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Will small agencies be hit by Osborne's four-times-a-year tax returns?

There are fears that a little-publicised proposal could mean some of the country's smallest estate agencies would have to file tax returns as often as four times a year by 2020, instead of just once a year as now.

Part of the so-called ‘digital revolution’ at HM Revenue & Customs, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement in November, suggests that small businesses and the self-employed will be expected to file their tax returns online from 2020 using free apps on smartphones or via the HMRC website.

One report suggests that the government believes this could mean £600m more tax annually would be raised than is the case now, because accounts will be more closely monitored. 


"HMRC is making savings of 18 per cent in its own budget through efficiencies – in the digital age, we don’t need taxpayers to pay for paper processing, or 170 separate tax offices around the country” says Osborne.

"Instead, we’re reinvesting some of those savings with an extra £800 million in the fight against tax evasion – an investment with a return of almost ten times in additional tax collected. We’re going to build one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world. So that every individual and every small business will have their own digital tax account by the end of the decade, in order to manage their tax online” he says.

One agent - Jeremy Leaf, who operates an agency in north London and is the former residential chair of the RICS - has already tweeted a link to an online petition against the move. It can be seen here.

In little more than two weeks it has already gathered around 95,000 signatures - if it gets over 100,000, the government has to consider having a debate over the issue.


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