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Digital Filing - Bar Set High for Opt-Out

The 'making tax digital' project will require VAT-registered businesses to submit their VAT returns online from 1 April 2019 and to use accounting software that is integrated with the Government's digital gateway to do it. This in turn means, in effect, that manual accounting systems will no longer be able to be used.

However, not everyone is computer literate. What is the position for them? The legislation does provide an exclusion for those for whom use of digital filing is 'not reasonably practical'. A recent Tax Tribunal case indicates that the bar will be set high for those who seek to rely on this exclusion.

It involved a 52-year-old businessman and director of two companies, who argued that his lack of computer literacy prevented him from filing his VAT returns online. The Tribunal, whilst noting that age may in some cases be a bar, heard evidence that the Corporation Tax returns and Companies House filings of his companies were done digitally and rejected his arguments.

HM Revenue and Customs argued that age per se is not a barrier to electronic filing and that the company director could have hired an accountant who was able to attend to these matters for him, despite this causing additional cost and possible inconvenience.