HMRC has published figures showing that it has “progressively delivered” against Lord Carter’s targets for online filing of Self Assessment, Corporation Tax, PAYE and VAT returns.
Published alongside the 2006 Budget, Lord Carter of Coles’ review of HMRC online services set down the aspiration of achieving “universal online filing” by 2012. The department devoted considerable time and money to upgrading its web servers and backroom IT infrastructure to cope with the increased workload and a dedicated Carter programme team was created to communicate the department’s plans to taxpayers and their agents.
According to Carter Programme marketing manager Julian Hatt, the HMRC online team took a phased approach to the different tax regimes, focusing on Self Assessment back in 2008, then moving on to PAYE. Online filing of payroll returns has been subject to a sequence of deadlines (backed with cash incentives of up to £250 for early filers) for companies of different sizes, starting with end of year returns for companies with more than 250 employees back in 2005 and leading up to next year’s requirement for all companies to file both year-end (P14s and P35) and in-year (P45 and P46) forms online.
HMRC’s online filing figures illustrate the successive waves of online filing. Thanks to Lord Carter’s cash incentives (which he proposed in a separate PAYE review before his broader study of HMRC online services), nearly three-quarters of payroll returns were filed online in 2005-06. Apart from a slight dip in 2008-09, this remains the most successful of the online filing services, rising to 84% of all returns filed in the year to 5 April 2010.
Self Assessment had the next highest percentage of online filers when the Carter programme started in 2006 (23%). It experienced a big jump in 2008-09 when more than 2m taxpayers shifted to online filing, raising the percentage from 43% to 66%. The proportion of online returns filed for the 2010 deadline was nearly three-quarters (74%).