Employers in the UK could be faced with a new tax on business computer equipment that will affect personal emails and use of the internet.

Bosses and workers have hit out at government plans to charge for personal use of office computers, claiming that they could cost staff and bosses billions of pounds and vital hours work.

Introduced as part of Gordon Brown’s Budget in March, MPs will debate proposed changes to legislation governing taxation of office computer equipment this week as part of the Finance Bill.

Critics of the proposals fear that it could lead to companies reading all workers’ emails and Tory leaders are seeking clarification of the plans.

Matthew Knowles, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), told the Sun newspaper: “As usual, it’s the small print of the budget that has the sting in the tail. Not only is the cost going to be a problem, but also the time spent administrating it.”

No trigger point for the tax has yet been decided and the Treasury insists that it will be used to punish those attempting to dodge taxes, with only “significant” personal use of computer equipment attracting the charge.

The government chose to scrap the Home Computing Initiative (HCI) earlier this year, ending income tax breaks for workers purchasing computer equipment through their company.

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