The taxing issues of 2018

By Hannah Downie, CA Today

26 February 2018

How can tax support growth and productivity?  For the Convener of the ICAS Tax Board, Neil Gilbert CA, tax has a crucial part to play in the economy.  Here he discusses what’s on the ICAS tax agenda in 2018.

Neil's interview first appeared in the February edition of CA Tax.

What does the Tax Board do?

The Tax Board has a number of different functions.  It has oversight of the tax work that ICAS does and it also helps set the direction of the ICAS Tax Team, which is led by Charlotte Barbour. Five committees report to the Tax Board, covering a broad range of taxes: international and large business tax, private client tax, indirect tax, owner managed businesses and Scottish taxes.

For me, one of the most important roles of the Tax Board is to help shape the direction and the strategy of tax at ICAS. The Board is also there to provide support to Charlotte and her team.

Part of the role of the Board is to provide technical input and expertise into the tax legislation process, and to share insight into developments in tax with the wider ICAS membership.

What are your priorities for 2018?

In 2017, we developed our tax policy positions.  A continuing theme for us this year, will be the development of HMRC – what it's role is and how it works – HMRC is developing, it's under resource constraints, there is a big reorganisation going on there. So, how does that affect how HMRC interacts with taxpayers and how the profession works with them?

Tax simplification is another priority.  Our tax code is being added to all the time, being made more complex, as can be seen, for example, with the new rules on tax losses and interest deductibility.

I also want us to look at the wider economy and the need for tax policy to support this.  How does tax policy support growth, entrepreneurship, Brexit and productivity?

Last year we did a lot of work on making tax digital, a continuation of that theme this year will focus on the role of ICAS in a more digital age, and how we support tax agents and tackle administrative issues in tax processes.

I’m also keen that we look at how ICAS can better help inform the public about tax.

Does ICAS have a public role to play on tax?

Yes, ICAS has a public interest remit under its Royal Charter.

Events like last month’s Big Tax Debate are a great platform for us to help stimulate debate about tax, enhance the understanding of tax and get discussion going about what's the purpose of tax.

The Big Tax Debate was a great platform for us to help stimulate discussion about the purpose of tax.

I'm very keen that ICAS works with other organisations – like CIOT in the case of the Big Tax Debate – to develop this understanding.

Why do you give up your time to volunteer with ICAS?

For the knowledge and additional skills it allows you to develop.  You meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet: there are great networking opportunities to be had, both within and outwith ICAS.

Before becoming Convener of the Tax Board, I was a member of the ICAS Tax Committee (as the Board used to be called) and was convener of the Scottish Taxes Committee.  Volunteering at ICAS has developed my understanding of tax: I've been exposed to areas of taxation I'd never deal with on a day-to-day basis.  It has also enabled me to get involved in areas that I might not otherwise get exposed to, such as public-policy making.

I get a lot of personal satisfaction from volunteering.  My day job is wide ranging and very interesting, but volunteering helps take you out of your normal routine and provides a broader perspective on how tax fits into wider society.

Why should CAs get involved with an ICAS committee?

I'll be honest, before joining the ICAS Tax Committee I didn't really have any engagement with ICAS.  When I was asked to join the Tax Committee, I thought I'd give it a go, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

To be honest, I didn't have any engagement with ICAS before joining the ICAS Tax Committee. But I thought I'd give it a go, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

In particular, I would encourage our younger members to get involved with ICAS.  It is important that the Board hears views from all areas of membership as we’re here to represent everyone. From their perspective, I think it can help with their career development as it broadens their experience and helps develop new skills.  It also gives them networking opportunities they might not otherwise have.

Does your employer support your work with ICAS?

Yes.  My employer is very much conscious of its place in wider society.  Standard Life Aberdeen is keen to promote sustainable business practices and very much encourage staff to get involved in outside organisations, be it directly linked to work or be it charitable work.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities at ICAS please get in touch at

Editorial credit: Offcaania /


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