Red tape survey 6:

22 June 2001

Red tape survey 6:

now its the Inland

Revenues turn

Thanks for the flood of mail and e-mails that keep coming in as

part of our red tape survey – rest assured they are all read,

assessed and researched. This week Guy Opperman focuses

on PAYE and the harmonisation of costs across Europe

MODERN farmers have few employees, but those they do have are usually paid through the PAYE system. I am grateful to various farmers for sending in the mountain of paperwork that is required to be completed. For example, the "brief guidelines" attached to the latest employer pack runs to 46 pages! I havent the courage or the strength in my back to ask the ministry for the full guidelines.

Part-time employees are no obstacle to the monster that is PAYE red tape. As summer approaches and seasonal workers are taken on each employer farmer must fill in a separate P11 Wages sheet for each employee. This sheet has 23 columns and is constantly changed and updated so that just when you think you have got the hang of the system you have to start all over again.

The problem lies in the Inland Revenue/MAFF approach. The forms are standardised for all employers big or small. They define a small employer as having fewer than 10 employees. I fail to see why a form that is clearly designed for big business has to be filled in by a farmer. The number of farms which employ more than five men, even seasonally, is minimal. Thus the cry of this column is for a specially designed form for farmers employing fewer than five employees. Such a form should be concise and simple, and not require an accountant to complete.

But the last word must surely belong to the Director of the Employers programme of the Inland Revenue, Don Macarthur, who is quoted on page 4 of the January copy of PAYE Update – my usual bedtime reading – as saying: "We sat down some employers, gave them the old-style pack and said Tell us what is wrong with it. As a result we have pruned the pack, redesigned it and made it more obvious as to what to do next."

What he does not say is how people actually responded, and my guess is that they were not very complimentary. But the redesign he has proposed will have to wait until next year. Readers who wish to give the PAYE boys a piece of their mind and some helpful hints for the redesign may e-mail Don and his team on Please let me know how you get on.

Common theme

Harmonisation of pesticides costs and rules is a common theme among readers, though not strictly speaking a red tape issue.

But this issue of cross-European equality does get a mention because it goes to the heart of the modern farming debate.

There is credible evidence that certain products – the most easily identified are pesticides – are far cheaper on mainland Europe than in the British Isles. We would go further and say there is evidence that these are being subsidised by foreign countries to give their farmers a competitive edge over the likes of Britain. This goes back to the old issue that farmers do not want excessive regulation and intervention from the government they just want it to ensure there is a level playing field.

Guy Opperman can be contacted at 3 Paper Buildings, Temple, London EC4Y 7EU or he can be e-mailed at

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