The Ulster Farmers’ Union is opposing plans by HMRC to introduce digital only tax arrangements.
It is consulting on its plans, but UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson says they would create too many barriers and problems for small businesses, particularly in rural areas.
“This raises a familiar problem – the lack of quality, accessible broadband coverage in many parts of Northern Ireland. This would put many rural businesses in a difficult position if HMRC pursues a digital only approach before the broadband infrastructure is in place,” said Mr Ferguson. He warned that costs would rise because farm and other businesses would have to use agents to reliably file digital returns. “There is a lack of clarity as to what help will be available to the ‘digitally excluded’. We think it is unfair to expect rural businesses to meet extra charges to deal with HMRC,” he said.
The proposed timescale for implementation of digital tax gives little time for people to alter their record keeping. “HMRC must invest resources to ensure that people have the knowledge, skills and resources needed,” added Mr Ferguson.
The UFU believes HMRC should delay the introduction of digital tax until these issues have been addressed. Mr Ferguson said HMRC needs to develop accounting packages and find ways to deliver face-to-face training – but above all they need to recognise the very real limitations poor broadband access imposes.