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28 July 2016

Quarterly tax proposals would hit crofters

Durness panorama 

If there is one thing that businesses crave it’s stability, and that is precisely what is lacking at the moment.

The recent travails of the oil and gas industries and public sector cutbacks have been compounded by the vote to leave the EU, and all have conspired to make this country a very uncertain place indeed.

No wonder that the latest FSB member survey, undertaken just before the referendum, revealed that more small Scottish businesses expected trading conditions to deteriorate than believed that they will improve.

This is very worrying because we need a positive, strong, confident, dynamic, outward-looking business community, one that can create the wealth that this country so obviously depends on. We must now look to the UK and Scottish Governments to do everything they can to restore business confidence, and put on ice proposals that would hurt firms. 

Here’s one idea that, if introduced, will impact negatively on many small businesses, but especially crofters: the UK Government’s proposed new quarterly tax reporting system.

The UK will have a fully digital tax reporting system by 2020, one designed to make best use of digital technology to create a simpler, faster, more efficient and convenient way for businesses to submit their figures.

According to Philip McNeill of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), while crofting generates £85.8 million in revenue, average individual croft revenue is only £4,900, and crofting-related costs £3,900. Croft diversification (eg operating a B&B, self-catering business or boat trip) is therefore vital for survival, average non-crofting related income coming in at around £27,000 a year.

Under the new system, crofters and others with diverse income streams from self-employment, will have to keep their accounts bang up to date, no matter how busy they are with lambing, guests and other business activities. They will also have to report their results to HMRC every three months.

This will require a degree of expertise that many might not currently have, and it could also increase costs, whether they be in additional accountancy fees and/or the purchase of computer hardware or software. As we know, increased financial pressures and stress can be very damaging.

FSB is working with ICAS and others to highlight the threat posed by this quarterly tax reporting proposal to our smallest businesses in our most vulnerable communities. If you are concerned about your own position, tell your MP now.


David Richardson is FSB Development Manager for the Highlands and Islands

This article first appeared in The Inverness Courier 

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