Tax return service fails

Ambitious plans to create a nationwide network of 150 offices to tackle self-assessment forms collapsed this week due to public apathy.

British Taxpayers Association Self Assessment, a division of BTA, looks set to be wound up in the next month, only a year after managing director Geoffrey Adams outlined his plans to corner 10% of the self-assessment market with a network of offices and a #1m marketing campaign.

In a letter to shareholders, prior to a meeting in three weeks, BTA chairman Alan Richardson said: ‘Your board has reluctantly decided to recommend a members’ voluntary winding-up order while the company is still solvent.’

Richardson blamed the collapse on a lack of public interest in self-assessment services. ‘The trading of the company, apparently in common with others seeking to serve the self-assessment tax market, has been below our lowest expectations. Prospects for the next tax season are almost impossible to predict because the financial return on advertising and PR has been negligible.’

A lack of interest at the time of the filing deadlines convinced Richardson to pull out.

Other self-assessment firms were surprised by the decision. Peter Back, director of SimpliTax, Horwath Clark Whitehill’s self-assessment arm, said: ‘Everyone knew it would take three years for the market to settle down, and there are still thousands of taxpayers who haven’t filed returns.

‘We make a distinction between contract work and the retail side. The retail area has been slow, but not dire, although we are sheltered by the contract side. We also have lower overheads than BTA because most (85%) of our people go out to the customers.’

Bruce Lawson, director of Self Assessment for Tax, said some UK taxpayers were ‘prepared to struggle through on their own’.

But Geoffrey Adams, managing director of BTA Self Assessment, said: ‘Unlike the other companies we have a responsibility to external shareholders and we have to publish figures.

‘I’m satisfied no-one else has a magic formula we have not found. We gave the public an opportunity to take the best service at a good price, but the public chose to do something different – or nothing, as the case may be,’ he said.

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