Rural business communities worried about online VAT filing

Accountants with clients in rural areas might already have encountered some opposition to HMRC’s drive to persuade all businesses to file their tax returns online.

Chiene and Tait, a firm of chartered accountants, recently explained that internet connections in rural areas are notoriously unreliable and the mandatory requirement to file VAT returns online as from the first of April is causing growing unrest.

Helen McKenzie, a tax partner at the accountancy form, said the government plans to improve broadband access in towns and cities, but that does not help businesses in rural communities. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be a uniform way for these business owners to meet the deadlines for providing regulatory information.

The requirement to file VAT returns online has not been welcomed in a lot of rural areas because internet connections are unreliable. Broadband companies need to put better infrastructure in place so that farmers and other rural businesses do not continue to face unnecessary burdens and extra costs, she added.

Ms McKenzie also thinks HMRC is handing out inappropriate advice to businesses that do not own a computer. Telling them to go out and buy one, use one in the library or one belonging to a friend is not helpful to people in rural areas who are already under time pressures.

HMRC says it is happy to provide telephone support and has now agreed to allow firms without internet access to submit their VAT returns over the telephone.

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