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SOME OF you may have a sneaking feeling that Gordon Brown was a cyberman all along. Certainly some of the measures announced in the budget will have done nothing to dispel that idea. You can check out the speech, together with all the supporting documentation which the Treasury produces on the Budget 99 web pages. As well as the speech, you can access the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report and Financial Statement and Budget Report.

The Chancellor has, again, produced a handy leaflet guide to his budget measures. You can order a copy of this by sending your name and address to Freepost, Budget 99. However, the contents of this leaflet are also available on the web so you could save yourself the effort and take a look at it online. It is a more digestible summary of the main points of the budget, budget-lite if you like.

All the Treasury, Inland Revenue, and Customs & Excise press releases detailing the budget proposals are also viewable. Some of the documents are PDF files and you will need to have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. Others are in self-expanding compressed file bundles.

In among all the tinkering and tax changes were proposals to allow businesses and individual taxpayers the option of sending tax information, such as VAT and Income Tax Returns, via the Internet. Legislation will be put forward in the Finance Bill for Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue to develop electronic services that we, as taxpayers, can use as an alternative to the current legal requirement of paper communication.

This should make life easier for the nine million or so of us slogging our annual way through the self-assessment tax returns. The Inland Revenue will develop a new Internet-based service alongside its existing electronic services.

The Prime Minister has already set a target for 25 per cent of transactions with the Government to be capable of being done electronically by 2002. The Government has apparently resolved its concerns about security and encryption and the ability to use encrypted digital signatures to authenticate information sent over the Internet. Of course, this is all very well but what if you do not have a computer at home? Well, cyber-Chancellor has the answer to that one - offering a tax boost to encourage wider computer use and computer skills as part of a package of measures to increase computer access. So, from the start of the new tax year, 6 April, 1999, employees will be able to loan a computer from their employer without being faced with a tax charge. This means you can have a work-supplied computer at home, without a tax bill for the benefit-in-kind you are getting.


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