Tax compliance costs for small and medium sized enterprises: the case of the UK
eJournal of Tax Research
School of Taxation and Business Law (Atax), Australian School of Business
This paper presents a section of the findings from the UK arm of an international research project that is evaluating and comparing tax compliance costs affecting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across four countries. It has been argued that the regulatory requirements on businesses, particularly those on SMEs, are burdensome and can be a constraint on their growth and so success. There have been considerable developments in tax policy, which have impacted on compliance costs within the UK over the last 20 years, and these are reviewed in order to set the current findings into context. The literature review considers developments in the split between core compliance costs, total costs and the costs of activities that are required for ongoing business decisions unconnected with tax. In accordance with researchers working in other countries taking part in the international study, a questionnaire was developed to investigate the amount of money and time spent on accounting and tax related activities, eg external services, payroll services, together with details of record keeping and accounting including an assessment of the benefits of keeping tax records. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) agreed to be involved by circulating their members working within SMEs with an e-mail from their Head of Taxation, Chas Roy-Chowdhury, inviting them to complete the questionnaire and submit their responses online. These were then processed by an online survey website and this data formed the basis of the input for analysis using SPSS. Initial findings suggest that 85% of SMEs paid for external services for tax related work with the amounts ranging from < £1,000 to over £40,000, excluding VAT. Rather less, 66% of SMEs, paid for non tax related services with the amounts paid ranging from £500 to £128,000. Only 32% of the firms our respondents worked in paid for payroll services, and this may be due to the fact that our sample were qualified members of ACCA and so able to manage an in-house payroll service. The main time consuming activities are completing returns, calculating and paying tax with VAT consistently more time consuming than the other taxes in the survey, income tax / corporation tax, PAYE and capital gains tax. This is closely followed by keeping up to date on tax matters, such as learning about tax law, reading newsletters and bulletins and visiting the HMRC website. In assessing the benefits of keeping records almost 50% agreed that having to comply with tax obligations helps improve the record keeping of the business. This compares to 27% who agreed that having to comply with tax obligations improves the knowledge of the profitability of the business and a similar percentage who agreed that complying with VAT obligations provides the business with up to date useful information. In conclusion we reflect on these results in the context of ongoing changes in tax policy in the UK.
© School of Taxation and Business Law (Atax), Australian School of Business The University of New South Wales
Vol. 10, Issue 2, pp. 288 - 303