Free Tax Software from HMRC BUT not for an Accountant

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This month HMRC have announced that the free corporation tax return filing software will be withdrawn from next year.

In an email sent to me outlining the decision HMRC say the following

Not Free“Companies House and HMRC are developing a new, improved company tax return and company accounts filing service called Company Accounts and Tax online (CATO). This new service will make it quicker and easier for small companies to file their own annual accounts to Companies House and company tax returns to HMRC - at the same time or separately.” This is followed by

“CATO is an online service which companies will access using their own filing credentials, unlike the existing HMRC free filing software, which uses a form downloaded from the internet. Agents will not be able to use this service on behalf of their clients.”

So HMRC will make this software freely available to a company BUT apparently not to its duly appointed agent! Just how will that work? What if the company pass their “own filing credentials” to their Accountant?

Are HMRC really saying that a company’s duly appointed and trusted agent cannot be allowed access? Are they so angry with agents that they are spitefully excluding that small number of small practices that use the free software on behalf of their clients? And how are they to monitor or police this? Will there be a fine if a company ask their accountant to help out because they are getting in a mess?

Every accountant has clients that use a huge variety of different software to maintain their records and we have to take the base records and use them as the basis of preparing the final accounts. The Company give us unfettered access to their accounting records BUT HMRC want to be in a position to stop a client company allowing their accountant to use software that they either feel incapable of using or understanding or don’t want to spend the time learning or simply recognise that it’s cheaper to let the Accountant lose on it because that’s what we employ him for.

Seriously what is going on with HMRC and its attitude toward Agents? I keep saying and will continue saying “HMRC don’t really like us do they” until that is they desperately need us to help them sort out their own problems.

I have to own up and state that my own practice uses paid for commercial software and this decision will have no effect whatsoever on my practice but I know that many small practices will be effected and it’s not just the cost of replacement software but the time it will take to learn the new software. These small accountancy practices are business also BUT not the type of business that HMRC want to help apparently.

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