Budget Comment: Colin Borland, FSB

Tearing up the ‘dreaded’ tax return will lift a burden from business

Colin Borland 2Fifty days before an election, you would expect nothing less from a Chancellor than a relentlessly upbeat Budget.  And, such was the sunny vista painted by Mr Osborne in his point-by-point defence of the government’s record, you might be looking out the factor 40.

From what our members tell us, it’s plain that, yes, there’s been a recovery.  And things are better than the darkest days of the recession.  But it’s also true it’s taken longer and has been more tentative than anyone wanted.  Further, too many of our local communities are left behind, even when the economy is booming.

 So, if we want business to cement the recovery and make sure it reaches everyone, did today’s statement hit the mark?

Well, the tax breaks for high-profile industries like whisky and oil & gas will certainly go down well in those sectors – and in those geographies where these industries are integral.

For the rest of us who don’t work in these favoured sectors, but make up the country’s business base, the freeze on fuel duty is obviously good news – as are continued low prices at the pumps.  And the abolition of Class 2 National Insurance Contributions sends a strong message of support (if not a lot of cash) to the self employed.

The headline announcement for me, though, was an unashamedly practical, sensible measure.  Scrapping the dreaded annual tax return in favour of “digital tax accounts” has the potential to make our lives easier, allowing businesses to spend more time doing business.

In 2015, there is no excuse for not having your tax account linked to your accounting software and bank accounts. It’s also good news for firms’ cash-flow as you’ll be able to pay your tax at any point throughout the year, or pay in instalments.

This measure won’t reduce firms’ tax bills, but may give business owners and the self-employed a few more hours in the month. And if time is money, some business owners might feel richer as a consequence.

The economic picture might not be quite as rosy as Mr Osborne paints it, but by setting out to digitise the tax system, he may have made life slightly easier for thousands.

 Colin Borland is Head of External Affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland

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