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Online VAT return requirement challenged

Nobody is particularly enthused with the requirement to make online VAT return submissions, but three recent challenges to HMRC on the matter were upheld!

I’m really chuffed to have some good news for a change, and here it is: there were three appeals that were successful against the taxman for requiring online VAT returns. It turns out that the tribunal decided in favour of the appellants’ assertions that requiring online submissions was discriminatory against anyone with reduced abilities such as the disabled, the aged, or those without ready access to the internet.

The three appellants had quite a bit in common, besides being self-employed small business owners. Not only were they all advanced in years but one lived out in the country where broadband access is spotty at best, while the other two were physically disabled to the point that using a computer was a trial – and now that these appeals were successful, they mark a powerful precedent in no longer being able to require online submission for all sorts of tax forms.

For what it’s worth, I can sort of understand HMRC’s stance here in making it a requirement in the first place. Paper returns are slower and more difficult to process, create waste, and are undoubtedly more costly than doing everything online, but making it compulsory was a bad move and now the tax authority is paying the price. It certainly won’t be long now before this requirement is struck down completely, and good riddance as far as I’m concerned!

I don’t see why HMRC simply can’t encourage the self-employed such as freelancers, contractors, and small business owners to submit their VAT returns online whilst also preserving the option to make a paper return. Instead of making it a bloody requirement, why not offer an incentive programme to those using the online submission system instead? You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar after all – or does the taxman not understand that simple fact?

What am I thinking? Of course it doesn’t. This is the same organisation that thinks putting the thumbscrews to small business owners instead of going after major multinational companies for unpaid taxes is a good idea. This is exactly why the Government isn’t getting the tax revenue it wants: it keeps shooting itself in the damned foot. Is there no one with some common sense working down at the Treasury?

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