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Wheels falling off the online filing bus – for the moment

In a very interesting Tribunal decision three plucky taxpayers have successfully argued that being obliged by HMRC to file their VAT returns online is discriminatory.

All three ran small businesses, two being disabled and one living in an area with no effective broadband service. All three argued that they were too old to learn to use a computer, and should not be put to the trouble of engaging the services of an accountant.

In a ground-breaking decision, the Tribunal judge held that the VAT regulations which require online filing of returns without exemptions for older people, people with disabilities or those living in remote parts of the country, were in breach of the appellants’ human rights and were unlawful under EU law.

The only exemption from online filing which HMRC allow at present is for businesses run by practicing members of a religion whose beliefs prevent them from using computers.

It is not known yet whether HMRC will appeal against this decision, which could have wide ramifications not just for VAT but for PAYE and other areas, but one would suspect that they will!