Tax Advisory Group minutes: January 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 January 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary at the Scottish Trades Union Congress
  • Dr. Jim McCormick, Chief Executive of the Robertson Trust
  • Cllr. Katie Hagmann, COSLA Resources spokesperson
  • Aidan O'Carroll, Chair of Revenue Scotland and former Chair of the Institute of Directors in Scotland
  • Charlotte Barbour, Director of Regulatory Authorisations at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and Deputy President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation
  • Prof. David Heald, Emeritus Professor in the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow
  • Prof. Mairi Spowage, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute

Scottish Government

  • Andrew Scott, Director of Tax and Revenues (Chair)
  • Lorraine King, Deputy Director, Tax and Revenues


  • Shona Robison MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance
  • Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance
  • Dr. Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce
  • Dan Neidle, Founder of Tax Policy Associates and former tax lawyer
  • Stuart Adam, senior economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed members and set out the agenda for the meeting.

Minutes of last meeting

The Chair asked members to confirm if they were content with the minutes of the previous meeting. Members confirmed they were content.

Agreement of Terms of Reference

The Chair noted that a variety of views had been expressed on the Terms of Reference and that the Secretariat had re-drafted them to better reflect these views. These changes were welcomed by members. 

The Chair stressed that discussions within the group would be confidential and comments by members would not be attributed in the published minutes. 

The Chair invited Lorraine King to summarise the individual engagement undertaken with TAG members. Lorraine outlined the key themes brought out in these discussions. 

The Chair invited members to offer any final points on the Terms of Reference (ToR). 

It was noted that the Finance and Public Administration Committee (FPAC) had implied that this group was directly involved in writing the tax strategy and stressed the importance of the TAG’s purpose and role being clear. The Chair clarified that the group’s role, as per the updated TOR, is advisory and that Scottish Government officials are responsible for drafting the strategy. 

Some concern was noted on the concept “tax burden” within the Terms of Reference and it was stressed that the TAG should consider overall effectiveness of the tax system over the long term. It was further suggested that the group considers the whole landscape, including perspectives from the New Deal for Business Group and Verity House agreement. 

It was suggested the TAG could usefully be a sounding board to help surface challenging issues and provide a useful feedback loop with Scottish Government, though it was stressed that the group would be advisory, rather than decision making. 

The Chair thanked members for their comments and agreement on the Terms of Reference, noting that members not present may offer different views but were broadly in agreement. It was agreed that the Terms of Reference can be sent to the Deputy First Minister for approval. 


⦁    secretariat to send Terms of Reference to the Deputy First Minister for approval
⦁    secretariat to make arrangements for the group’s ToR and minutes to be published on the Scottish Government website

Discussion: a strategic approach to tax

The Chair opened the discussion on strategy and introduced the policy lead, inviting them to present a summary of the current context. 

The presentation set out the current context, a proposed approach to developing the tax strategy and set out a proposed path for engaging TAG and TAG members. 

The Chair invited members to share their thoughts on the tax strategy.

It was suggested that the group can usefully help prioritise areas of work within the strategy to focus on in the short-term, whilst identifying areas for the longer-term. It was noted that taxes may fulfil different roles from primarily raising revenue to longer term behavioural change. 

It was suggested that the strategy may wish to focus on existing taxes which are significant revenue raisers: income tax, council tax and non-domestic rates. It was further noted that improvements to any of these would significantly improve the overall efficiency of the Scottish Tax system and have positive effects on the wider economy. 

Further, there was agreement that improvement or reform of council tax was fundamental to improving the efficacy of the Scottish Tax system. The importance of the relationship between local and national government spending and revenue raising was highlighted and the importance of a focus on delivery of local public services. 

The challenge and complexity of introducing new taxes was highlighted, particularly those which seek to change behaviour rather than raise significant revenue. 

There was agreement that the work of the strategy and of this group must be evidence based and evidence led. It was suggested that this group could usefully support this through consideration of literature reviews of current evidence and identifying gaps or new areas of research. 

The group welcomed the suggestion of evaluation cycles to improve the tax system. It was noted that a full understanding of the labour and housing markets as well as impact assessments would support the modelling and scenario planning needed to implement a tax strategy. 

It was suggested that the strategy could aid understanding of the role of tax in promoting growth and identifying the Scottish Government’s levers to grow the economy. It was further noted that demographics must be considered, particularly a growing retired population and its consequences for tax take and the wider economy. 

It was noted that the group should consider the full tax system, including the interactions with the Fiscal Framework and reserved areas of tax policy making. It was further noted that the future strategy of the UK government will be key in any work in this area. 

The group considered future changes to the tax system, such as further environmental taxes or a wealth tax. The significant challenges of introducing a wealth tax were highlighted but it was suggested the group could usefully contribute to a discussion on this at the appropriate time.

The Chair thanked members for a productive discussion and welcomed their continued engagement on the tax strategy, noting that officials will consider an approach to engage TAG members further. 


⦁    secretariat to circulate the Terms of Reference from the New Deal for Business Group and Joint Working Group on Sources of Local Government Funding and Council Tax Reform


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