Is the abolition of annual tax returns really that great?

Now, about this brave new world. The government has a) pledged to abolish the annual tax return and b) promised that this will be a boon for everyone.

I’m not so sure. Nobody is saying that the current system of self-assessment is much fun. It isn’t.

Not only does the dreaded annual tax return capture people who are actually working for themselves, it also pulls in those on PAYE who do any freelance work at all, and parents on the higher rate who have to declare their receipt of child benefit.

The paperwork, the threat of penalties and the thought that HMRC is peering into your life can make filling in a tax return a joyless exercise.

What’s puzzling is why we would want to do this more often? The idea has been presented as a new dawn where we will soon fill in our tax affairs on the go, by computer, tablet or smartphone.

But many taxpayers may soon find that they become less concerned about the medium through which they submit in their tax affairs, and more worried about how often they have to do it.

I think the jury is still out on whether small, regular submissions are better than one big admin exercise every year – watch out for the upcoming Accounting Technician, where two experts will be debating this very topic.

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Accounting Technician editor Ben Walker has been a policy and business journalist for 15 years. But don’t let that put you off, he can be surprisingly good company at times. 

Ben Walker is the former editor of Accounting Technician.

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