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UK Firms Need More Help With Tax Returns

by Jason Gorringe,, London

05 December 2007

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the UK's Committee of Public Accounts, has this week issued a statement signalling to the government that it must do more in order to help UK-based businesses complete company and VAT bills on time.

The statement highlighted the fact that GBP1.5 billion worth of late tax payments are made every year, which has a knock-on effect upon the UK Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs. It also indicated that greater efforts to promote online tax returns would be beneficial, alongside the implementation of a rewards scheme for those completing tax returns on time.

Mr. Leigh stated that: “Far too many businesses are failing to file their Company Tax and VAT returns on time and to pay what they owe by the due date. The amount of tax revenue in doubt as a result was estimated a year ago at GBP1.5 billion per annum. HMRC must be much better informed about the types of business which tend to be late in filing and slow in paying up.”

Leigh went on to add: “HMRC could make greater use of non-financial incentives to businesses to comply with filing deadlines. For instance, tax clearance certificates could be awarded confirming that businesses have complied with their tax obligations thereby qualifying them for public sector contracts."

"HMRC must ensure its online services for VAT and Company Tax returns are not only sufficiently robust and secure - but also offer facilities which sell the idea of electronic communication and online filing to businesses. And the Department must go further than it plans at present to lighten the administrative burdens associated with compliance."

According to reports, HMRC has said it would give the recommendations some serious thought. However, it was keen to stress that online tax service sites would need to be strengthened in order to cope with vast quantities of users at any one time.

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable concluded, according to the BBC, that:

"The government can try as hard as it likes to encourage companies to file their tax returns on time, but the only way it will make a real difference is by making our tax system radically simpler and fairer."

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