While I’m busy with my day job in Canada, Juliet McKenna and her colleagues are beating their heads against the brick wall that is Whitehall. Juliet’s latest post is here, and in it she explains how HRMC found a solution for her problems. It involved sacking her existing publisher, who was clearly incompetent, and instead signing up with one of those outfits that will charge you £500 to make an ebook (which they probably do by automated conversion). I guess if you are making that amount of money off the gullible then you can afford all of the administrative nightmare that is VATMOSS.
The trouble, as Juliet makes clear, is that the people she is dealing with don’t have a clue. Not do they seem to think it is at all important.
If Wizard’s Tower were my means of making a living then I’d be a lot more sanguine about the whole thing, though if my net income from it was around £12k/yr (which is approximately what I earn from the day job) then the addition of at least £1k/year in dealing with VATMOSS would not be very welcome.
Our beloved government, however, thinks that a small business is one with 200 employees and an annual turnover of £30m. Single-person businesses, of which there are around 4.6 million in the UK, are barely on their radar. Many of those single businesses will have difficulty surviving VATMOSS.
However, the businesses that will really suffer and the countless (literally, as we have no idea how many there are, because no one has bothered to count them) businesses like Wizard’s Tower that don’t make enough money to support even one person full time. The annual turnover of Wizard’s Tower in my last annual accounts was around £5k, and the business made a loss that year because it bore most of the costs of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion while enjoying little of the revenue from it. Add £1k of admin costs to that and you are in serious trouble.
The nice gentlemen in Whitehall don’t seem to think that this is a serious business. If you can’t even provide the livelihood for one employee, what right do you have to call yourself a business? Who cares if you go to the wall? From my point of view it would not matter than much, because I have such slim profit margins (thanks, Amazon, for competing with me). Other digital businesses might bring in their owners a few thousand a year. What does that pay for? It might mean the difference between being able to afford a holiday or not; it might mean nice Christmas presents for the grandchildren that you couldn’t afford on a state pension; it might mean not having to go on benefits because your job at Tesco doesn’t pay enough to cover the rent and feed the kids. Naturally all of this seems like something out of a Dickens novel to someone on a fat civil service salary. They don’t believe that it happens.
And then there’s the other thing. Most of the people involved in this campaign are women. Most of the people we are dealing with are not. We know that their understanding of ecommerce is woefully lacking. We haven’t even tried explaining the crowdfunding issue to them, because it would be like telling them we were cloning dodos for all they would believe such a thing were possible. But from their point of view it is a clear case of the little ladies not understanding technology, and if only they would stop nattering for a while and listen while someone mansplained the Internet to them, why then their problems would all go away.
Head. Desk. Repeat.