HMRC closes iXBRL loophole

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Six years down the line and HMRC has finally drawn a line in the sand on iXBRL.

From November 1 onwards, the tax authority will now reject company tax returns with accounts or tax computations which are not in iXBRL format.  

Since 2011, it has been mandatory to file virtually all company tax returns online using XBRL tags for accounts and tax computations. Simply speaking, it makes company accounts and tax computations legible to HMRC’s computer systems.

Incorrect returns will need to be refiled in iXBRL, and if a return isn’t refiled by the filing date, a late filing penalty could be levied.

The only exceptions to the rule, according to HMRC, are if the directions under SI 2003/282 allow otherwise or a special dispensation has been granted by HMRC.

HMRC explains in its Agent Update that the majority of returns that HMRC receives are in the correct format, but a significant number still aren’t.

“When iXBRL was introduced it was very challenging for a lot of people. But there were ways around it,” said Anita Monteith, a senior technical manager at the ICAEW Tax Faculty

According to Monteith, HMRC’s minimum tagging requirement meant you actually needed a relatively small number of key items tagged to get your information through the government gateway.

“A number of companies realised that was all you needed,” she told AccountingWEB. “In particular if you chose a solution that involved having the packaged tagged freehand, it was possible to save yourself a little time.”

It’s this shortcut that the tax authority is now clamping down on. “My understanding is that HMRC has said, ‘we’re six years down the line, it’s time to sort it out’. So unless you’ve got a proper exemption, they’ll start rejecting those sets of accounts.”

About Francois Badenhorst


I'm AccountingWEB's business editor. Feel free to get in touch with comments, tips, scoops or irreverent banter. 


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25th Oct 2017 09:23

That presumably goes to show who little of this tagged data is actually used by HMRC if they simply haven't cared for 6 years about the data submitted.

Well worthwhile spending the time and effort getting it right out end then....

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25th Oct 2017 10:26

So presumably what this means is that there will be a new minimum requirement for tagging with a lot more tags required. Any idea what this minimum standard might be or will it be decided arbitrarily by HMRC as and when they feel like it?

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to Duggimon
25th Oct 2017 11:56

There has been a minimum tagging list for many years. PDF files were never tagged, so there is no change.

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25th Oct 2017 11:25

Does this mean that the exemption for small charitable companies to file in PDF as opposed to iXBRL is no longer an option?

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25th Oct 2017 11:29

The biggest joke of all, actually, is HMRC flying in the face of a global de facto standard and demanding iXBRL instead of XBRL.

What's the difference?

XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language) was created in order disparate data sets from businesses reporting numeric data could enjoy a common platform.

iXBRL, however, can be read in plain English!

HMRC: Haven't Much of a Real Clue!

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to Michael C Feltham
25th Oct 2017 12:10

What drivel.

iXBRL is an extension to the XBRL standard that provides for the tagged XBRL to be embedded in a human-readable HTML document, thus addressing the biggest problem with XBRL - that in its raw form it is largely meaningless to a human reader.

A simple tool can generate an XBRL document from an iXBRL document (HMRC will no doubt do this automatically during processing) and using iXBRL avoids having to submit 2 files to HMRC and Companies House (XBRL for reading by computers and PDF for reading by humans).

So if we have to have XBRL, it is far easier for everyone if it is iXBRL rather than raw XBRL.

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By Bluffer
25th Oct 2017 11:34

Thanks for the warning. Is there a link to an HMRC statement of some kind please?

Do we know whether this will affect companies at the end of their lives? HMRC allowed paper filing etc. for the sake of expediency.

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to Bluffer
25th Oct 2017 16:39

The change was annouced in Agent Update no. 62, which hasn't yet been indexed on the Agent Update page , but can be accessed here:
Agents should also be receiving letters about this if their clients are affected.

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25th Oct 2017 22:10

iXBRL is the second cousin of XML. Recently, JSON has taken over the spot light. Even the HMRC's API use JSON. XML is a terrible, and non readable format, while JSON is light-weight, and both human and machine friendly and readable option.

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