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Taxation: Self-employed

Question for Treasury

UIN HL7266, tabled on 23 July 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to fund any (1) specialised computer software, and (2) training, required by the self-employed for the Making Tax Digital programme.

Answered on

30 July 2020

The Government understands that some people with disabilities, those in rural locations with poor broadband services, and those who are digitally excluded for other reasons may find it more difficult to comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) requirements. MTD exemptions have operated successfully since the introduction of MTD for VAT in April 2019 for businesses with taxable turnover in excess of the VAT threshold. These exemptions will continue to be available to businesses within the expanded scope of MTD.

There will be no specific allowances or payment made to those using MTD for time spent complying with MTD requirements. However, the Government accepts that there will be time spent in familiarisation with the new MTD obligations (digital record keeping and quarterly submission of information). The Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2019 found that those who are the most digitally engaged save a day a week in administration by going digital. Once businesses are used to operating the new MTD processes, the Government anticipates that they will find that MTD makes it easier for them to get things right, reducing errors and saving time in administering their tax affairs.

MTD is not a response to any changes in HMRC workforce. It is a key part of the Government’s long term goal for HMRC to become one of the most digitally advanced tax authorities in the world, and forms part of the Government's 10-year strategy to build a trusted, modern tax administration system. As well as helping to tackle the part of the tax gap arising due to error and failure to take reasonable care, MTD will help to make the tax administration system more resilient and effective in responding to future shocks, while also providing businesses with access to real-time data and a more accurate overview of their financial position.

The Government will not be funding specialist software or training, but will continue to work to ensure that any additional costs to business are minimised. Free Income Tax software will be available for businesses with the simplest tax affairs. For VAT, there are already over a dozen free packages available as part of a highly competitive market with over 500 products for different business needs. On training, the HMRC customer support model includes a multi-layered approach stretching across agents, third party software support, through to telephony support, webchat, and HMRC’s Extra Support service, as well as signposting to information and guides and to local or third party providers of digital skills courses or support already offered by external providers.

For those with slow speeds and no access to other commercial alternatives, the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) came into force in March 2020. The USO gives people in the UK the right to request a decent and affordable broadband connection. The Government has pledged £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable networks to the hardest to reach 20% of the country.

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