Friday, 04 November 2016 10:16

Rural fears over online tax information

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural fears over online tax information

RURAL business owners fear they could be "unfairly punished" if they are made to submit tax information online.

Concern about the government's plan to digitise all tax-related accounting from 2018 was raised by the Country, Land and Business Association.

Poor broadband in rural areas and no plans by HMRC to undertake comprehensive user testing of the new system "could throw the rural economy into chaos," it claimed.

CLA president Ross Murray said: "It is vitally important to help everyone achieve tax compliance.

"We support new technology which aims to make life simpler for businesses but the government must look at the whole picture before making tax digital."

Rollout of superfast rural broadband had been too slow, said Mr Murray.

Similarly, the government's Universal Service Obligation (USO) to guarantee user speeds of at least 10Mbps by 2020 was not guaranteed to be met.

"The government must reassure businesses they will not be unfairly penalised as a result of poor connectivity when trying to complete and submit tax information online."

The CLA said HMRC could face similar problems to those encountered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) when it moved to an online-only system for farm subsidies.

Following a deluge of complaints from farmers, the agency eventually backtracked and gave applicants to option of making subsidy claims on paper.

"It is crucial in view of previous government digital systems failures such as the RPA that HMRC should reflect on the lessons learned from that project to avoid a serious breakdown in the system which would cause yet more chaos for the rural economy."

Responding to HMRC's consultation on Making Tax Digital, the CLA has set out five key recommendations to support rural businesses.

They include rolling out the new system to the largest businesses first and delaying implementation by a year to test it over a full tax year cycle.

Rural businesses they will not be unfairly punished because of poor connectivity, it said.

The CLA also wants the tax exemption threshold to be increased from £10,000 to match the VAT threshold of £83,000, and tax relief on bespoke tax accounting software.

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