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The kitchen table micro

October 10, 2017

I don’t get it.

I’m a micro business, so this tweet from HMRC is directed at me, right?

What definition of “micro” business are HMRC using these days? I mean, it used to be that a “small” business was one with 50 employees or fewer and a “micro” was one with fewer than 10 employees. This seems to be the definition used in this Parliamentary briefing from last year, which tells us that, of the five and a half million businesses in the UK, fully four million are micro businesses like mine, which have no employees at all

 

Why, then, is the HMRC twitter feed telling those four million people that they need to check whether FRS105 applies to them? What the hell IS FRS105?

As far as I can tell from following the links, it’s a change to the generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP) used to prepare accounts. If you look here, you’ll see HMRC helpfully tell you

Because of the changes to the UK Financial Reporting Standards (FRS), over the next few years UK businesses will see changes to the accounting practice used to prepare financial statements. In particular, many UK businesses will be required to apply one of the EU-endorsed IFRS, FRS 101, FRS 102 or FRS 105.

The purpose of these 3 papers is to assist businesses that will be applying FRS 101, FRS 102 or FRS 105. In particular, it provides an overview of the key accounting changes and the key tax considerations that arise for those businesses that transition from old UK GAAP to the new standards.

Clear? Well maybe, if you’re an accountant, but to this retired tax inspector it conveys almost no meaning, and to the couple who run my local coffee shop and the woman who runs the local chiropodist? Nothing except another thing to ask their accountant about, if they remember.

Why are HMRC pointing “micro” businesses to changes in accounting standard? It has taken me the best part of an afternoon to work out that, no, I don’t need to worry about it personally. Isn’t there a principle of “think small first” that is supposed to exclude the very smallest businesses from tax changes altogether where possible? Surely this ought to apply to communications too? This is not a change that a business with no employees and uncomplicated affairs needs to be concerned with at all, in my view. A business with an accountant? Well, their accountant ought to be up to date, but saying “If you use an accountant to prepare your accounts, make sure they are up to date with the changes to accounting standards here” would be an insult to the accountancy profession and its maintenance of its own professional standards.

Has HMRC learned nothing from the VATMOSS fiasco at all, where a group of micro businesses – kitchen table businesses – were all but wiped out by changes that weren’t intended to apply to them and which weren’t mitigated because HMRC had no idea these micro – nano? – kitchen table? – businesses even existed. Wouldn’t it be nice in this instance if HMRC had written an introduction to the changes which made it clear most unagented businesses don’t need to be worried, and then tested it out on a group of genuinely micro businesses? And then stopped mithering people on its twitter feed about something they will, with luck, never need to be concerned with at all?

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