Govt launches online tax forum for small businesses

Friday 11 August 2017

The government has created The Small Business Online Forum to provide tax guidance and other means of assistance for small businesses.  

Launched by HM Revenue and Customs, the website hopes to help SMEs in matters such as starting a business, buying and selling abroad, completing tax returns and tax credits. 

As well as the Small Business Online Forum, a new dedicated web chat service will provide direct assistance to small companies and the self-employed. 

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the treasury and paymaster general, said: “The UK’s 5.4 million small businesses play a vital role in our economy. We want to help businesses get off the ground and support them as they grow.

“That is why we are launching a new forum and web chat service, which will give these companies useful hints and tips.”

Ms Stride added that she hopes the tools will help small businesses across the country to “flourish”. 

While the Small Business Online Forum will be extremely useful for startups, managing tax can be challenging, meaning freelancer and contractor accountants could be hugely beneficial for them.

These specialists can help businesses save time by taking taxation responsibilities off their hands, allowing them to focus on other day-to-day duties.

The Small Business Online Forum and the web chat service form part of the government’s business tax roadmap, which was previously announced in the 2016 Budget. The project outlines the UK’s approach to business tax for the parliament and hopes to set out a range of reforms.

Included in the proposals are plans to reduce tax rates, and build on progress from previous parliaments to reduce incidents of tax avoidance. 

The Small Business Online Forum was piloted in March 2017 and now includes over 1,000 registered users. However, it does not handle questions regarding taxpayers’ individual circumstances, meaning any comments including personal information will be promptly removed.

A key element of the forum is the ability for users to self-serve likeminded individuals. With options to post questions and provide peer-to-peer support, the tool could help to significantly increase taxation knowledge among small business owners and the self-employed.

In order to access help at a one-to-one level, users can go through the HMRC web chat service, where their personal circumstances will be looked at by an adviser. The service will also be moderated by official advisors between the hours of 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. 

By Victoria McDonnell

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