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Blighty's taxman offers smartphone levy refund

HMRC catches up with today's tech

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Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs officials have decided that smartphones are phones, not PDAs, so anyone paying tax on one can now claim it back.

Not that a lot of people were paying the tax anyway, companies (and individuals) have in the main remained blissfully ignorant that once a phone became smart it ceased, in the eyes of the taxman, to be a phone and therefore attracted tax as a benefit in kind. But those who were paying attention, and diligently paying their taxes now have until the end of July to claim back everything paid since 2007.

The confusion arose as HMRC struggled to cope with evolving technology. Laptop computers are clearly business tools, but mobile phones were explicitly exempt from tax - a dispensation that was never extended to smartphones.

That was clearly a nonsense. A smartphone is as much a business tool as a laptop computer, more so considering the way employees are expected to be constantly on call these days, so taxing them as a perk is just cruel.

Which is why so few companies did, and why so few people will be getting refunds. But if your accounts department is particularly officious, and your pay form P11D lists a smartphone as a benefit, then it might be worth reading the HMRC guide to the change - it displays fine on an iPhone. ®

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