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Swallow the tablet, Mr T

Feb 24, 2012, 06:58 AM
Authors : Daniel
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Post date : Feb 24, 2012, 06:58 AM

No one could rightfully praise HMRC for being early adopters of technology: they have always had a website that's clunky at best, they took to tweeting only a year ago, and still haven’t produced a fun app. When will commuters be hunched over smartphones, jabbing at titchy screens in an effort to achieve the highest score in Evade the Taxman?

Speaking of hi-tech mobiles, the Revenue this week announced that such devices will no longer be treated as taxable benefits when loaned under common circumstances to employees.

That’s great news for many working taxpayers – and only a little over five years since the first iPhone was unveiled by Apple (and around nine years after the BlackBerry became capable of web browsing and handling email).

But HMRC’s broadened interpretation of ITEPA 2003, s 319, which deals with ‘telephone apparatus’ (now, there’s a phrase for this digital age), does not include tablet computers – iPads and that – because they use voice over internet protocol (such as Skype) for verbal communication and aren’t therefore phones.

Here’s where I urge the department to get out in front by putting tablets in the same box of non-taxable benefits as smartphones. With the iPad 3 and the Kindle Fire expected to arrive in the UK this year, and with Google considering a seven-inch offering, the technology isn’t a mere fad.

Laptops are on their way out. The tablet is taking over (as confirmed by Stuff, the leading gadget magazine, which made the Asus Eee Pad Transformer its top piece of tech for 2011).

So, Mr Taxman, be not a Luddite for once. An extra twiddle of s 319 would be easy and inexpensive, and such a groovy move would earn the gratitude of accountants, 73% of whom say the use of online services will represent the biggest shift in their working practices over the next three years, according to newly figures published by software provider Sage.

The same research found that 40% of respondents found that mobile applications were increasingly significant, and about the same number identified online accountancy services as a new area of focus for the next 12 months.

That, potentially, is a lot of clever, tax-centric people using their web-tastic tablets to help plan a lot more people’s taxes. Be nice to them, Mr T, and perhaps they won't feel compelled to use technology against you.


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