Nigel Hughes
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Submitting accounts to HMRC

Submitting accounts to HMRC

I'm feeling a bit like Arthur Dent from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy who found that the plans for knocking down his house were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the leopard".

Having happily sat down before Christmas to do my company's corporation tax return, I have discovered that HMRC's PDF based software cannot cope with a balance sheet which has any reserves other than profit and loss account and revaluation reserve. As my company has a share premium account, the HMRC form won't accept it (although Company's House can cope with no trouble).

So I find myself looking for alternative solutions to produce the accounts in iXBRL, which will no doubt eventually be solved.

What I find odd is that today, as I write this, I am unable to comply with the HMRC's requirements, because I don't have a mechanism for preparing accounts in iXBRL format. Is there no requirement for HMRC, in law, to provide me with such mechanism?

I suppose, in times gone by, there was no requirement to provide me with a pen so I could fill in the form, or paper so I could print my accounts, but this feels rather different.

Looking further ahead will HMRC be able to insist that all taxpayers do their SA return on line, when there may remain some who don't have access to the internet? Could they insist that all tax returns must be printed in gold leaf on the finest vellum parchment? Could they insist that all tax filings should be done by authorised agents, who, no doubt, like St Matthew would be able to charge a fee, based perhaps on the amount of tax collected.

If anyone knows the legal reference or can confirm that there is none, I'd love to hear it.


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18th Jan 2012 16:24


AFAIK, if you get in touch with the Online Helpdesk and they agree that their software cannot accommodate this issue, they will authorise you to file a paper return. You'll need to quote an online case number with the submission.

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18th Jan 2012 16:26

can't help with the specific question but

VT software provide a free xbrl convertor which you may be able to use to solve your problems.  You can download it from their website.

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18th Jan 2012 17:30

Forgive me for stating the obvious

Complying with legal requirements is rarely a cost-free matter.  In this case, you have an option.  Pay an accountant who has the necessary software to do it for you (and all his other company clients, so he is likely to be more expert than you and will be charging a routine commercial rate) or pay for the software to do it yourself.

To answer your question, or at least, the least facetious question, No - there is no legal requirement for the tax authority to provide you with the means to comply with your legal obligations free of charge.  A moral duty, perhaps, but not a legal one.

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By DMGbus
18th Jan 2012 21:21

Fudge it and note it

iXBRL is evil in that extra costs have been imposed on small businesses and accountants without adequately investigating the impact of costs imposed.

I can't remember which imbecile advocated iXBRL, but that imbecile was clearly unaware that to small businesses iXBRL is, in effect, a foreign language.  Maybe the imbecile advocating iXBRL only had experience of multinational plcs who use this unfriendly-to-small-business computer language.

So, here we have it, HMRC provides an inadequate solution - its own pdf.

Answer: use the pdf  as provided by HMRC - fudge it - increase the share capital or reserves by the figure that can't be otherwise disclosed, then in a "White space" (say pdf attachment in plain text format NOT iXBRL) state what you have BEEN FORCED TO DO by HMRC having incompetent software writers.  If you find this difficult file a correction in letter form to HMRC regional CT operations office to state the necessary correction, importantly make it clerar that HMRC is to blaim as it's online filing product is inadequate.






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By Ian Bee
19th Jan 2012 10:35

Legal requirements

I have to disagree with Euan on the cost point. I was looking at submission of small partnership returns. Could have been done on paper by 31 October but wasn't, which would have been cost free.

To submit on line there is no facility provided, so you have to get software or pay someone else.

As it turns out, software can be obtained quite cheaply but for a sole trader would it be worth filing a paper return by 31 Jan, paying the fine of £100 and saving the software/accountancy costs?

On the point of iXBRL, have HMRC put it in writing that a paper return is OK if the company does not have the software?

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19th Jan 2012 11:29

Thank you

An interesting set of responses.

Brugesbear and DMGbus - on discovering the problem before Christmas I spoke to my tax office in Methyr  Tydfil, where the lady who answered the phone was initially very defensive, told me that the original plan was that HMRC would provide no accounts filing software at all, but someone eventually realised that this would not go down too well with the taxpaying public. I managed to talk her round and she relaxed a bit, but she categorically rejected the "fudge the balance sheet and submit pdf accounts anyway" approach.

Euan - after all that training, and 37 years in the profession, including submitting my own corporation tax returns for the past 20 years with, so far, no problems, I'm a bit reluctant (oh all right, I'm too mean), to put my tax affairs in the hands of someone who may, or may not know more about it than I do, but is able to provide the service purely because they've bought some software, rather than because they have specific expertise.

I think there is a very real danger for the profession if we are seen as unfairly advantaged gatekeepers, rather than providers of expert advice. In the words of Steve Jobs anyone with access to iXBRL tagging software, but no professional qualifications could "eat our lunch".

I have no idea whether iXBRL is an imbecilic thing or not. Companies House have had their ups and downs, but it now seems to work quite well. I do think it is imbecilic for HMRC not to have made use of Companies House's experience in this field, but such is life.

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19th Jan 2012 14:46

Legal Requiremnt

If it isn't a Legal requirement - It jolly well should be, and it should be in the Tax Payers Charter - I will write to MP about it - lets see what his response is 

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