Adam Smith: the vision that has shaped Revenue Scotland

Adam Smith: the vision that has shaped Revenue Scotland

Neil Broadfoot, Communications Manager, Revenue Scotland, shares the impact Adam Smith has had on Revenue Scotland.

When the Finance Secretary, and now Deputy First Minister, John Swinney outlined the Scottish Government’s approach to devolved taxation in Scotland during a speech in 2012, he made it clear that Adam Smith’s philosophy would be at the heart of this vision.  Referring to the four maxims set out by Smith in the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the Finance Secretary stated that taxes in Scotland should be equitable, certain, convenient and efficient.

This is an ethos we’ve taken to heart at Revenue Scotland, and these principles are central to our purpose, ambition, strategic objectives and operations and, ultimately, how we measure our performance.

Underpinning this approach, we are committed, along with the Scottish Government, to developing a tax system that:

  • delivers services with the use of a digital platform, thus maximising efficiency;
  • fosters certainty by creating a culture of tax compliance, minimises scope for tax avoidance and bears down on tax evasion;
  • minimises administrative costs to ensure equity and
  • keeps compliance costs as low as possible for taxpayers and businesses alike, making transactions as convenient and equitable as possible.

One of the most exciting opportunities Revenue Scotland had to embody Smith’s maxims of convenience and efficiency was in the creation of our digital platform and the online returns and registration system, SETS.

SETS was developed in close collaboration with the Law Society of Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. With their help, we have developed a system, which was reported to be “user-friendly and intuitive”, making the payment of taxes simple and efficient - an approach Smith would no doubt approve of.

We also offer an innovative approach to the collection of taxation, embodying the revolutionary ideas of Smith and his pioneering legacy. We work with two firmly established and highly respected organisations: Registers of Scotland to administer the new land and property tax and SEPA to administer disposals to land fill. 

These partnerships offer further opportunities for us to customise tax collection arrangements that are responsive to uniquely Scottish needs, drawing on the relevant knowledge and expertise within RoS and SEPA to eradicate duplication and deliver greater simplicity.

This pioneering approach to developing Revenue Scotland’s processes and procedures ensures we will become the focus of the expertise in tax administration, ensuring that Smith’s vision remains at the heart of future work on devolved taxes.

To ensure this clear, authoritative voice is not only heard but heeded, establishing, building and maintaining public confidence and trust in Revenue Scotland is and will remain vital to everything that we do. We fully recognise that earning and keeping this public confidence and trust is not only an essential precondition of our success in achieving our strategic objectives but also an essential outcome of doing our job well.  We are determined to achieve this by developing a reputation for excellence in administering the devolved taxes - effectively, efficiently and securely.

We will ensure that we fulfil all our statutory obligations and that we earn recognition for consistent compliance with the letter and spirit of the law, including:

  • our founding legislation, the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Act 2014, including its provisions on maintaining the confidentiality of protected taxpayer information;
  • the tax-specific legislation: the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Act 2013 and the Landfill Tax (Scotland) Act 2014;
  • the Scotland Act 2012;
  • the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002;
  • the Data Protection Act 1998; and
  • the Equality Act 2010.

We will also strive for excellence in:

  • efficient and effective data collection, analysis and use that maintains very high levels of data integrity and security; and
  • open and accessible provision of information and assistance to taxpayers and their agents.

As we move forward with devolved taxation in Scotland the ethos and vision of Smith will continue to inform and shape our work, ensuring we continue to operate “in the manner in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay”.

Revenue Scotland and ASBS

In 2014, Lynn Bradley, a University Teacher in Accounting and Finance at ASBS, joined the Board of Revenue Scotland. Bradley has more than 30 years of experience working in the Scottish public and private sectors.