The government has caved in to pressure surrounding a controversial new tax system.
The Making Tax Digital (MTD) policy aims to introduce digital record-keeping and quarterly filings for a majority of businesses, self-employed people and proprietors.
However, ministers announced yesterday that the scheme's timetable, which had been a subject of widespread concern, has been extended.
As part of the updated Finance Bill, businesses will be able to switch from manual to online self-assessment "at a pace that is right for them", rather than being forced into doing it from April this year.
Under the revised timetable, only businesses with a turnover in excess of the £85,000 VAT threshold must keep digital records, starting from 2019. A full digital rollout of the tax system will also be postponed until "at least 2020".
"Businesses agree that digitising the tax system is the right direction of travel," said finance secretary Mel Stride. "However, many have been worried about the scope and pace of reforms.
"We have listened very carefully to their concerns and are making changes so that we can bring the tax system into the digital age in a way that is right for all businesses."
The government came to this decision after taking into account the concerns raised by a number of groups, particularly the Treasury Select Committee, who have just elected new chair Nicky Morgan. The government added that it is taking steps to ensure a smooth transition to the digital tax system.
Industry response has been generally favourable towards the more relaxed timetable.
TechMarketView founder Richard Holway was particularly pleased with the announcement, as both a business executive and an analyst.
"I suspect that there will be great relief by accountants and SMEs alike that HMGovt has given in to pressure and delayed/altered the introduction of digital tax submissions," wrote Holway.
He continued:"I don't think there was too much opposition to encouraging companies - small and large - to keep proper (and nowadays that really means digital) accounting records.
"The real issue was the implication that they should both prepare and submit P&Ls to HMGovt on a quarterly basis which would then force them to pay tax on a quarterly basis too. We at TechMarketView were ‘rather unhappy' by that prospect.
"Although we have very accurate monthly management accounts, they are only scrutinised by our accountants once a year who, for a significant charge, do all the tax computations on the more arcane bits.
"The thought of doing this every quarter appalled me," wrote Holway.
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