Talis Kimberley tackles Vince Cable and the Federation of Small Businesses.

So, the new legislation is here and proving to be the unworkable shambles we all knew it would be. You can find a full report on that over at the EU VAT Action website.

We’re keeping up the pressure, relaying all the evidence we gather to MPs, MEPs and the relevant EU Commission departments.

Talis Kimberley with her other hat on, as Talis Kimberley Fairbourn, Green Party parliamentary candidate for South Swindon* has done sterling work on everyone’s behalf!

“Yesterday I had the opportunity to ask a Senior Government Minister a question on small businesses, at an FSB event (I’m a member but haven’t engaged with them before). Turned out it was Vince Cable.

Now, not being shy, I sat there in the front middle seat right in front of him (Green Party badge on my shoulder as is my habit) and stuck up my hand when they asked for questions… got picked first, out of only about seven or eight questions for which there was time, so I’m glad I didn’t wait. Here’s what I asked:

‘Minister, you’ve spoken of working to create a good tax environment for businesses, and of tackling red tape.

What will you do to reinstate the much-needed threshold lost by online micro-businesses under the new, and chronically under-communicated VAT rules on where the tax is levied – rules which place an intolerable administrative burden on tiny sole traders and digital creative businesses, rules which other EU countries are implementing unevenly and which countries beyond the EU are largely ignoring as unenforceable, further disadvantaging UK digital businesses, and making a nonsense of your stated intent to support online commerce and small businesses generally?’

His reply was largely along the lines that Britain is doing really well with online businesses, and that he’s not a tax expert. He did say he was going to Brussels ‘to see about this’, and I have contacted my local Green MEP Molly Scott Cato in case it’s appropriate for them to liaise, as she’s been involved in raising this in Brussels herself. The Minister concluded “VAT is a current problem whether you’re digital or not” to which I muttered that it hadn’t been a problem for many of us until this change… but without a right of reply as such, I sat and looked unimpressed at him, scribbling notes.

However, at the end of the session, he approached me at once and said ‘I’m aware that I didn’t answer your question, may I have your particulars?’ so I gave him my card… let’s see what happens. I’ll keep you posted.’

More news on that as we get it!

Please continue to do what you can – and don’t take the first reply you get to a letter as any kind of final answer. I got the standard brush-off/HMRC-cut-and-paste reply from my MEP Catherine Bearder – and was so annoyed I fired back a polite but no holds barred take down of their worthless reassurances. Since then she’s got back to me with a much more informed response plus a list of the actions she’s taking to get this issue investigated properly in Whitehall and in Brussels.

For any of you in London, MEP Syed Kamall is looking for case studies – actual examples of the problems people are having.

* I mention this in the interests of full disclosure. This isn’t a party political issue after all – Syed Kamall and Vicky Ford are both Conservative MEPs and Catherine Bearder’s a Lib Dem. Other folk report getting similarly better informed responses from Labour MPs and MEPs – when they’ve answered an initial brush off with hard facts and figures.

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