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This week's opinion: 7 November 2019

06 November 2019 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4719 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
Time for a rethink on tax digitisation

The latest Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) report (see RELATED ARTICLES, above right) is a typically thoughtful piece worthy of serious consideration. What struck me most when I read it was the realisation of just how much HMRC’s current digital strategy seems to be wandering along aimlessly. Nothing seems to be joined up; there is no agreed timetable and it is difficult to discern any real strategic objectives. The report makes it clear that there could be many advantages to individual taxpayers and small businesses from a well-designed digital service which properly integrated payment and return obligations. If it were attractive enough people would want to use it and there would be no need to make its use compulsory. 

I hope this report acts as a launch pad for a rethink. HMRC, the software industry, taxpayers’ representatives, the professional bodies and those representing the digitally excluded need to come together to produce an agreed plan for the future direction of digitisation in the UK tax system. Its objectives would include creating efficiencies for taxpayers, agents and HMRC alike and improving the accuracy of tax reporting, regardless of its effect on the tax gap. It should be set the task of designing a new digital agenda and proposing a timetable for implementation on a phased and agreed basis.

Jim Harra has been confirmed as the new chief executive of HMRC. I wish him well; my experience of working with him gives me confidence that he will make a success of what we must all acknowledge is a difficult role. Let’s hope that a proper rethink of the role of digitisation in the tax system is high on his to do list. 

If you do one thing...

HMRC has amplified its advice on crypto assets ( This is worth reading. A few years ago this area was highly esoteric but it is surprising how often it now comes up.
Issue: 4719 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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