The Equality and Human Rights Commission has welcomed the decision of HMRC to change the rules on mandatory online filing following a judgment that, on human rights grounds, taxpayers cannot be restricted to paying their tax through online methods alone.
The court judgment found that HMRC’s arrangement that forced all VAT-registered businesses and sole traders to file returns online was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The claimants in the case were three owners of small businesses. Two were disabled, with impairments which made it difficult or painful to use a computer accurately. The third lived in a remote area without broadband access.
HMRC had failed to make exemptions for older people, disabled people or people living too remotely for reliable internet access. Their requirements were found to be a breach of human rights relating to privacy (since they expected people without computers to use one belonging to a friend or a public computer), the protection from discrimination (because the requirements had a disproportionate impact on older and disabled people), and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions (in expecting someone to purchase a computer or be trained in how to use one).
Equality and Human Rights Commission chief executive, Mark Hammond, said: “This judgment shows how human rights protect the interests of small business owners, disabled people and older people in a very practical way. Human rights really are for all of us, and public bodies must ensure that their policies and actions respect everybody’s rights