TaxSaver troubles

The risk of error-ridden tax returns could force Microsoft to provide a Web link to tax advisers in its first self-assessment package, a tax expert at the English ICA has warned.

TaxSaver, Microsoft’s first personal tax product, was launched last month and developed with Digita, the Exmouth-based personal tax software vendor.

It is aimed at individual taxpayers and competes with products such as the Consumers’ Association Which tax software.

With an eye on an Internet-dominated horizon, Microsoft is working closely with the Inland Revenue and KPMG to develop online filing of tax returns via the Web.

Unveiling a survey of the tax software market at the English ICA annual conference last week Francesca Lagerberg, senior technical manager at the institute’s tax faculty, said taxpayers may make more errors when filling in online self-assessment tax forms using TaxSaver, creating more work for the Revenue. ‘The taxpayer could email the form to their tax adviser if they want a second check, before sending it to the Revenue,’ she added.

Neither Microsoft or Digita was available for comment. But Mark Lee, tax partner at BDO Stoy Hayward, said a link to accountants was logical because of self-assessment complexities.

‘A link is possible due to the complexity of tax returns, but TaxSaver is unlikely to spell the death of the practitioner,’ he said.

The Revenue is preoccupied with a huge IT project as it moves 50,000 PCs to run on Windows NT, for the year 2000.

The deadline for the project is November, and Lagerberg warned the Revenue would have to deal with the first raft of corporate tax self-assessment packages in August manually before the system is ready.

She said the boom in electronic commerce would cause tax headaches. The EC and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development still have to decide on many tax issues.

For example, what constitutes permanent residence and an internationally agreed way to apply indirect tax have yet to be agreed upon.

Mark Holland, a consultant at HLB Kidsons, said e-commerce gave accountants new avenues of tax planning and legal uncertainty. ‘I’m sure there will be tax cases over e-commerce,’ he said.

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