Changing times - digital tax changes could harm small rural firms, Diss Business Forum chairman Brian Bale warns
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Small rural firms who still keep old-fashioned paper records could struggle to adapt to government changes to make the tax system digital, it has been warned.
Although most companies and self-employed workers submit tax returns online, some still take the option of filing their documents with a pen and paper by hand.
But chancellor Philip Hammond has moved to stop that and make digital tax reporting compulsory under the new Making Tax Digital scheme.
Businesses still relying on paper methods have until April 2019 to change their systems before the new HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) scheme comes in.
But Brian Bale, a Halesworth-based partner at Lovewell Blake chartered accountants who is also chairman of Diss Business Forum, said: 'We've a lot of clients who are not interested in it.
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'We're in a rural area with a poor broadband service where you aren't always able to fill things in online.
'I think this is going to be a huge issue for rural businesses.'
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In a presentation about the 2017 Budget to Diss Business Forum, Mr Bale said the regular schedule of Autumn Statements and Budgets 'does give you some certainty as to what's going on'.
However he fears that those guilty of tax avoidance might get away with it in the future, because: 'Along with many government departments, they don't seem to have the resource to carry out inspections.'
The rise in business rates also caused a lot of debate in the run-up to the Budget.
But Mr Bale said the one-off £1,000 one-off business rate discount for 90pc of pubs in 2017 'is not going to make a huge difference' to their financial situation.
Mr Bale, from Dickleburgh, was unanimously elected to lead Diss Business Forum at its annual general meeting at The Park Hotel, Diss earlier this year.He succeeded Kerry Kirby, from Diss-based Splice Creative, after her two years in the role.
'I am really looking forward to continuing the excellent work of the forum over recent years in providing informative events along with friendly networking opportunities,' said Mr Kirby, who is also treasurer at Diss Rugby Club and has previously been chairman of Halesworth Business Connections.