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Value Added Tax

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 24 January 2008

3. How many companies Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has taken action against for failure to pay value added tax correctly in the last 12 months. (181412)

There is a range of figures on this, and it is difficult to give an exact answer, because a range of actions can be taken. HMRC aims to help business pay the right tax due at the right time, and it tailors its response to the circumstances when that does not happen. Businesses in temporary difficulties can agree time-to-pay arrangements, but those who underpay may face sanctions.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will she say what assistance she is giving small business to help with the VAT burden?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. To assist VAT administration for small businesses, HMRC has introduced a variety of special schemes, which may be used individually or in combination. Each of the VAT schemes addresses a slightly different aspect of the tax, and will have different benefits and costs depending on the individual business. The schemes are specifically designed to assist small businesses in their dealings with HMRC.

As the hon. Gentleman and the House know, there have been difficulties with registering new businesses for VAT, but HMRC has put a tremendous effort in to address the problems that arose. He knows that HMRC has targets to achieve. It is on course to hit those targets by the end of January, which is a week away, and its performance has improved enormously, as businesses seeking to register will discover.