VAT registered traders who can prove to HMRC that they cannot file their VAT returns online, telephone filing can now be approved as an alternative. It may also be possible still to file paper VAT returns if HMRC can be satisfied that it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to be filed online.

In true HMRC form a brief was published which outlined the changes and which came into effect from 1 July 2014, but this was only announced three weeks later.

For those of you still unaware of the changesĀ  they are as follows:

  • Enabling HMRC to approve telephone filing as an alternative method of electronic filing for use by businesses that satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to use the current method of online filing
  • Providing an additional exemption from electronic filing for businesses that satisfy HMRC that it is not reasonably practicable for them to use an online channel with the result that such businesses will be able to file on paper

HMRC have stated that the changes were in response to LG Bishop Electrical Co v HMRC [2013] UKFTT 522 (TC), which ruled UK VAT law failed to take into account a person’s ability to comply on account of age, disability, computer illiteracy and remoteness of location. This omission was found to be a beach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Now I am generally speaking not a fan of the aforementioned convention however, in this case, the decision would seem to be quite reasonable. I am in the very fortunate position of having two of my three sons working in the computer industry and they will confirm that I am constantly in need of their assistance when things ‘go t..s up’. Not such a convenient form of assistance is available to all!

Don’t, however, assume that HMRC will roll over and allow everybody who applies to them to access these alternatives to efiling, I am sure there will be battles to be fought.

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