Democracy. And money.August 13, 2015
Many years ago – we had a New Labour government at the time, so you can tell it was a geological age ago – there was a requirement in government to “think small first”. A lot of work was done to embed thinking about the very smallest businesses before governments made changes to regulations, and, in particular, government departments were told in no uncertain terms to think about impacts on small and micro businesses from the businesses’ point of view.
So, no, calling a meeting in London, in office hours, wasn’t going to capture the views of the one-person business in York or Newcastle. A one person business has to shut down if the one person is travelling to London for a day, and a day spent talking to civil servants is a day spent NOT earning profits. When we were introducing the CIS scheme for example I made sure we held public meetings outside London and remember being surprised that the people at the meeting in Llandudno weren’t *grateful* that we’d come out of London to talk to them, but *resentful* that we weren’t meeting in Bangor and Wrexham and they’d had to travel what seemed to them unreasonable distances to hear us.
Fast forward through the coalition years and here we are with, yes, VAT MOSS again. The EU got it wrong. The UK government got it wrong. As I have detailed ad nauseam there were impacts on the very smallest businesses from the changes to the VAT place of supply rules for electronic businesses which threaten their entire viability. A group of micro business owners have been tirelessly campaigning on the issue and have, finally, got the EU to the point where they will at least actually talk to them.
So here’s the thing. Not only are they taking time out of their own profit-seeking ventures to act on behalf of themselves and others in a similar position. No, they’re actually having to pay their own travel costs as well. So there’s a meeting in Dublin where they need to persuade all 28 EU finance ministries of the strength of their case. They need three grand to get there. Read Juliet McKenna’s account of the issues here. And then go to their crowd funding page here and open your wallet, please.
I’d like to address a special plea to the tax profession here. We’ve failed them. We’ve failed to take account of these businesses because they’re too small to pay professional fees. So they haven’t had a voice in the usual “stakeholder” consultation machinery. No-one in the profession has been arguing their corner, no-one has reminded HMRC of their existence except when they’ve stood up and argued for themselves. We owe them. I’m astonished HMRC hasn’t offered them the funds they have (or at least that they used to have) specifically for this kind of stakeholder. I’m surprised Taxation or Tax Journal haven’t offered them sponsorship. And I’m disappointed none of the professional firms has offered to give them some help.
So. Wallets out, please. They only want three grand. Renew my faith in the tax profession’s sense of fair play and let’s see them fully funded by lunchtime, shall we???
UPDATE: Well, I had a late and leisurely lunch today but, YES! they raised their three grand by the time I came back, so kudos to everyone who contributed. It turns out, however, that the modest target of three grand only covers some historical costs and the cost of ONE person going to Dublin. Now, I ask you, would YOUR organisation send only ONE person to lobby the EU? Would you be happy going on your own to talk to 28 European finance ministries? Self-evidently they need to be able to send a delegation, so don’t hold back on donating further so that more than one person can go. As Saint Sir Bob memorably didn’t say, give ’em your ****ing money!