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SMEs may be forced to file their VAT returns online

Accountants for contractors may be interested to learn that HMRC has launched a consultation on the proposal to make online filing of VAT returns [1] compulsory for firms with a turnover of under £100,000.

The Revenue wants more businesses, and individuals, to go digital and conduct their transactions online.

If approved, the VAT filing requirement will come into force next April. HMRC would also like to see all businesses use online systems for registering and deregistering for VAT and amending their company details. There are no plans to make the registration requirements mandatory yet.

The Revenue has been moving business taxation [2] online since 2006 and online is fast becoming the default channel for business taxation. Lord Carter said in his original review of online services that legislation was necessary to combat general business inertia and that this should take place in stages.

HMRC says that processing will be both quicker and more accurate once filing is conducted online and that should appeal to companies.

However, the FPB says small businesses are paying the price of inadequate online tax systems and red tape continues to hold back SMEs ability to comply with tax regulations.

Andrew Needham, the tax advisor to the FPB [3], said the tax system includes complex and cumbersome online procedures. Furthermore, he said that HMRC employees received no training on dealing with VAT returns submitted electronically; a situation he found mystifying.

It now takes up to 50 days to complete VAT registration due to extended verification procedures and small businesses are suffering. Late payment of PAYE attracts penalties but small businesses are battling with the worst cash flow problems in 20 years.

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Image: Indicator, light [4] by rpongsaj

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