Speaking at the 2015 Autumn Statement and Spending Review, George Osborne unveiled plans for a “digital revolution” at HMRC – and promised every small business access to a digital tax account for the 2016-17 tax year.
“In the digital age, we don’t need taxpayers to pay for paper processing, or 170 separate tax offices around the country,” the chancellor said as he introduced the shake-up.
The transformation – which Osborne has set aside £1.8bn to implement – will see one payment mechanism created for all central government services, as well as allowing enterprises and sole traders to calculate tax in real time. By 2020 HMRC will require the majority of businesses to keep track of their tax digitally and provide updates at least every quarter.
Kevin Nicholson, head of tax at PwC, praised the announcement as a “positive step” that would “save time and money for taxpayers”. The government believes the changes could reduce the costs to business of tax administration by £400m.
The Autumn Statement included a pledge to provide support to businesses who need help with digital technology. But PwC tax director Iain McCluskey cautioned: “It will be important to make sure that sufficient HMRC capacity in the ‘old way of doing things’ is maintained for those taxpayers who, for numerous reasons, are not comfortable or are unable to use a digital system.”
Gary Turner, MD at Xero, added: “The government’s strategy to build one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world is ambitious and we applaud them. In our engagements with HMRC they are demonstrating this ambition for progression by collaborating with technology partners like Xero in their aim of creating online tax accounts for ten million people by 2016. This is a bold plan. As the chancellor announced today, HMRC will make efficiencies of 18 per cent to its own budget. In the new digital age, we don’t need tax payers to pay for paper processing or the 170 tax offices around the country.”
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