HMRC is undertaking the final wave of scheduled MTD for VAT service maintenance this week before the ribbon is officially cut on the project next month.
The temporary closure from 5pm on Friday 15 March until the morning of Tuesday 19 March means the pilot users will be unable to access their MTD accounts or make submissions and will also prevent anyone from joining the scheme.
Alerting agents, HMRC’s director of Making Tax Digital Theresa Middleton explained that the scheduled closure is to release additional functionality. Namely, it will open the MTD doors to those with an existing direct debit and non-UK companies.
When the service reopens, the MTD pilot users will no longer be able to submit VAT returns using the legacy options such as XML or online VAT portal. Instead, Middleton described a “generation of error messages” waiting for those attempting to submit via the legacy services following the maintenance, meaning MTD software will be the only option for those users going forward.
“I recognise this is happening close to 1 April, but continuing to iterate and expand the service is an important part of the pilot and in practice 1st April is not a ‘cliff edge’ for sign-ups,” said Middleton.
“We have seen through the pilot that many businesses are choosing to sign-up during their VAT period rather than at the beginning of it (which is fine as long as they are keeping their records digitally from the beginning of the period), and for some quarterly filers their first VAT period under MTD won’t start until 1 June.”
Middleton advised pilot participants to hold off from filing their VAT return early and wait until the service reopens since the next return deadline is not until 7 April.
With only a handful of weeks to go before the first businesses are required to join, an HMRC spokesperson confirmed to AccountingWEB that this maintenance is part of the final pilot phase to ensure “everything is in place and fully tested”.
Maintenance aside, Middleton painted a picture of little disruption, explaining that payments will continue as normal, while agents will still be able to create an agent services account. The only potential system kink was flagged to users who manage to join the pilot immediately before the closure. Those that register before the service doors close may face a short delay in receiving their sign-up confirmation.
That’s not to say practitioners haven’t experienced or reported any MTD frustrations. The ongoing Any Answers query about the lack of client list in the agent services account charts is one of the headaches that practitioners have grappled with so far.
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