Scots still ‘failing’ to understand devolved taxes, says CIOT

Scots are “struggling more than ever” to understand how devolved tax powers work, according to the latest survey of public opinion to be conducted for the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).

However, CIOT said a majority still back plans for new tourist and car parking taxes, and the 2019 poll of Scottish public understanding and awareness of devolved taxes found:

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  • Some 91% said they had little or no understanding of the definition of a Scottish taxpayer, an increase of 7 percentage points compared to 2018
  • Some 86% think they need better information about how taxes are decided in Scotland. While this figure was broadly similar with the 84% who gave a similar response in 2018, there was a net drop of six percentage points in the number of Scots who said that the relationship between Scottish and UK taxes was ‘easy to understand’
  • There has been a decline in the number of people who can correctly identify that responsibility for income tax was shared between Holyrood and Westminster, down from 34% in 2018 to 26% this year. Nearly half of Scots (48%, up from 41% in 2018) now think income tax is set wholly by the Scottish Parliament
  • The number of people who think that the fully devolved Land and Buildings Transaction Tax is set by Westminster has risen from 24% to 28%

The survey also found broad support for the Scottish Government’s proposals to give councils the power to introduce new taxes on tourists and car parking.

Opinion was split almost evenly between those who thought the taxes should be set and controlled by Holyrood (32%) and those who support local council control (37%).

Excluding those who opposed the Scottish government having the power to introduce new taxes, and those who did not express an opinion, a majority of respondents in the East of Scotland preferred that the taxes be set locally (55%), while a majority in the West thought they should be set and controlled by Holyrood (54%).

The poll also found that 45% of Scots believe that the amount of income tax they pay has gone up in recent years, an increase of 6% on 2018. The percentage of respondents agreeing to this increased the higher on the income scale they were placed.

Alexander Garden, chair of CIOT, said: “Devolution has changed the Scottish tax system, but this poll confirms that a lot of work still needs to be undertaken to improve the public’s understanding over how tax responsibilities are split between Holyrood and Westminster.

“That public awareness has shown signs of waning compared with last year suggests that the initial publicity surrounding these changes has started to wear off.”

He added: “These figures should provide both the Scottish Government and HMRC with the impetus to renew their efforts to communicate tax changes to the general public.”

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