John Stevenson: I declare an interest as I am a member of a business that has submitted such tax returns. The digital system that we use has many advantages, is beneficial and creates efficiency within the business. I also completely agree with the Government’s desire to streamline the process, which is undoubtedly advantageous, and I agree with the Minister’s comments about there being no penalties.
However, I am aware of some businesses that are oblivious to the requirement and some that will struggle. May I gently suggest to the Minister that HMRC concentrates on larger businesses and gradually moves on to smaller businesses over time, giving smaller companies the maximum length of time to get themselves organised? Does he agree that the implementation period should be extended slightly if need be, but only for smaller businesses?
Mel Stride: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to observe that the smallest companies are, almost by definition, likely to find this change more onerous, and I will take his points on board. I certainly reassure him that HMRC will take a light-touch approach to penalties in all cases, particularly those involving small companies. Provided that individuals and businesses are not wilfully trying to avoid or change the amount of VAT that is due, we will take a proportionate and light-touch approach.