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UK Farmers Furious Over Lack of Broadband with Online Tax Demands

Posted: 29th Mar, 2010 By: MarkJ
uk mapThe Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has lashed out at last years ridiculous decision by the UK Government's HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) department to force farmers in areas with no or poor broadband ISP provision to fill out their monthly or quartly VAT returns on-line. The change will become effective from 1st April and applies to all businesses with a turnover of over £100,000.

The move itself is nothing new and has been repeatedly criticised in the past by organisations such as the Country Land and Business Association (CLA). "Common sense says that something can only be mandatory if people have the ability to comply," said the Director of CLA North, Douglas Chalmers, last December (here).

The FUW's Development Director, Emyr James, commented:

"To fulfil their obligation, HMRC suggest that [FARMERS] could ask family or friends, who have a computer, to offer them Internet access or, alternatively, employ the services of an agent who could file the return on their behalf. This is a typically heavy-handed government approach, showing very little appreciation of the true situation for many small-to-medium-sized enterprises.

There is still a generation of people in society who did not grow up in an Internet environment and some consideration should have been shown towards this group of people. There are many farmers for whom the Internet remains an unfamiliar skill, whilst there are some who distrust modern communications technology. Also, many parts of rural Wales have no reliable broadband provision at all."

The move appears absurd at a time when the Government's own Universal Service Commitment (USC), which aims to deliver a minimum broadband ISP speed of at least 2Mbps to "virtually" every household in the UK by 2012, has not even begun to be implemented.

It is understandably more efficient and cost-effective for the Government to have businesses process tax returns online and the HMRC suggests that broadband is not required to fill-out a tax return online. However dialup is costly and unlikely to be sufficient, not to mention that some farmers don't even have a computer.

As a temporary solution the FUW will provide a service at its county offices where staff will file members' VAT returns on-line on their behalf. The paper-based summary will be completed in the normal way and taken to the county office.
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