A move that was supposed to make filing tax forms quicker and easier for all tax-paying islanders has ended up creating a major hurdle for married women.
Under current laws, married women are not allowed to file tax returns - only their husbands, the 'principal taxpayers', are able to do so.
While many married women admit overcoming this by filling out the form and then passing it to their husband – the ‘principal taxpayer’ under law – to sign, Express has learned that the new online filing system launched this week doesn't have any anti-discrimination provision built in, and prevents them from being able to deal with the couple’s taxes in any way at all.
Asked for an explanation, a government spokesperson commented: “The online form has been designed to meet the requirements of the law as it currently stands. This means the husband in a couple is the primary taxpayer unless a wife has opted for ‘Separate Assessment’, in which case she is the primary taxpayer for her own tax return.”
Pictured: Online filing was launched this week.
One 51-year-old married woman, who has been paying tax since the age of 16, told Express she was shocked to find herself effectively ‘locked out’ of the system when she tried to process her household return online.
Having downloaded digital ID app Yoti to prove her identity, she activated an account on the gov.je website – only to be told she didn’t have a registered tax number.
“So I called 444444 and was told that I couldn’t process the online return and it had to be done by the principal tax person on our account, my husband,” she explained.
“If I knew how to sue Gov.je for discrimination, I would. It’s an embarrassment to working women. They take our money but we don’t have the authority to do an online tax return.”
She added: “Someone at the top getting paid £100k-plus should be held accountable. It’s all very well then saying, 'Bear with us,' and, 'There will be teething problems,' but these issues should be flagged at the offset.”
And the problems go further – same-sex couples have also reported an issue.
Pictured: There are also difficulties for same-sex couples.
In same-sex marriages, the government’s rules state the older partner must be responsible for administering tax.
Venting her frustrations on social media, one female islander in a same-sex marriage described the situation as “an absolute joke”, adding that she feared any updates would be “dragged out for god knows how many years”.
A government spokesperson said States Members voting in favour of the tax changes being put forward by the Treasury Minister next month could pave the way for online form updates to be ushered in – banishing any discriminatory practices for good.
In the meantime, some married women said they had found ways of getting round the issue.
“I just got my husband to log in on Yoti using his details and then I completed the form online for myself and him. It was quick and easy and I personally found it better than completing the form and photocopying additional information etc that is needed in paper format,” one Facebooker reported.
For those who don't face any relationship-related stumbling blocks with online tax filing, there could be another - not having a smartphone.
Video: Taxpayers can only do online filing if they have a smartphone to set up a digital ID with Yoti. (Yoti/YouTube)
It's only possible to use the online tax filing system if a digital ID is created with app Yoti, which isn't available on desktop or laptop computers.
However, officials told Express they were already looking into improving accessibility, with the government's technical team currently working on an "alternative solution for people who would like to use a PC or laptop to file online".
"However, Yoti is currently the only Government-approved secure digital ID application to access onegov secure services, and you need a smartphone to use Yoti," they added.
"Yoti provides the highest level of security to a wide range of islanders, so it was sensible to begin the process of making services available online, using Yoti. Taxpayers without smartphones can still file their tax returns on paper until a digital ID system for desktops is available."
News of these additional hiccups come in what has already been a challenging start to the year for Revenue Jersey.
Last week saw Tax Comptroller Richard Summersgill apologise for getting behind schedule with thousands of assessments amid claims from islanders who had received them that they'd been wrongly assessed, while this week saw income tax forms wrongly sent to dozens of children.
Pictured: Dozens of children were mistakenly sent tax forms this week.
The latter prompted yet another apology from Mr Summersgill, who explained in a statement: “We have discovered that a small number of children (fewer than 100) have been sent a tax form in error, for which I expressly apologise. This is unfortunately down to human error, whereby a tick box, that excludes the individual from receiving a tax form, was not selected while the record was being inputted into the system.
“I will be personally contacting all affected individuals to apologise for the error and explain what they need to do.”
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