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New petition launched against digital tax accounts

A petition has been launched just days after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced new digital tax accounts for every small business and self-employed professional, signed by tens of thousands of people to stop the move going ahead.

Financial secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke published ‘Making Tax Digital’ last week, outlining the vision for an IT-led “transformation” of HMRC by 2020.

The move would see every individual – including landlords, the self-employed and small business owners – tasked with keeping track of their tax affairs online by updating accounts “at least quarterly”.

Charity, LITRG believes the new regime would only add to traders’ workloads; while other tax experts fear the data would be used for HMRC enquiries and to simply accelerate tax payments into the Treasury coffers.

At the time of writing Mr Gauke appears to have failed to convince almost 86,000 people, who have signed the petition.
If the petition reaches over 100,000 signatures the matter will then be considered for debate in Parliament.

Paul Johnson, the self-employed professional who launched the petition, said: “As a small business owner myself I already spend quite some time to get things in order … There will be greater chance of errors as well.”

Mr Gauke disagrees, insisting that “these reforms will ease the admin burdens on businesses and help them plan their cash flow more easily”.

However, James Moore, business columnist for The Independent, takes an altogether different view that the tax authority itself may struggle to cope with the new digital infrastructure.

“To listen to George Osborne, by 2020 HM Revenue and Customs will have been transformed into a digital tax titan, an example for the world to follow. That’s right, the same HMRC that can’t even answer its phone calls,” said Moore.

“[The Chancellor has] sought to make HMRC’s life easier in some respects by (again) making us taxpayers do its work by … getting small businesses and the self-employed to file returns online every quarter.”

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