(Except clauses 4, 19, 23, 26 to 29, 87 to 92, 131 and 134 and schedules 1, 5 and 38) - Clause 132 - Mandatory e-filing

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury) 5:15 pm, 25th June 2002

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that undertaking, as I have in correspondence with the Brethren, much of which was quoted today. I find it sad that some people seek to read other meanings in the paragraphs that I wrote. I can say absolutely clearly that we entirely understand the few individuals—it is only a few, compared with the millions of taxpayers—who have expressed their genuinely held religious objections to using electronic communication, even if we do not personally take that view.

I stress again that the requirement is on employers. It is perfectly possible to arrange to have all the records passed in paper form from the employer to the intermediary; the intermediary would then make the return. As I understand the points that have been made, there are intermediaries who would have religious objections to undertaking e-filing, and that is the point at issue.

I would say to the hon. Member for Buckingham, who read out the paragraph, that his amendment is unnecessary. It would give the Government the opportunity—it does not force the Government to do it—to draft regulations that would exclude from electronic filing in circumstances such as those of the Brethren. The Bill already provides for those regulations to be made. The Government are therefore adding nothing, whereas the Committee is putting it slightly more strongly by pressing the Government to consider the option. I ask my hon. Friends to reject the amendment. The officials concerned at the Inland Revenue will have discussions with the Brethren to ensure that the regulations, when drafted, cover the point that they have been making. That was my point in my letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West in the year 2000, and in all the letters that I have since written. I place it on the record today that that is what will happen.