a new poll suggesting growing confusion over how taxes are decided in Scotland.

The CIOT has also published a tax table showing the differences in Scottish and UK income tax rates for the year ahead if, as expected, the government’s plans are passed without change.

The poll was undertaken by the Diffley Partnership and is the fourth to be conducted by CIOT since 2018.

The 2023 survey found that only one in five (20%) respondents correctly identified that income tax is a shared responsibility of the Scottish and UK parliaments. This is the lowest figure recorded since the survey was first conducted in 2018 (34 per cent) and is a fall of seven points on the 27 per cent recorded when the poll was last undertaken in 2021

More than half (52%) incorrectly thought that the Scottish Parliament alone is responsible for setting income tax. This is the highest figure recorded since the survey began (2018: 41%) and an increase of nine points on 2021 (43%)

In answer to a further question, 55% of those surveyed said they believed the amount of income tax they paid has gone up in the last few years. This is also the highest figure recorded since the survey began in 2018.

While the Scottish Parliament has the power to set rates and bands of income tax on non-savings, non-dividend income (i.e. income from a job, self-employment profits, pensions and rental income), a range of other income tax powers apply in Scotland that are set UK-wide.

They include things like setting the tax-free personal allowance, setting tax reliefs, collecting income tax and setting rates and bands of income tax paid on savings and dividends. National Insurance is also set on a UK-wide basis, and its rates and thresholds are tied to UK, not Scottish, tax rates.

If MSPs agree to the income tax proposals as published by the Scottish Government in December, it will mean further divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Sean Cockburn, chair of the CIOT’s Scottish Technical Committee, said: “The growing confusion among Scots over where income tax is set is concerning.

“Scots may be looking at the increasingly lively debate about levels of income tax and concluding that this means that power rests solely at Holyrood.

“The reality however is more complicated than that, as many important aspects of the income tax regime continue to be set on a UK wide basis, such as the amount of money someone can earn tax free and the amount of income tax that someone pays on their savings or dividend profits.

“A lack of understanding of how the tax system works is not a uniquely Scottish issue, but increasing divergence between the Scottish and UK income tax regimes means it will be important to ensure taxpayers can more easily understand where responsibility and accountability lies”.

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