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Volume 541: debated on Monday 5 March 2012

8. What estimate he has made of the cost to a typical small business of introducing real-time reporting of PAYE information. (97695)

Real-time reporting of PAYE information aims to reduce administrative burdens for all employers, and builds on processes that are already in place. The current burden of PAYE falls disproportionately on small employers. We are building on existing processes, and the annual saving to all businesses is estimated at £300 million per year from 2014-15. The smallest employers—those employing nine people or fewer—will be given free software upgrades by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. A recent HMRC consultation showed that 75% of people thought that the Government’s time scale for implementing real-time PAYE information was unachievable. All employers will have to move to the new system by October 2013 if universal credit is to succeed, yet some small businesses are still unaware of the time scale, and many are not computerised. What additional assistance will the Government provide to help such businesses to ensure that they meet the timetable?

HMRC, which is now responsible for this measure, meets me and others in the Department regularly. We have embedded some DWP employees in the HMRC programme; they are locked together. They are, as I understand it, on time, and they are having constant discussions with large and small employers about the issues and the problems, and assessing what needs to be done to make this happen and to make all the changes. We must remember that all those firms collect those data anyway; the only question is how they report it back within the monthly cycle. We are on top of that but, obviously, we want to keep our eye on the matter.

Small businesses and business more widely rightly demand that the burden Government place on them is as light as possible, but the current restrictions on saving for a pension with the National Employment Savings Trust mean that businesses must deal with multiple pension providers. Last month, the Pensions Minister told me that he was reflecting on whether to remove the restrictions on NEST. Will the Secretary of State confirm that reflection will now turn into action?

I was just discussing the matter with my hon. Friend the Pensions Minister. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are looking at this right now. Even though we feel sympathetic to what he says, we are still reflecting on the matter.