Mandatory Online Filing of PAYE Returns – Consultation on equality issuesMonday, August 4th, 2008
HMRC has published a consultation document entitled Equality Impact Assessment for Consultation – Implementation of Compulsory Online Filing for VAT, Corporation Tax and Employers’ Annual and In-Year PAYE Returns, which seeks comments on the effect of mandatory online filing, in particular in the areas of language, religion and disability.
HMRC’s goal is to provide the means by which all businesses and IT-literate individuals can file their tax returns by 2012. For PAYE employers, mandatory filing of year-end P35 and P14 Returns was introduced in April 2005 for large employers (with 250 or more employees) and in April 2006 for medium-sized employers (with 50 or more employees). The remaining stages for accomplishing this objective are:
- from April 2009 – P45 and P46 forms, by employers with 50 or more employees
- from April 2010 – P35 and P14 Returns, by all employers
- from April 2011 – P45 and P46 forms, by all employers.
The only employers excluded from these requirements are
- domestic employers using the simplified PAYE scheme, and
- employers with religious objections to the use of computers.
In the consultation document, HMRC states that no negative impacts from compulsory online filing have been identified in terms of age, gender, race (except language), sexual orientation, marital status, political opinion or those with dependants. However, some possible issues and impacts have been identified with regards to language, religion and disability.
HMRC has a statutory responsibility to eliminate unlawful discrimination in the areas of disability and religion, and to promote equality of opportunity between people of different races and between different religions in Northern Ireland. However, there is only a statutory requirement for public bodies to use Welsh as an additional language to English. The use of other indigenous languages in encouraged, but not mandated, by an EU directive.
The UK’s equality legislation is also aimed at individuals rather than businesses, although the distinction tends to disappear with very small businesses. The consultation document, as a result, concentrates on the effect of mandatory online filing on individuals and micro/small businesses.
The key questions posed by the consultation document are:
- Are there any other issues that need to be addressed with regard to people of different religions? At present, the only issue identified has been one religious group whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic communications and this situation has been addressed in the legislation.
- Are there any further impacts relating to language and race that must be addressed? There are no plans to provide online filing in languages other than English and Welsh. Individuals with limited abilities in English have the options of using agents or HMRC’s translation services.
- Are there other impacts on disabled people that HMRC has not already identified? HMRC is unable currently to estimate accurately the number of people with different disabilities that are affected by mandatory online filing. Accessibility standards are being extended across the online services. HMRC thinks that disabled PAYE employers are the employers most likely to be affected by online filing.
The consultation period runs until 17 October 2008.
Equality Impact Assessment for consultation – compulsory online filing
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