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Charity slams digital exclusion of taxpayers

09 May 2012
Categories: News , RTI , Admin
LITRG calls for offline alternatives for vulnerable people

The state’s continuing efforts to move its public-facing activity online is adversely affecting a ‘significant’ number of people, according to the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG).

A new report from the charity suggests that the shift of government services and transactions from offline to digital is disadvantaging vulnerable taxpayers, mainly older individuals, those with disabilities and the self-employed.

‘A significant proportion of the UK population is digitally excluded either through not having internet access or because of low levels of digital literacy,’ claims the document, adding that developments are not only having a negative effect on individuals but also on small businesses.

The LITRG last week expressed concern that many small firms will struggle with their PAYE duties under the forthcoming real-time information scheme – which is now in the second stage of its pilot phase – due to a lack of either the necessary equipment or skills.

For its latest paper, Digital Exclusion, the organisation interviewed users of three charities, Tax Help for Older People, TaxAid and the Migrant Resource Centre. Respondent cited lack of inclination and a shortage of expertise as the top reasons for not wanting to carry out personal business online.

The LITRG’s chairman-designate, Anthony Thomas, said it made ‘good economic and administrative sense’ for more tax administration to be carried out online – as proposed by two consultation documents published by HMRC last year.

But he warned that changes ‘must involve an inclusive approach and not a mandatory one’, adding that taxpayers ‘should not be forced to fulfil their obligations online if they are unable to do so, or will find it excessively difficult’ and pointing out that ‘ many micro-businesses and self-employed people operate effectively… without a computer, far less an internet connection.’

Mr Thomas  argued that the government’s online services ‘should be made as simple as possible, must be accompanied by easy-to-access guidance and customer support, and must be robust and secure’ while offline alternatives ought to be available.


Categories: News , RTI , Admin
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