Significant amendments to the Finance Bill slipped in at committee stage set a disturbing precedent of avoiding proper consultation and scrutiny, the Law Society said today.
The changes, which alter the way buy-to-let properties will be taxed, may result in profits from the sale of an investment property becoming liable for income tax rather than capital gains tax as at present, the Society said.
'By introducing a significant change in this way, the government is denying the public the chance to consider and comment on these proposals,' Society chief executive Catherine Dixon (pictured) said.
'The way these changes were introduced, in particular without consultation on the draft legislation before it was added to the bill at such a late stage, starts to feel like legislation by stealth.
'No matter what the policy proposals, proper consultation and process is vital to maintain public confidence in our democratic institutions.'
The Society's corporation tax sub-committee has made representations to the government setting out how the amendments will materially change some investors' tax obligations.
Dixon said that if the government did not intend to make a material change at the committee stage, it should clarify the language in the bill before it is passed.
However 'if they are intent on these changes, they should submit them for proper public consultation and legislative scrutiny', Dixon said.
The Finance Bill will go before the House of Commons for its report stage on 5 and 6 September.