The coalition government has announced that it will seek to streamline its online services, including its business advice and tax information websites. No promises, no guarantees, just a general acceptance that things could probably be done better.
This news has cheered up the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) who are calling for these services to be delivered more effectively, and I’m sure any small business owners who’ve used the Government’s online resources will feel the same. After all, finding the information you need can be a long and fruitless search.
So, what will an improved online service for freelancers, contractors and SMEs look like?
To make it easier, the government’s business and tax advice needs to be provided all in one place, a point which has been made by the UK’s ‘Digital Champion’ Martha Lane Fox. In a report to the Government she has outlined some radical changes in the way online services could be provided.
One of the key suggestions is to change the way in which information is published and presented by different departments via hundreds of different websites. Instead, she suggests information should be, “…published to a single Government website with a consistently excellent user experience.”
This idea of providing government information under one roof is exactly what John Whiting, director of tax policy at CIOT, would like to see:
“…tax information that used to be available all in one place is fragmenting across three websites – HMRC, Business Link, and DirectGov, making it harder for taxpayers and agents to find the information they need.”
“However this is contrary to what is happening at the moment, where tax information that used to be available all in one place is fragmenting across three websites – HMRC, Business Link, and DirectGov, making it harder for taxpayers and agents to find the information they need.”
So, perhaps the Government will go back to the future and give people a one stop shop for all their business needs. And that can only be a good thing.