The CIOT comments sent to HMRC 7 November 2016 on:
- Bringing business tax into the digital age
- Simplifying tax for the unincorporated business
- Simplified cash basis for the unincorporated property business
- Tax Administration
- Voluntary Pay as you go
- Transforming the system through better use of information
The following key points were made in each of the submissions:
Whilst MTD will bring benefits to HMRC, the likely impact on most businesses and taxpayers will be an increased workload and / or increased costs. It is not at all clear that there will be commercial benefits to offset such costs, particularly for smaller businesses.
The timetable for mandation of MTD is far too optimistic and must be pushed back. The proposed deferral of MTD for certain small businesses over the proposed exemption threshold is insufficient. Effective software is not yet available and fully tested, so the substantial number of businesses that currently do not use software will inevitably have difficulties both selecting the appropriate software and getting to grips with its functionality. Businesses that currently do use software will be prejudiced if their provider cannot keep up with the demanding timescales.
Deferral of MTD will allow a smoother and more effective transition. The continued widespread use of spreadsheets, and an upload facility onto an HMRC portal, will assist businesses get used to updating HMRC more regularly, in a more digitised fashion, whilst ensuring that transition time and costs can be better managed.
The thresholds for mandation need to be increased. The £10,000 threshold for exemption is far too low. It could place the obligation on non-taxpayers and landlords with a single buy-to-let residential property.
That said, the case for mandating larger businesses into MTD has not been made out. These businesses are already likely to have comprehensive record-keeping systems, already in a digital format, and many corporates will be subject to independent external audit. Mandation of a particular method of digital record keeping, and quarterly reporting, will create significant administrative costs and burdens. The figures being submitted quarterly would still need to be adjusted at the end of the year for tax purposes, and the submission of unadjusted figures will be of little or no benefit to HMRC or to the business.
Real simplification of the tax system, particularly for small businesses, will help MTD work. For example, a simple income-minus-business expenses model would be easier for taxpayers to understand and report. The simplification proposed is inadequate and potentially detrimental to taxpayers. In any event, simplification should take place BEFORE introducing mandatory digital record keeping and reporting.
Agents will be an integral part of MTD, yet the consultations are worrying devoid of much mention of agents, and seemingly imply that businesses will wish to ‘do it themselves’. Agent access and functionality needs to keep progress with taxpayer access, and consideration needs to be given to the different types of agent and the various functions that they carry out.
In any event, communication of MTD, direct to businesses and individuals, is vital. There is much work to be done to educate and inform the public about these very significant proposals, and how they change the interaction they will have with HMRC. In our view, HMRC will need to step-up its promotion of MTD. Digital communications such as YouTube and Twitter will not reach businesses that currently do not use digital tools. Traditional mechanisms such as television, radio and newsprint should be considered.
Our submissions are available to view below in PDF format.