Belfast Telegraph

Changes to digital tax plans welcomed

Changes to a controversial new tax system have been announced by the Government.

The timetable for bringing in the Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative has been extended.

The scheme covers the introduction of digital record-keeping and quarterly updates for the majority of businesses, self-employed people and landlords.

However, only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold, currently £85,000, will now have to keep digital records for VAT purposes from 2019.

Businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020, under the proposals.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General Mel Stride said: "Businesses agree that digitising the tax system is the right direction of travel.

"However, many have been worried about the scope and pace of reforms.

"We have listened very carefully to their concerns and are making changes so that we can bring the tax system into the digital age in a way that is right for all businesses."

The move follows widespread concern voiced about the initial timetable, including by a number of Tory MPs.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said the previous timetable for implementation of MTD from April next year was "rushed" and that many small firms were not ready to cope with the additional administrative and financial demands of digital taxation.

Phil Hall, of the Association of Accounting Technicians, said: "Having a two-year implementation programme will greatly benefit all concerned, is a victory for common sense and indicates the Government's willingness to take on board industry views."

National chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, Mike Cherry, said: "We're delighted that the Chancellor's team in the Treasury has listened to our concerns about the mandatory aspects of Making Tax Digital, and has now decided to change their planned timetable.

"The exemption of the very smallest firms below the £85,000 turnover VAT threshold has been FSB's top priority for reform, and now millions of business owners will be relieved.

"This is a positive decision and will be a real lifeline for small firms already facing a hugely challenging economic climate."

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd said there was concern about other measures in the planned Finance Bill.

He said: "There still remains huge uncertainty about a number of the planned measures within the Bill, and the amount of time Parliament will have to scrutinise it.

"Labour's manifesto pledged to permanently exempt small businesses from quarterly reporting to HMRC and we are glad to have forced the Government to reconsider such an onerous measure.

"On the issue of making tax digital, while we recognise the huge benefits of a digital tax system we still have great reservations about the timetable for implementation.

"For weeks, the Opposition has been asking the Government to present the 'summer Finance Bill' and utilise the relatively quiet legislative period to ensure that the Bill receives the proper parliamentary debate and oversight it deserves.

"The Government's decision to ignore these calls and wait until after the summer recess will only extend the growing uncertainty for taxpayers and public finances.

"The Government's legislative programme is in meltdown and they are desperately trying to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny by flying these serious pieces of legislation under the radar."