5. Accompanying documents
As part of the existing legislative process in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament’s Standing Orders usually requires a policy memorandum, financial memorandum and explanatory note to be published alongside any new primary legislation (only a policy note is required for secondary legislation). These documents are intended to be read in tandem and together they offer more detailed commentary on the individual provisions and their objectives.
A key feature of providing taxpayers with certainty, resolving disputes and tackling avoidance is to make clear the policy intentions behind the relevant legislation. In drafting the accompanying documents, the Scottish Government’s aim is to set out clearly and in appropriate detail the intention of the policy and how the legislation is expected to work in practice. The objective of this approach is, amongst other things, to prevent tax avoidance from the outset through drafting clear legal provisions, supported by explanatory material setting out the intention behind the legislation, to ensure that tax is paid in the way that the Scottish Parliament had intended.
The Scottish Government also undertake various assessments as part of the policy making process. For example:
- Equality Impact Assessments look at how policies impact on peoples, in particular, the process identifies the impact of policy on people who share certain 'protected characteristics': age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race and religion or belief.
- Business and Regulatory Impact Assessments are used to analyse the cost and benefits to businesses and the third sector of any proposed legislation or regulation, with the goal of using evidence to identify the proposal that best achieves policy objectives while minimising costs and burdens as much as possible.
- Data protection impact assessments must be completed for all policies or projects involving personal data and privacy. They help to identify and mitigate risks to privacy, and identify the ways the Scottish Government can effectively comply with data protection laws.
All of these documents are published on the Scottish Parliament website alongside any other documents considered during the passage of legislation. To improve accessibility, the Scottish Government will also publish links to the documents on the tax pages of its website. This will bring together in one place all information related to the fully devolved taxes and will ensure that the documents are readily available to taxpayers and Revenue Scotland, and also so that those overseeing disputes and appeals are able to easily refer to the information and to use it when making their decisions.
As noted earlier, the UK Government now publish Tax Information and Impact Notes alongside any legislation to provide a clear explanation of the policy objective, together with details of the tax impact on the exchequer, the economy, individuals, businesses, civil society organisations, as well as any equality or other specific impacts. In this respect, these notes provide a similar level of detail to the accompanying documents already published by the Scottish Government.
Question 6: Do you consider the existing documents that are published, and the Scottish Government’s approach to drafting them, as a sufficient means of clarifying the intention and impacts of a policy?