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A lack of high-speed broadband in rural areas could create tax filing problems for small businesses, it has been claimed.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) recently confirmed that all companies with a turnover of more than £100,000 will have to submit both tax and VAT returns online from April.

However, the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) says this decision ignores the problems faced by many rural businesses when using the internet, reports the East Anglian Daily Press.

Nicola Currie, CLA Eastern Region Director, said effective and affordable broadband is "simply not available in great swathes of the countryside".

She added: "It is beyond belief that HMRC can impose this requirement. Have its officers any idea how long it can take to download these vast forms?"

Ms Currie suggested that many firms' systems were likely to crash before downloading is complete.

"Until the needed investment that the CLA has been calling for happens, it is unacceptable to roll out mandatory online form-filling. Common sense says that something can only be mandatory if people have the ability to comply," she stated.

Last week, the Evening Star reported that the Suffolk Broadband partnership is seeking £5 million in funding from the East of England Development Agency to pay for rural network upgrades.

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