Paper...or not? By Simon Sweetman

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On 31 January this year 150,000 self assessment tax returns were submitted online to HMRC. This appears at this point to have been accomplished successfully, though the system slowed down. That means that 5% of the nearly 3 million returns submitted online were filed on a single day: it leads HMRC to the belief that there are agents who deliberately stockpile their returns in order to submit them on 31 January because they believe it shortens the enquiry window for those returns. What I have heard from agents is a rather different story, with almost everyone saying that their clients have been distinctly more casual this year about the deadline: they are no longer frightened of the 100 fine (and presumably not bothered by the increased risk of enquiry, a late return being clearly a risk fa...

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12th Feb 2007 14:21

No free s/w for LLPs
There does not appear to be any free software for filing LLP returns (even an online version of the 850 [?]), so SMEs on a shoestring will still have to file on paper.

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12th Feb 2007 14:50

Stockpiling returns
As a sole practitioner filing around 300 - 400 personal, partnership and trust returns per year online, I cannot believe that any practitioner would want to hoard returns until 31st January.

I have three factors that push me to file as early as possible.

1 Clients ringing to ask if their returns have agreed by HMRC ( Yes I do tell them each year that HMRC don't formally agree returns, but they still ask)
2 A tax compliance lady who looks at her list of outstanding returns and takes it as a personal affront if it does not decrease each week.
3 Still far too many clients bring information to complete returns in late January., that if we did stockpile returns, we would not have the time to file them online and have a life!

Come on Revenue and Customs

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12th Feb 2007 18:36

Online filing
At present HMRC free software can't deal with CGT/Foreign income etc. but almost everything it does else is easy and efficient.

So what happens if we file a return electronically - to get it in and out of the way easily and save doing it by hand - and then on the following day or even a month later, file a written amendment consisting of CGT and foreign pages which were "inadvertently" omitted in error, making a voluntary amendment to box 18.3 ?

Assuming that these written pages get there before 31st January, have we got a problem ?

I'd be interested to hear the views of my colleagues ........

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13th Feb 2007 09:25

HMRC's software
HMRC provides good basic software which does the job for thousands of taxpayers. I regard use of taxpayers money to develop foreign and other pages for the very few who need it as a waste of money. Surely these taxpayers can afford the small fee for Which Tax return or something similar? Is the low earning taxpayer to subsidise those with Capital Gains Tax to pay? The cost / benefit analysis that they should carry out to attempt such a task just does not add up. Better to persuade developers to provide theirs free for pensioners and low income groups.

To suggest that HMRC also needs to provide it for agents is a daft suggestion. If you charge for your services then you should equip youself properly to do it.

Personally, I think that HMRC would be far better concentrating on getting their end working well.

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13th Feb 2007 11:35

Oh no, please not just HMRC software!
Simon makes a good case for HMRC to provide 'free' access to the software for those needing foreign or CGT pages but why not allow a tax deduction for the cost of suitable commercial software? - then Rebecca's point is answered as well. At the end of the day if the cost to HMRC is lowered by e-filing instead of paper filing for just those cases isn't everyone a winner?

If commercial software had not been encouraged I know that the figures of online filing would never have reached the levels today. Remove the incentive by demanding that HMRC provide free all encompassing software and the commercial software will disappear and entrepreneurism with it. This has been proved with almost all the low cost DIY self assessment software being eliminated by the HMRC's ever encompassing online software. The HMRC method clearly does not suit everyone, certainly not most agents with high numbers of personal returns.

Everywhere else in the world, commercial tax software works with the taxing authority to ensure full coverage - why not in the UK?

I will declare an interest having worked in the software industry for over 22 years but does anyone seriously want to have only HMRC providing software given the existing track record?

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By pateldr
13th Feb 2007 15:08

Inadvertent declaration?
The use of the word inadvertently in quotes in David's post must bring to mind the seriousness of the declaration that the return represents.

My view is that you cannot knowingly leave out supplementary pages and amend the return later to include them. The declaration on the initial submission would then be a false statement.

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14th Feb 2007 12:57

Its all too much!!
Hear hear to all before. The answer really is that the majority of clients are the same as us, busy getting on with their lives and work. They forget, they procrastinate, they dawdle and only when the television adds are in full swing do they red faced turn up, ring up, or email the information we need to complete their returns.

We smile, and demur and say "no problem", after gnashing our teeth because for the whole ten months previous , we have sent questionnaires, reminder letters, more reminder letters, 3" high faxes and emails, telephone calls, all to no avail!

The Revenue IT people as we all know are not the best in the world, box 3.98 being a prime example. Even the Revenue cannot complete this box and put any numbers you put in 3.98 into 3.97 just to finish a return.

Why is there a restriction on company names and titles, why can't CGT and Foreign be pathed, why can't all the boxes be filled, oh yes, you have to be capable, competent, open minded, a lateral thinker and even clever. Not the remit of the company responsible for the programming of the systems the Revenue require to be done on their computer system, just ask the inspectors and input staff.

The last Return down the line out of our office - THE BOSS!

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13th Feb 2007 17:08

Filing and then adding pages/data by mail afterwards.
Sadly there are some boxes that can not completed using online filing 3.98 on page SE3. Also 6.8 (alone) on page F2 and probally others

We took the opinion that that a nearly completed return on-line plus an amendment was the way forward.

On-line filing has been a sucess but HMRC can not blame agents for last minute filing. Our experiences are that in that last week most returns were submitted because of the deadline. Not because I wanted to work all night and weekend. Maybe some inducement to taxpayers to file earlier may help but i guess this would only make an earlier deadline.

The paper returns we submitted were for those without UTR - why are they so difficult to get!! or those for previous years.

As an aside I understand in New Zealand agents fees are tax deductable. Although I have a vested interest surely it would be cheaper for HMRC to lose a max of 40% of our fee to get the return done right and submitted electronically than have one of its own staff manually key the Tax Return.

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