Significant amendments to the Finance Bill slipped in at committee stage set a disturbing precedent of avoiding proper consultation and scrutiny, the Law Society of England and Wales has said today.

The changes, which alter the way buy-to-let properties will be taxed, may result in many investors paying income tax rather than a capital gains tax on their investment, creating uncertainty for taxpayers.

’By introducing a significant change in this way, the government is denying the public the chance to consider and comment on these proposals,’ said Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon.

’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 Law Society has made representations to the government, prepared by its Corporation Tax Sub-Committee. These representations set out how the amendments will materially change some investors’ tax obligations.

’If the government did not intend to make a material change, they need to clarify the language in the bill before it is passed. If they are intent on these changes, they should submit them for proper public consultation and legislative scrutiny,’ Catherine Dixon said.