Tax 

Opperman considers auto-enrolling via tax returns

Opperman considers auto-enrolling via tax returns

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said that the government will be able to create nudges and saving models for the self-employed.

By 2020 most businesses, self-employed people and landlords will be required to use software or apps to keep their business records and provide regular updates of information to HM Revenue & Customs, replacing the annual tax return.

This overhaul, announced in 2016, has been branded Making Tax Digital.

Speaking at a hearing at the Treasury select committee yesterday (8 May) in Parliament, Mr Opperman said once the reform is concluded, the new system will be "one of the greatest levers that we could utilise to address the self-employed in particular".

He said: "Because once your tax return is done on a digital basis, in a total revolutionary way, your ability to do nudges and sidecar versions of savings through a tax return will massively go through the roof. But that is for the future."

Former Labour adviser Matthew Taylor had proposed a similar solution in his review of working practices in the modern economy.

He concluded that effectively auto-enrolling self-employed people into a pension through the self-assessment tax process would help to deal with the issue of this type of worker failing to set cash aside for retirement.

Providers Aviva and Royal London have suggested a similar possibility, including the chance for the self-employed to opt-out of contributions.

However, such a solution has been dismissed by the government until now.

Instead, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) announced, in its latest auto-enrolment review, that it will test a number of approaches, through which "the government intends to identify options for self-employed people that can work at scale".

City minister John Glen, also speaking at the hearing, said: "The lack of clarity over what single intervention in policy innovation to sort this one out – given the diversity of the population – means that it is challenging but it is one that we are actively engaging together in trying to find a solution."

Both Mr Glen and Mr Opperman agree that fintech companies are already playing a big part in this area, by creating saving apps that are appealing to self-employed workers.

Mr Opperman said: "I believe that is the future, people are saving in a totally different way that our parents and grandparents didn't know."

maria.espadinha@ft.com

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