While further details on HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) were conspicuously absent from the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement speech, a single sentence buried within the policy paper revealed when the government is set to publish its consultation document response.
“In January 2017, the government will publish its response to the Making Tax Digital consultations and provisions to implement the previously announced changes,” the government revealed five chapters deep in the policy paper.
By this time, HMRC should have sifted through the 3,000 responses it received to its MTD consultation documents.
Although the Chancellor did not explicitly discuss MTD during the Autumn Statement, he did announce a £1bn investment in full-fibre connections and future 5G communications by 2020-21.
The full-fibre network would serve the government’s pledge to roll out superfast broadband to support its MTD regime. The Autumn Statement claims this investment will create more reliable broadband for homes and businesses. The government said in the Bringing business tax into the digital age consultation document that 95% of taxpayers will have access to superfast broadband by 2017.
Those hoping the Chancellor was going to announce a relaxation in the timetable or, at the least, an update were left disappointed on AccountingWEB’s live Autumn Statement panel discussion.
AccountingWEB member NH added: “Just some certainty on MTD is all I ask, if it is to be April 2018 fine, but we need to know now.”
Tax writer Wendy Bradley questioned the affect that the January update will have on its already tight timeline: “I'm not convinced MTD is deliverable in the timescale envisaged, and it would have been good if he had admitted that now and stepped back a bit.”
Steve Cox, senior product director at IRIS software, voiced the frustrations felt by accountants hoping the Chancellor would offer more insight during the Autumn Statement.
“With HMRC’s response to the recent Making Tax Digital consultation period not expected until January, accountants and their clients remain uncertain about what lies ahead. Will the April 2018 deadline remain? Have there been any major amendments as a result of accountant feedback?”
“By failing to answer these questions, the Chancellor has increased the fear of what lies ahead and negativity towards the mandate. The longer the industry is given to prepare for Making Tax Digital, the smoother the transition will be, so many will hope the next announcement comes sooner rather than later”.
Meanwhile, AccountingWEB member Stuart Miller said on Any Answers: “I was told by HMRC that they didn't want to make any mention to MTD so quickly after the consultation period as it would look like they had already decided what they were going to do regardless of the feedback provided and wanted to actually analyse the feedback from the consultation.”
Finally, the question remains: With the consultation response arriving at the end of January, will accountants distracted by self assessment season actually take any notice of the response?