A HMRC u-turn on digital tax returns must be welcomed but rural businesses still face struggle to get online
HMRC’s U-turn on digital tax returns ‘must be welcomed’ but rural businesses still face ’serious issues’ with the digital rollout.
1.3 million unincorporated businesses with turnover less than £10,000 a year will be exempt from having to file quarterly tax updates online. HMRC intend for the tax system to go fully digital by 2020.
David Chismon, Partner at Saffery Champness, said getting every small business online has ’always been a challenge’.
"Switching to digital filing still however presents serious issues for people with poor broadband access or indeed no broadband access at all," he said.
"For them a digital tax account will at best be difficult to access and, in the worst case, completely inaccessible."
CLA senior rural business adviser Charles Trotman said the rollout of superfast rural broadband has been too slow but even those who do have access could struggle.
"They may not be able to get the speed they need.
"A lot will depend on the technological requirements, particularly if it has a lot of graphic content."
He said HMRC are not looking at the whole picture.
"If it will work as HMRC want it to, we have got to have the infrastructure in place and I am not convinced the infrastructure will be there," he said.
"My concern is it might cost them money rather than save it. If they do not get it right, it will cost more, not less."
The HMRC consultation documents emphasise those who ’struggle to engage digitally’ will be helped and businesses that ’cannot use digital tools will be entirely exempted from these new processes’.
Mr Chismon acknowledged HMRC’s claim of 90 per cent of agents ’can and want’ to use digital services but said he did not think it would be ’an easy transition’.
However, Dr Trotman, said those who are using third parties to fill out their tax returns will still have an issue as the business will need to keep their online forms.