The Land Of Far Far Away
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Business owners in rural areas may struggle to comply with new tax requirements due to inadequate broadband, experts have warned.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is planning to digitise all tax-related accounting from 2018, while many tax services have already moved online.
However, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has pointed out that many businesses in the countryside do not currently have access to fast and reliable broadband.
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As a result, it is concerned that they may struggle to submit tax information online.
Ross Murray, President of the body, commented: “It is vitally important to help everyone achieve tax compliance.
“We support new technology which aims to make life simpler for businesses but the government must look at the whole picture before making tax digital.”
Mr Murray stated that the rollout of superfast broadband in rural areas has been too slow, while the government’s Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps by 2020 is “not guaranteed to be met”.
He therefore urged the government to reassure businesses that they will not be “unfairly penalised as a result of poor connectivity when trying to complete and submit tax information online”.
Mr Murray went on to stress that the new digital system must be fully tested in advance, or else there could be a repeat of the difficulties faced by farmers after the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) digitised the Basic Payment System.
“It is crucial in view of previous government digital systems failures such as the RPA that HMRC should reflect on the lessons learned from that project to avoid a serious breakdown in the system which would cause yet more chaos for the rural economy.” he added.
This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative Party conference it is “not right” that half of the people living in the countryside, along with many small businesses, cannot get a “decent” broadband connection.
She therefore insisted that the government must be “prepared to intervene” if the market is “dysfunctional”.