Pressurised SMEs fight back over tax changes which will add huge administrative burden

The call follows claims in a National Audit Office report last week that small firms are being ‘hounded’ by Revenue & Customs.

Adam Marshall, director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, has called for investment in Revenue & Customs’ support for business users equivalent to the large sums being spent on improving enforcement.

Marshall said: ‘Tax administration is causing big red tape issues for businesses and needs to be simplified.’

Marshall has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin, urging the Government to make tax administration ‘a business red tape priority’.

In the letter, he said the issue of tax administration had ‘risen up the ranks to become one of the principal regulatory complaints received from businesses across the UK Chamber Network’.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has also been very outspoken about the announcement by the Chancellor, in the Autumn Statement, of the requirement to file quarterly tax return describing the plans to be a ‘dog’s dinner’, and last week it was revealed that taxpayers are facing an average delay of 38 minutes before getting through to the Revenue’s helpline.

The ICAEW has backed Marshall’s call, as he said: ‘Because the Revenue is not a regulator, the Government does not class it as red tape.

It thinks all red tape comes from regulators. But the Revenue ties firms up in knots. The Government will say it is making tax accounts digital, but that is not necessarily a simplification.

We are lobbying hard for the Government to make business tax affairs simple and asking Ministers to stop changing things all the time. Dealing with tax distracts attention from growth.’

He said the Government must make tax administration measures come under regulatory scrutiny, in particular by advisory body the Regulatory Policy Committee; that tax measures should be included in the Government’s ‘one in, two out’ measure for reducing red tape; and that the Revenue should be subject to the same reporting as bodies that have regulatory responsibilities.

Meanwhile, following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which outlined plans to boost its powers, the Revenue is now able to recover ‘established debt’ due under an ‘accelerated payment notice’ or APN.

It is aiming for this to yield £455 million between 2016 and 2020.

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