The EU makes a point of seeming to champion the empowerment of women. But scratch beneath the surface, and the EU’s commitment to improving the lives of women does not bear scrutiny. Whether it is imposing quotas on company boardrooms, belittling women’s ability to succeed in work on their own merits, in practise the EU’s efforts do more harm than good.
A prime example is new VAT rules which came into force on 1st January: they will affect businesses selling ‘digital services’, meaning the sale of everything from e-books to images to online recipes. Much of this work is done by women from home while their children are either at school or in bed.
It means the payment of VAT will be determined by the country you sell to rather than where you are supplying it from. Many of these businesses would not normally even need to register for VAT. They will no longer benefit from the UK’s high VAT threshold of £81,000, but must now subject themselves to a labyrinth of paperwork, registering to 28 VAT regimes in Europe whether they sell to European customers or not. It also means they will pay different rates of VAT depending on where their customers live, meaning their tax bill will be unpredictable – let alone the complications of overseas bank transactions.
In short, if you have a small online business be prepared for headache. There are already reports of 200 firms shutting down because of these changes to the law. The irony is these VAT rules were designed to tackle tax-dodging tech-giants like Amazon. But while large multinational firms can shrug off the paperwork with ease, for the housewife running a small online business from her home, it will be a huge headache. Even a micro-business with an annual turnover of £500 will have to register to 28 different VAT regimes across Europe.
There is also no doubt it will disproportionately hurt women.
While young single women typically earn more than their male counterparts, this trend is reversed with age. As women opt to look after their children at home, digital business gives them the opportunity to earn money to support their families while balancing work with maternal responsibility. This should be encouraged, but the point of the VAT rules is, you guessed it, to discourage business.
Annabel Kaye, founder of employment law firm Irenicon, said: ‘This really hits women working from home who have businesses designed to help support their families, and anyone who is disabled or a carer.
‘These tiny businesses are way below the EU radar for consultation – but not, it appears, for compliance. If you combine this with the changes to working tax credits, you see a devastatingly difficult set of changes for the people who are least able to cope. And it seems very unfortunate to target those who want to work and are working.’
Some will judge the EU by the intentions of its lawmakers, but it is better to judge its actions by its outcomes. In this case, the result is going to prove catastrophic to small businesses, to the burgeoning market for digital goods, and especially to women.
If that is not good enough reason to Get Britain Out, what is?
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