Vince Cable’s response to the VATMOSS petition.

Well, if you’ve signed that petition, you’ll have seen the official response. Essentially it’s a brush off, based on the original, now thoroughly discredited assumptions that got HMRC into this mess, because they simply had no idea how much e-commerce goes on at the most direct and small scale levels within the UK economy. You can read the full set of platitudes here

The thing is, as I have good reason to know, because I was at that very meeting, HMRC and Treasury were left in absolutely no doubt as to their lack of relevant information and the problem which this has created last Thursday morning.

So how to explain – and believe me, I don’t mean excuse – this statement going out in Vince Cable’s name? Because large swathes of the Internet are justifiably furious about it!

Well, that meeting was on Thursday, and as we learned, there was an immediately relevant meeting in Brussels on Friday afternoon, where we were assured our concerns would be raised. That’s on the HMRC and Treasury side, and they’ve promised feedback from that meeting this Wednesday as well as detailed guidance to clear up the apparent contradictions and confusions over exactly how and why to use VATMOSS ‘shortly’. So there’s a lot going on in those departments today, and maybe those teams decided to get as much as they could sorted out before briefing their colleagues more widely…? Given just how much confusion and contradictory information there is swirling about at the moment, does that seem plausible?

Issy Zinaburg’s petition was directed to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, and tipped over into the 10,000 signatures bracket that guarantees a response on Sunday. So maybe someone – who knows who – got some automatic notification giving them the job of responding this morning and whoever that was just looked up the ‘there, there, don’t panic’ line which HMRC had been peddling at seminars like the one Ysolda Teague attended the week before last – when the HMRC chap there found himself surrounded by knitters he hadn’t even known existed…

To be honest, how we got here matters less to me than where we go next.

So what do we do now? We make sure that Vince Cable and his department are brought fully up to speed. You can all help to do that by sending emails expressing your rejection of that reply – politely, if you can possibly manage it – and a clear explanation of just why these VAT changes concern you. Personally, I’m waiting until tomorrow when I’m not so cross. You might like to use the email address – enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Write to your own MP as well, and your MEPs. Remember there’s a checklist of key points on the letter writing page here, plus a link to the Write to Them website. We need to be heard in Brussels if this is going to be resolved.

Meantime, remember the ad-hoc group of people campaigning against all this, who co-opted me last week, whose members include (but are not limited to) Issy Zinaburg as well as Rachel Andrews, Rosie Slosek and Clare Josa, whose excellent posts I’ve already linked to? We’re putting our activities on a more formal level as an advocacy organisation. Believe me, we are not going to let this lie. Strategy discussions are under way, with respect to both Whitehall and Brussels and action is already being taken. That’s one reason why this update is so late today!

So please start writing letters. Meantime, we’ll see what we’re told on Wednesday. That will help inform our next steps.

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