Friday, February 04, 2005

Stay Offline and Pay Double

In 2000/1 the Inland Revenue tried a model where those who sent their tax returns in online got a £10 rebate. It was probably too early for that to work and few were interested in just £10. Five years on, Companies House is having another go. But they're charging you more if you use the paper channel. A disincentive to do things the old way! The new prices take effect this month and, helpfully, they've left their old prices available for comparison. I'd like to say easy comparison, but they've swapped some things around and added a few new descriptions so it's not easy at all. The numbers might appear small, but they're obvious. Sending in your annual corporate return (which pretty much just says who the directors and shareholders are and what the main addresses are) is £15 if you send electronically (which is how much it cost last year to send by paper) and £30 if you send by paper. That's not quite what I was expecting. You'd think it would be cheaper to do it electronically this year than it was to do it on paper last year. But no, in a cunning strategy, if you want to do things the same way you did last year, you have to pay double. And if you want to pay the same then you have to go online. Other things are better: Same day incorporation goes from £80 to £50 and only £30 if you do it online. There are some other changes but the overall trend seems to be down. I'm impressed - both at the idea of a disincentive to use paper and that Companies House are first in. I wonder what the reaction of the small business community will be? Choice (a) is that it will be seen as a further tax on business, (b) that it will be seen as government working the efficiency angle, (c) that Companies House never made money on the old fees so had to raise them to stay afloat, or perhaps (d) the right strategy to get people to switch to online methods where prices can be brought down over time.

3 comments:

  1. An interesting idea, and one I'm surprised we don't see used more often in this country.

    In a survey we commissioned from MORI and published yesterday, 12% of those questioned who do not currently use the Internet identified "Needing information I couldn't get from any other source" as a reason to make them switch.

    With 96% of the UK population able to access the Internet, maybe we need to push a little harder on the incentivisation... ?

    Our MORI report is published at www.common-info.org.uk/audienceresearch.shtml.

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  2. Anonymous10:28 pm

    Ken is thinking along the same lines, now £1.20 to bus it with cash, 80p with Oyster.

    But let's keep this internet nonsense in perspective, there are more important fish to fry as Bono has been saying at Davos - first things first.

    Fuck the tax office and joined up government, don't worry the small stuff!

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  3. Anonymous10:58 pm

    Why on Earth should we force people to use technologies when they do not wish to do so? Don't use the self service checkouts at Tescos, don't shop online, write awkward letters to faceless organisations, and always remember that they're trying to control you.

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