Making Tax Digital

We have now seen the response of HMRC to representations made by accountants and other interested parties to their Making Tax Digital (MTD) agenda.

A reminder that MTD will result in the gradual digitisation of small business (including landlords) reporting to HMRC. The present proposals will oblige smaller businesses to upload quarterly data to HMRC from April 2018.

HMRC’s response included a number of relaxations, primarily:

  • Confirmation that data can be uploaded from spreadsheets, and
  • Free software will be made available for smaller concerns.

Unfortunately, HMRC has not changed their approach to other key issues. For example:

  • They have not moved from their original intention to exempt small businesses whose taxable income is lower than £10,000. Representations made suggested that this limit was far too low and would place an unfair compliance cost on micro business owners who may not even be tax payers. There are rumours that HMRC is under pressure from parliamentary committees to lift this limit to at least the VAT registration threshold, currently £83,000. This is one of the “hot topics” that we expect to be resolved in the Chancellor’s announcements next week.
  • HMRC still intends to start MTD upload requirements from April 2018. Although this is still a year ahead, the changes required to accounting software, and presumably HMRC’s computer systems, are formidable. There is pressure on government to ease back their implementation timetable, and perhaps consider a voluntary trial of MTD for a period, in parallel with the existing Self Assessment processes. This would provide some comfort that the intended outcomes are achievable.

MTD will eventually replace Self Assessment. In principle, pushing the majority of the data that is required to calculate tax liability into an individual’s personal tax account with HMRC is probably more efficient than the present Self Assessment regime where data is sent to HMRC by the tax payer and then checked against data uploaded by third parties, banks and employers for example.

All eyes will be turned towards the fine print published on this issue next week. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

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