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HMRC reassures agents on facsimile tax returns. By John Stokdyk

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4th Aug 2006
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In another move to clarify the HM Revenue and Customs stance on Lord Carter's recommendations for online tax services, HMRC officials reassured agents that they will still be able to print out paper copies of tax returns from preparation programs.

In paragraph 5.13 of Lord Carter's review of HMRC online services, he recommended that HMRC should "stop accepting SA returns on paper substitutes from April 2008". The idea was to force advisers to file their clients' tax returns online by not accepting the forms generated by their tax software programs. It is understood that significant resource is taken up verifying software houses' facsimile designs and Lord Carter suggested the measure as a way to discourage people from printing out substitute paper returns and filling them out by hand.

An HMRC spokesman informed AccountingWEB: "We recognise that agents have their own processes and mechanisms for dealing with their client's returns. As technology is rapidly evolving in this area we have not been prescriptive about the form of the copy return - it could be an electronic or paper copy - or in the form of the client's signature - similarly, it could be an electronic or 'wet' signature."

The current guidance, set out under regulation 3(6) SI 2000 No 945, say that agents should make a copy of an SA Return (including any amended SA return) and ensure it is authenticated by the taxpayer by means of a signature confirming that the information is correct to the best of the taxpayer's knowledge and belief before the return is sent in, the official explained.

"The Carter recommendations do not include changing this position. The references in the recommendations to the use of 'paper substitute return forms' was intended to cover the question of whether HMRC should continue to accept such forms."

Lord Carter's proposal not to accept the forms for submissions to HMRC will be taken up post 2008, but agents will still be able to generage copies of returns for their clients from their tax software.

CCH, developer the ProSystem personal tax system (formerly Taxpoint), got feedback from customers who were concerned that the Carter report would prevent any substitute forms from being printed, stopping them from outputting copies for clients.

ICAEW council member Susan Gompels was one of many accountants who lobbied for the clarification, which she welcomed.

"As advisers we need the full facsimile to provide suitable document for our clients to approve and sign. It gives us also a vital 'fall-back' option which could be used in extremis, should there be an unexpected failure of the e-submission system," she said in a statement issued by CCH Software.

"Without a facsimile the only alternative would be to complete HMRC forms by hand - hugely costly for all, prone to error, and a significant step backwards in this age of e-filing," Gompels said.

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Replies (8)

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By Peter Cane
04th Aug 2006 11:18

Yes, but...
What happens if you miss the 31 October deadline, and have every intention to e-file, but for some reason, the electronic filing is rejected?

Will the Revenue accept the computer generated paper Return, and will there be a penalty?

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By scotconnect
07th Aug 2006 14:58

other types of Returns?
And what about forms R40 and those SA100s that we cannot submit by FBI e.g some returns dealt with by PD1? In a recent conversation with HMRC I was advised to continue to lobby the Revenue about these type of returns as they havent thought everything through.

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David J Cox FCPA
By sussexbulldog
07th Aug 2006 14:15

Tax returns - facsimile or not
I agree with Peter. What happens when e-filing fails after 31 October ? The revenue want us to file over the internet and for the majority of practitioners that is what they want as well but there are times when e-filing is not accepted. In those circumstances I print off a return and send it to the Tax Office. However proposed legislation will mean a £100 penalty. Is this fair when the problem lies with the Revenue's system not accepting the return ?

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Euan's picture
By Euan MacLennan
07th Aug 2006 09:42

Reassurance?
All the HMRC appears to be saying is that they do not care what type of form agents may print for their clients to approve - whether it looks like a tax return or not.

They are not saying that agents/clients can submit facsimile tax returns to HMRC, which is what we need when we cannot file an internet return.

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By AnonymousUser
10th Aug 2006 12:39

Its going to be a real problem
I file around 100 returns ech year online, and I am a supporter of the system. However for various reasons (I blame the software)I usually end up with two or three returns which the system won't accept. At this point in future I will have to ask for a paper reurn from the IR, risking penalties. Yet again the Revenue haven't thought it through, and we get a good kicking. What a bunch.

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By Arm266
08th Aug 2006 11:41

Electronic Submission of Late Returns
Lord Carter has pushed for greater use of electronic submission of tax returns but there seems some confusion about whether late returns can be submitted electronically.

I spoke to the online helpdesk who advise that you can submit them electronically provided the 3rd party programme allows it.

I then asked the 3rd party software house who understood that you couldn't but said that their programme would not prevent submission if acceptable to HMRC.

I will try to do so next time I have a late return to do, which should be shortly.

In the meantime, this matter needs to be clarified and, if Lord Carter's advice is to be followed, HMRC need to ensure that it is possible to file all returns electronically.

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By stgreg
09th Aug 2006 14:53

HMRC should provide the means for on line filing
I have three tax returns to prepare and I am registered with the Govt gateway to file them all electroncally.

One is my personal return and last year I couldn't file it on line because I had a bit of trust income and the HMRC websites form was not able to deal with that. I have not tried yet this year.

One is a partnership return but I am told by the HMRC websitr that I have to buy some proprietary software to do this on line. Am I really supposed to buy the tax return??

The third is a trust return and it seems that too is not available on line.

I thought that they wanted to encourage us to file on line, but I am thouroughly discouraged.

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By AnonymousUser
09th Aug 2006 11:35

I must be missing something
All this "reassurance" says is that our file copy can be a facsimile one if we want. It says absolutely nothing about the return that is filed with HMRC. As far as I can see, they still seem to be insisting that computer-generated returns are filed online and that they have no intention of accepting such filed in hard copy.

I wonder how they intend dealing with repaired returns? I've just had to amend mine for last year and cannot do this online - so I've printed out the Revenue's PDF version of my return and scribbled the amendments on the face of it. Not exactly encouraging.

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