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For many commentators a surprising part of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement was how much time he spent explaining the Government’s plans to invest in digital transformation. An extensive array of service areas were awarded funds to develop new digital approaches.
Of particular note was HMRC’s plan for digital tax administration including moving to quarterly reporting for most businesses and shorter deadlines for paying taxes. Since then many have aired their worries about these changes, including over 85,000 signatures at the time of writing on this petition opposing the changes.
Many people are worried that the changes will mean they will be doing the equivalent of four Self Assessment returns a year, instead of just one. Others have been concerned due to the added complexity this all might introduce for their business, or potential impacts on cashflow with tax payments due sooner.
Far from introducing more paperwork, we think these changes are a welcome modernisation of the UK tax system. In fact, it’s just catching up with where tax should be – UK businesses already report VAT quarterly and pay it soon after filing. In much of Scandinavia and Central Europe digital tax accounts with monthly or quarterly filing have long been the norm, as has been paying tax more quickly.
Let’s not forget that employees already pay tax instantly through PAYE as soon as they payroll is issued. So, for a Government intent on closing the tax gap between employees and business owners, these changes will be seen as progress.
We believe that little and often in terms of tax filings is far preferable to a big annual rush. HMRC’s roadmap sets out their plans to connect the many systems they use far more effectively, so that there will be much more information pre-filled when returns are requested. So we believe this new arrangement won’t be like four mini Self Assessments, and will actually result in less stress for business owners.
Ultimately, if you’re using online accounting software like Crunch to manage your business accounts, then you will see little difference. Crunch will integrate with whatever new technology HMRC bring forward, whilst continuing to give you a live view of your tax position as we always have. As long as you keep putting your invoices and expenses into system, online or using our apps, then all will be well.
Of course change can be a worry but in the final analysis the digital tax changes aren’t going to be much of a bother for the vast majority of businesses, and the changes are at least a couple of years away from happening.
You might avoid a fine if a close relative died shortly before the self assessment deadline, you've been seriously ill, or if you had major IT problems.