Blackberry story doesn’t compute

Blackberry users could be charged tax on the personal e-mails they send, according to various reports circulating. The original idea, I’m told, came from Wilkins Kennedy.

HMRC have described the suggestions as ‘complete nonsense,’ and I couldn’t agree more. The whole idea that there is any significant problem here is ludicrous. Nobody is going to be counting e-mails, personal and business, to judge whether devices are used for business purposes. It would be a waste of everyone’s time.

But if you go around giving your employees mp3 players, you can’t really claim (unless you work in the music industry) that those are for business purposes.

Likewise, if you give someone a computer for work, it should be fairly clear whether it’s for work or not. Is that really complicated? (perhaps only for those who want to abuse the system)

The key point is whether the personal use is ‘not significant,’ according to the guidance. There could be some discussions about this, but not too many I’d have thought. There’s not much money involved, after all.

Anne Redston, who had argued this was a problem, wrote in Taxation last month: ‘Providng HMRC agree to maintain the practical approach for VAT which they applied to the Home Computer Initiative scheme, this new guidance means that most business and their employees will now be able to avoid the bureaucratic burden of identifying the private use of work computers.’

That, for me, seems to be the end of the matter.

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