On 1 April 2012, HMRC made online VAT filing compulsory for all tax registered businesses. The decision was made based on the fact that 80% of all VAT businesses already file their VAT returns online.
However, the policy was flawed from the start. It did not take into account disabilities, computer literacy and broadband access.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that the policy was challenged, predominantly by businesses that do not have access to reliable broadband, making it impossible for them to guarantee to complete their returns online. This is sometimes difficult to conceive, I know, when being based in Essex, and only minutes away from London, I can access any information I want via my computer or smartphone at any time. However, it is a reality for many small UK businesses.
Compulsory online filing was never going to be practical or achievable, not until there is 100% high speed broadband coverage across the UK.
With this in mind, HMRC have had to change their stance and introduce other routes for the filing of VAT returns. To access these alternative routes businesses must prove that it is not practical or achievable for them to file their return online. Once this has been verified by HMRC, the business can then make use of either telephone or paper filing.
These latest VAT changes are definitely for the better, as, once again, the main companies that were affected by the new rules were small businesses.