HM Revenue and Customs has launched a new online tax calculator, which allows individuals with straightforward tax affairs (basically employees below state retirement age who have only employment income below £100,000) to work out how much tax they pay and how the Government spends it.

Given that a taxpayer whose affairs are straightforward enough to use the calculator would be highly unlikely to need the services of a tax adviser, I think I can comment on this dispassionately, and indeed I am in favour of the first aspect, as indeed I am in favour of anything that encourages people to take more interest in their tax affairs. However, I am much less enamoured of the second element of the calculator.

There is presumably a cost associated with assembling the relevant data, and I doubt that many taxpayers are actually greatly interested in the, no doubt extremely general. information provided. However, the cost will pale into insignificance compared to that of the government’s proposal to send out 20 million personal tax statements, giving similar data, from 2014-15 onwards.

At a time of significant financial hardship, I just do not see this as in any way a priority for government spending – I would much rather see HMRC being resourced more adequately to carry on its core tasks that wasting its time and money on gimmicks such as this. To my mind an effective and whole-hearted assault on the black economy would be the best use of HMRC’s limited resources, and would yield results significantly in excess of cost in my view.

I do not see what this calculator adds to the efficiency of the tax system, and its introduction makes me question the priorities of those responsible for our economic wellbeing at this time of financial crisis. The phrase ‘re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ springs irresistibly to mind.