HMRC doubles downtime on MTD for VAT system
HMRC blamed an issue “impacting the ability of some MTD for VAT customers to submit a return” as the reason why some agents couldn’t file or access agent services for four days.
Last week, HMRC announced it would be down for the weekend via its service availability and issues page from Saturday 13 March until 5pm on Monday.
But on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, users were still reporting the agent services account was still down. “Still unavailable at 9am on Wednesday 17th,” said taxTeddy. “They have really done it this time.”
HMRC alerted AccountingWEB that an issue was making the MTD for VAT page unavailable, and that specific component has been identified and was being fixed:
“An issue has been identified which is impacting the ability of some MTD for VAT customers to submit a return. In order to enable a fix to be delivered, the ‘Return Submission’ element of MTD for VAT requires shuttering. As a result, it is currently not possible for customers or agents to submit a VAT return through the MTD service.
“All other elements of the VAT service (such as sign-up and payment) remain open. There is no interruption to applications for the VAT deferral New Payment Scheme. The MTD for ITSA service is unaffected. We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible and expect the full service to return on the morning of Thursday 18th March. If this situation changes, we will notify you immediately.”
By 4pm on Wednesday, users were reporting that the service was back up and running.
What went wrong during work on the MTD for VAT servers?
According to HMRC, during its scheduled maintenance “to deliver a number of iterative enhancements to the functionality of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT service”, an issue was identified that impacted the ability of MTD for VAT customers to submit a return.
While HMRC investigated the issue and delivered a fix, the ‘Return Submission’ element of MTD for VAT was temporarily shuttered in order to limit the impact on customers. “All other elements of the MTD service were unaffected and remained open to customers,” an HMRC spokesperson told AccountingWEB.
HMRC maintains that if the return submission service had not been temporarily closed, a minority of customers would have received incorrect error messages on submission of their returns, when in fact their returns had been received and processed successfully. This could have prompted customers affected to take further action to check the status of their returns with HMRC.
The vast majority of the “iterative enhancements” to MTD for VAT services were made to the backend of the system and will not be visible to the user.
The spokesperson confirmed that all customer data remained safe and secure throughout and all other elements of the VAT service (such as sign-up and payment) remained open.
There was no interruption to applications for the VAT deferral New Payment Scheme and MTD for Income Tax service was unaffected, they added.
“While we are sorry for the inconvenience for customers who wanted to file during the couple of days the service was unexpectedly shuttered, temporary shuttering of a service is an ordinary contingency action if a release of new functionality causes a problem that wasn’t picked up during testing,” said the spokesperson.
“It is now fully resolved, and all affected customers have plenty of time to file before their deadline on 7 April. HMRC conducts an after action review after each release and will reflect any lessons learned in future deliveries. Future system enhancements should otherwise continue as planned.”
MTD for ITSA pilot testing phase
When asked if new elements will be added to enable the public launch of the MTD for ITSA pilot testing phase, HMRC reiterated that the MTD for ITSA pilot has been running in public beta (with some customer eligibility restrictions) since 2018.
It plans to deliver further enhancements to the MTD for ITSA service in the coming months, which will expand the volume of businesses eligible to join the pilot and test the service two years out from mandation.
According to HMRC, there are no planned changes to upcoming MTD delivery schedules as a result of this minor isolated incident.
HMRC postpones CT online service downtime
Two days after the extended downtime for MTD VAT submissions, HMRC announced planned downtimes for the CT online service, which it then cancelled the following day.
First alerted to AccountingWEB by user Hugo Fair, HMRC first announced “Planned downtime from 5pm on Friday 19 March 2021 to 9am on Monday 22 March 2021” for its CT online service.
It was replaced the following day with “The planned downtime from 5pm on Friday 19 March 2021 to 9am on Monday 22 March 2021 has been cancelled”.
“Assuming that the initial maintenance plan that would've taken over two days wasn't unnecessary in the first place, this suggests that whatever's going in the back-office systems at HMRC is not good news...either for HMRC or for those of us trying to comply with deadlines,” commented Hugo Fair.
To follow future notifications from HMRC, click the blue button at the top of its API platform status page.