Go for it Dave, move the deadline


THE DEADLINE for companies to switch their tax returns online was always controversial coming as it does in the same year as a change to international standards for SMEs. You can understand why. Just as UK business was battling for survival in the hardest of economic environments, they were lumbered with a boat load of regulatory change.

So HMRC’s decision that the deadline, 1 April, for using new technology to file returns online should not surprise us.

In short the evidence doesn’t stack up on paper. Sage won’t get it’s full kit ready in time but it has arranged a stop-gap measure. CCH will release something next week – close to the deadline, providing little time for users to prepare, but it will be ready. Outside of those the taxman says 30 other software providers have got their acts together to be ready in time. But Sage and CCH have a great many customers who will be relying on them and their technology.

The statement from HMRC allows the faintest glimmer of hope for hard-pressed SMEs and their advisers. It’s clear that ministers have yet to see the recent request from six accountancy bodies that the deadline be pushed back to October at least.

The taxman has placed the ball firmly in the court of ministers to make a decision. Exchequer secretary David Gauke will need to think it over carefully. The government has shown a willingness to give ground in some areas while maintaining its position on areas that are key in principle.

Filing tax returns using iXBRL is no such issue. There is no great government platform in this and, indeed, the policy was introduced under Labour. Plus, the deadline is April Fools Day which, frankly, is just inviting trouble for a government wanting to keep its PR in order.

Gauke could relax the deadline and have room to present it as putting right the messy planning put in place under Labour. It wouldn’t then seem like any kind of u-turn on his part and it would give the minister the opportunity to make a common sense decision which would receive the support of advisers and business alike. Go for it Dave, it’s win win for government.


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