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HMRC relaxes mandatory filing of VAT returns online
by Susie Hughes at 15:38 06/05/14 (News on Business)
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has agreed to relax the strict rule requiring VAT returns to be filed online.
This follows the consultation which was launched after the appellants’ success in the First-tier Tribunal case of LH Bishop Electric Co Ltd and Others v HMRC Commissioners.

In the summary of responses to the consultation HMRC proposes that businesses will be permitted to use telephone filing where they satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to file electronically due to their age, disability, remoteness of location, or any other reason.

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If for any of those reasons it is not reasonably practicable for them to file either electronically or by telephone, they will be permitted to file on paper. Any business aggrieved by HMRC’s decision to refuse telephone or paper filing will have a right of appeal.

HMRC has also proposed to improve the telephone filing service by making it possible for taxpayers to ring HMRC rather than making an appointment for HMRC to ring them, by providing a dedicated line, and providing a service outside normal working hours. The service will be more widely publicised and guidance provided.

Anthony Thomas, Chairman of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, which supported the appellants in Bishop, said: “This is a good outcome to an open consultation and we are pleased that HMRC has listened to those who responded.

“Until now, online returns have been mandatory unless the taxpayer is a practising member of a religious society or order whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic communications, or a business in insolvency.

"In the Bishop case the judge found that requirement breached the human rights of those who were unable to file online because they were computer illiterate due to age, or had a disability that made using a computer accurately very difficult or painful, or they lived too remotely for a reliable internet connection.

“It is regrettable that it has taken more than two years of hard work, uncertainty and stress on the part of the appellants and their advisers, and tens of thousands of pounds of court costs borne by the general taxpayer to reach this point. Nevertheless, the outcome is sensible and rational and gives HMRC a sound basis for its future digital strategy.”

A further consultation now follows on the draft amendments to the VAT Regulations intended to bring about this change. The consultation will close on May 24 2014.

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