Small firms feel unfairly treated by the UK tax system

Date: 23 April 2019

Small business owner pushes over tax blocks in frustration

A new survey of British small businesses has found that more than half believe the tax system is working against them.

The poll of over 1,000 UK small firms by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has found that nearly three-fifths (58%) think that the UK tax regime is unfair to businesses like theirs.

Two-thirds (67%) of respondents don't believe that HMRC applies tax rules fairly across all sizes of business. Micro-firms are more likely to have that view (70%) compared to their medium and large counterparts (59%).

The findings have also revealed widespread concerns over the quality of service provided by HMRC. One in two (49%) firms don't believe HMRC provides the support they need to be compliant. This figure is higher for micro-firms (51%), compared to medium and larger firms (42%).

Many respondents said HMRC underestimates the time and money their small businesses spend keeping pace with the complexities of the tax system.

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The Chambers is calling on the government to improve HMRC's service to business, by matching the level of investment in tax avoidance work with funding for support and advice to businesses. It is also reiterating its call for the government to pledge to introduce no new input taxes and other significant costs on businesses for the remainder of this parliament.

"These results reflect a strong impression among businesses that the current UK tax regime isn't a level playing field," said Suren Thiru, BCC head of economics.

"When it comes to compliance there is a tendency for HMRC to see smaller businesses as low hanging fruit and as a consequence, they feel under the constant threat of being called out for getting things wrong in a tax system that has grown ever more complex. In contrast, action to tackle persistent compliance issues among a small minority of firms remains frustratingly slow.

"There is also widespread disappointment over the escalating burden of up-front taxes and costs of doing business in the UK ? HMRC must step up efforts to provide better support to smaller businesses to get their tax right, rather than simply pursuing and enforcing penalties."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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