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HMRC VAT property forms need a right click

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Neil Warren shares the problems he encountered when completing two VAT property forms on HMRC’s website. After a lot of wasted time, the final solution was very simple.

6th Jul 2021
Independent VAT Consultant
Columnist
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A VAT property questionnaire (VAT 5L) is required every a business involved in land, property or construction services registers for VAT. The VAT 5L form is part of the application process and is completed online and printed for the client’s approval.

As a separate process, a business wishing to opt to tax its interest in a property must complete form VAT1614A, quoting its VAT registration number, details of the property, date the option is to take effect and so on.

I recently agreed to complete the above forms, plus the usual VAT1 registration form, on behalf of a client buying a commercial property to partly rent out and partly convert to dwellings for sale.

HMRC website

When I clicked on both forms, I expected them to instantly appear on the screen and be ready for completion. Instead I was met with a surprise instruction: “If this message is not eventually replaced by the proper contents of the document, your PDF viewer may not be able to display this type of document.”

The website then suggested that I download the latest version of Adobe Reader to my computer – what a pain! I did this and, you’ve guessed it, still no joy.

I had another brainwave – I would try again on my reserve laptop, but that produced the same result.

Ask the experts

I then contacted my trusted IT advisor, who has acted for me for 18 years. He’s the sort of guy who will happily play with computers for hours on end, getting as much pleasure as I would watching a high-scoring football match or the latest quality television drama.

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Replies (16)

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Routemaster image
By tom123
07th Jul 2021 09:12

I often find changing browser sorts this kind of thing.

Pain to have to do though,

Thanks (1)
Replying to tom123:
Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
07th Jul 2021 11:05

Also most browsers can be set to download rather than open PDF's - which would presumably have solved Neil's problem.

Thanks (0)
By SteveHa
07th Jul 2021 09:50

I do believe that HMRC insisting on use of a single, proprietary piece of software is just wrong, in any event. At home, I use Linux exclusively, and Adobe Reader on Linux hasn't been updated since June 2017, which means that they are not only effectively mandating one piece of software, but are effectively mandating a change of my whole operating system.

Thanks (0)
Replying to SteveHa:
Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
07th Jul 2021 11:04

Agree with your sentiment, but PDF is hardly a bad choice as it is so ubiquitous, so I don't think HMRC are really being unreasonable.

The PDF standard is a published format, so it is not proprietary as any software company can use the format.

That said, I don't think HMRC's choice to use PDF forms with additional functionality is a good idea as many PDF software products do not implement this fully. HMRC seem to fail to get proper user feedback on their use of forms, otherwise they wouldn't do this.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Ivor Windybottom:
By SteveHa
07th Jul 2021 16:27

Except, from the OP:

Quote:
The website then suggested that I download the latest version of Adobe Reader to my computer

Sounds bloody proprietary to me.

Thanks (2)
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By cmiskin
07th Jul 2021 18:56

Covered as practical point 151 in June’s TAXline from ICAEW’s Tax Faculty. https://www.icaew.com/technical/tax/tax-faculty/taxline/taxline-2020/jun...

Thanks (0)
Replying to cmiskin:
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By Paul Crowley
08th Jul 2021 15:43

Just for ICAEW members choosing to pay more fees.
ICAEW all over
Did it even occur to the tax faculty to tell HMRC so the information about the defect could be added just above the link?

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By javeed.goweronline.co.uk
08th Jul 2021 09:41

amazing, literally wasted two hours on phone to HMRC yesterday trying to figure this one out.
Thanks a bunch.

Thanks (1)
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By Farzana22
08th Jul 2021 09:50

I had the same issue, changed browser to Chrome and it worked.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Farzana22:
boxfile
By spilly
08th Jul 2021 13:46

I use Chrome and couldn’t get it to work at all.

Why can’t HMRC flag this fix up - I’ve been onto the technical help desk, and all they could offer was to re-install Adobe.

Thanks (0)
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By Jimess
08th Jul 2021 09:54

I came across this a few weeks ago, fortunately I had already been given a tip-off by an adviser at our EFP providers and managed to save the form to my desktop. I was expecting fun and games trying to attach the VAT5L and accompanying documents to the VAT1 application, but that was surprisingly fairly straightforward. It seems to me that HMRC need some sort of standard on their forms - some are the annoying online completion where you have to complete a page before you move on, so you cannot see the full requirements of the application before you start, and some are just straightforward pdf forms that you need to download to complete. It all seems a bit of a mess.

Thanks (1)
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By ollieacca
08th Jul 2021 10:28

"Finally, there is no problem notifying HMRC of an option to tax election by letter rather than HMRC’s usual form VAT1614A if you prefer."

No problem?? you must have a different mailing address to the one I have, 3 months to reply isn't ideal!

Thanks (2)
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By TASG
08th Jul 2021 11:56

Change the default PDF viewer in your browser to Adobe.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/adobe-acrobat/efaidnbmnnnibpca...

Thanks (0)
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By TASG
08th Jul 2021 12:00

If urgent for a completion, send a covering letter providing the company name and registered place of business address in the application to [email protected] with the word URGENT prefixed in the email subject field. They would then anticipate a 72 hour turnaround time.

Thanks (1)
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By JacquiMBurns
08th Jul 2021 13:24

I came across this problem ages ago as I deal with a lot of property companies & a lot of applications/ notifications for Option to Tax. I just use the same form (which did open back in the good old days) open it, save it under the new client's name & start from the beginning then save the completed form so I can attached it to the Application for VAT registration. Always works.

Thanks (0)
Replying to JacquiMBurns:
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By JacquiMBurns
08th Jul 2021 13:26

Getting a copy of the Approval of an Option to Tax is another matter and can take months for them to send. Extremely poor service when client has decided to sell the building & needs the confirmation that it is Opted to Tax!

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