Q and A

MTD FAQs: Time to solve the mystery

9th Jun 2016
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After our recent webinar on Making Tax Digital, one thing remained clear: AccountingWEB members are frustrated by the lack of solid information. This interactive Q&A is based on community questions, and will act as an ongoing reference source as the project evolves.

MTD has become accountancy’s snow leopard: confirmed to exist, but rarely sighted.

To help our members as much as the editorial team, AccountingWEB has created a frequently asked questions (FAQs) article for Making Tax Digital. This FAQs will grow and transform as MTD gradually unfurls. We will keep adding to it, taking new questions into account as and when they pop up. The people we speak to will also increase on a continual basis.

AccountingWEB members will be at the heart of this process. If you have a question you want answered: let us know and we’ll try our hardest to get it answered.

For now, here is the inaugural collection of MTD FAQs.


HMRC said that it will provide free software solutions to small businesses. When will we get to see them?

Mark Purdue, product manager for tax products at Digita: “The government has made the commitment that businesses with the most straightforward tax affairs will have access to free software for managing their tax account data.

“At the moment, ‘straightforward’ has not been defined, so the scope of what will be available is not yet known. Currently, HMRC are in discussions with software developers on what solutions will be available.”

Steve Checkley, director of TaxCalc: “HMRC won’t actually be providing this software themselves but are relying upon suppliers in the market to do so.

The industry generally isn’t keen on giving away free software”

“Without wishing to put words into the mouths of suppliers out there, I believe that the industry generally isn’t keen on giving away free software – it’s not a very commercial proposition and freemium models rarely work in reality. The compromise would be to identify groups of taxpayers for whom the requirement to buy additional software products is unconscionable (eg very low earners). How these groups are to be identified and how software will be restricted is yet to be determined and/or agreed by HMRC and the industry.

“We won’t be able to see this software for some time since HMRC have not determined what they actually want from taxpayers. As a result, we can’t build it! There will be consultation in July and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reveal the decisions in the Autumn Statement.”

Do we know if clients will have to use cloud bookkeeping to upload or will there be alternative methods to upload such as a link at HMRC where they can key in their data?

Mark Purdue: “This type of detail will be clarified as part of the various consultation documents (expected after the EU referendum vote). The only clarification HMRC have made so far is that the recording of data must be digital, and for this purpose, that excludes spreadsheets.”

Steve Checkley: “Uploading of data will be done through an API (Application Programmable Interface), so I don’t see why Cloud has to be a prerequisite of this software.”

If clients already have Digital Tax Accounts when will accountants be able to get access to clients digital tax accounts?

Steve Checkley: “Digital Tax Accounts are already live. Individuals have a Personal Tax Account and businesses and organisations have a Business Tax Account.

Accountants will not be able to access a client’s Digital Tax Account directly.”

“Accountants will not be able to access a client’s Digital Tax Account directly. Instead, they will be able to obtain information indirectly from within their tax software via an API.

“A couple of APIs have already been developed and implemented by software providers such as TaxCalc. These APIs include the ability to download end P60 and P11D information directly into a tax return. In TaxCalc’s case, we’re waiting for HMRC to turn them on for use by our customers.”

Mark Purdue: “A small point to clarify is that, as mentioned by HMRC is their Agent Services webinar on 19 May, agents will only be able to access the Digital Tax Account data for their clients via third party software i.e. HMRC will not themselves be providing the equivalent of the existing web-access via the Government Gateway.

“Third party software will allow agents to access the underlying data held in the client’s tax account. At the moment HMRC are working on exposing this data (via APIs) to allow third party providers to write the necessary agent software. HMRC have committed that their work will be complete in this financial year, so watch this space.”

If you have a few small business clients and currently use the HMRC free software what are the best options available for 2016/17?

Mark Purdue: “HMRC have confirmed that they will not be writing any software solutions to mirror their current offerings.

If you are an agent, currently using the free HMRC products, then you need to start considering your requirements.”

“If you are an agent, currently using the free HMRC products, then you need to start considering your requirements, and looking at what third party products will be available to meet your needs.”


Will clients have to pay tax more often based on quarterly returns?

Steve Checkley: “This is something that has been very strongly challenged by the software industry, particularly members of BASDA. There was consultation back in February on “Simpler Tax Payments”, which touched on this. In the open consultation I personally attended, the idea that the regime would change was not well received and fiercely debated.

Currently, as far as we understand, there will be no changes to the frequency of which taxpayers will make payments.” 

“Currently, as far as we understand, there will be no changes to the frequency of which taxpayers will make payments.” 

Mark Purdue: “At this stage, there is no suggestion of mandatory quarterly payments. There was a consultation earlier this year, and the outcome was that HMRC would offer voluntary quarterly payments to those who would prefer to pay by this method.”

What happens about capital allowances, how will they be calculated?

Steve Checkley: “HMRC don’t know how the application of annual allowances or other such rules will be applied. They’ll commence consulting in July and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reveal the decisions made in the Autumn Statement.

“Capital Allowances could go one of two ways: they are applied as an end-of-year adjustment or apportioned throughout the tax year. The same would be true of, say, private use adjustments. They may either be applied annually after the year has concluded or on an as-you-go basis as activity dictates. Of course, application of adjustments throughout the year is edging ever closer to making a more formal tax return, if only concerned with trading activity.”

Mark Purdue: “A good question! At this stage, the simple answer is we do not know (the consultation documents referenced above will clarify this). Other similar questions include; What happens about loss relief? How will farmers averaging work?”

When will the last year of Self Assessment Tax Returns be?

The requirement for a formal SA tax return is likely to disappear.”

Mark Purdue: “Based on what HMRC have published to date, at the point that ‘Quarterly Reporting’commences, the requirement for a formal SA tax return is likely to disappear. This suggests that for unincorporated businesses and other individuals, the last SA return will be for the year ended 5 April 2018.”

Steve Checkley: “Hard to say. I believe that from the documents issued by HM Treasury and HMRC that we’re looking at either 2018 or 2019.

“The thing is, the forms are likely to stay but be beyond the use of most taxpayers. At Accountex, Oliver Fisher, who is HMRC’s Deputy Director of Making Tax Digital (Business) Strategic Design & Policy, presented a seminar and said that a form will be retained but only for use by those who physically are unable to use a computer or through religious conviction. Everybody else will be obliged to use digital services.

“I believe that the system is set up such that if a taxpayer is making submissions of data to HMRC or submissions are being made on their behalf (such as payroll, bank interest, dividends and so on) and they do not challenge or amend the data, the assessment made by HMRC will stick and become their liability. In that respect, a taxpayer that has no need to challenge or amend tax data held by HMRC has no need to complete a tax return. However, the self employed, for example, will need to amend year end data and therefore be required to complete a return in all but name.”

If filing is every 3 months does this mean we will have a January season every period? Will it be 31/01, 30/04, 31/07, 31/10 dates for filing?

Mark Purdue: “I think it is fair to say that the transition to quarterly reporting will have some challenges! One such challenge will be getting quarterly data from clients, reviewed and to HMRC efficiently as possible, and in accordance with the HMRC deadlines (which are still unknown).

“The meaning of a quarter and deadline for submissions remains to be clarified, again by the consultation documents.”

Steve Checkley: “Oliver Fisher, HMRC’s Deputy Director of Making Tax Digital (Business) Strategic Design & Policy, presented a seminar at Accountex where he alluded to taxpayers commencing with Quarterly Updates in the first quarter following their accounting year end. For many taxpayers, this will be the start of April 2018 but for others, later in the year. To a small extent, this would be helpful in staggering taxpayers throughout the year although I appreciate that most taxpayers will be skewed towards the start of the year.

HMRC are keen to stress that what they are after each quarter is an update of bookkeeping information only.”

“HMRC are keen to stress that what they are after each quarter is an update of bookkeeping information only. Of course, if they then want tax adjustments to claim in-year or annual allowances, the submission will start to look more like a tax return, if only concerned with trading income.

“Personally, I think that taxpayers will be obliged to make four quarterly submissions of basic bookkeeping data (income, expenses and accounting profit) and then be given until 31 January to make any amendments, apply tax adjustments and pay any taxes due.”

Will agents be able to submit quarterly reports for our clients?

Mark Purdue: “Yes - assuming their chosen third party software supports this.”

Steve Checkley: “Again, the software industry has been pushing for this. The accountancy profession is the best quality assurance department that HMRC has.

“Thankfully, at his presentation at Accountex, Oliver Fisher pretty much said agents will be able to submit on behalf of clients.”


A lot of people seem to be finding a lot of issues/things wrong with MTD - can you help us to find the silver lining?

Mark Purdue: “The silver lining for an agent is the new process will enhance the working relationship with clients. No longer will it be an annual letter requesting historic data, and the annual provision of a form of no worth to the client.  Instead, agents will be able to access near live data for their clients, giving the ability to offer advice and planning opportunities in year; planning to mitigate a client’s higher rate liability before the year end, for example.”

The silver lining for an agent is the new process will enhance the working relationship with clients.”

Steve Checkley: “Making Tax Digital consists of three strands: Digital Tax Accounts, Application Programmable Interfaces and Quarterly Updates.

“The first two are positive in the long run. The Digital Tax Accounts provide taxpayers with more information about their affairs and the APIs will feed the information contained within into commercial tax software.

“The APIs could, in the future, also deliver some other potentially useful functions to accountants:

  • Populate more information in a tax return e.g. bank interest, dividend income etc.
  • Keep client data in sync with HMRC – update a client’s address in, say TaxCalc, and HMRC receive a notification of the change, updating the client’s records automatically (and vice versa)
  • Find out whether clients have paid their liabilities, or indeed, that HMRC have allocated the correct payments, and follow up with action if required
  • Gain access to a client’s digital message inbox (the alternative to receiving paper letters). Accompanying meta data to these messages would help sort and prioritise the messages
  • A replacement for the 64-8 and related authorisation systems offering better granularity and more than one representative agent per service

“With regard to Quarterly Updates, no matter how one feels about this concept, it’s going to happen.”

How do I deal with clients still using paper records?

Marl Purdue: “This, without doubt, is the biggest challenge agents are likely to experience with clients.

HMRC are saying alternatives will be found, with ‘phoning in’ quarterly data one possibility likely.”

“Some of your clients may be classified as ‘Digitally Excluded’ (unable to access digital services).  For this category, HMRC are saying alternatives will be found, with ‘phoning in’ quarterly data one possibility likely.  Another possibility is that the agent (where the client is represented) takes on the role of quarterly reporter, on behalf of the client.

“Those clients who are not digitally excluded, but currently don’t have a digital solution will need to be educated on their role in the new process. Whilst some may argue that HMRC should be the primary educator, agents must take an active role in advising their own clients on what steps to take (you, ultimately, want your client to be as efficient as possible in line with your processes).”

Steve Checkley: “It’s not going to sound like a great answer but really these clients are going to need to get on board with the idea of completing records using software of some description.

“Whilst it’s likely HMRC will offer a soft landing for quarterly updates, I believe that they will tolerate and maybe even offer support to businesses that genuinely have a go but be more forceful with those that flatly refuse to cooperate.

“The alternative is that an accountant or bookkeeper completes the quarterly submission on behalf of a client. This will necessitate a certain level of bookkeeping of which the professional will want to be paid.

“I’m afraid I can’t be of more help with this one. It’s certainly going to provide a tricky problem to solve for practitioners and their clients.”

Replies (29)

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By justsotax
09th Jun 2016 10:52

silver lining....for software providers they will have a captive audience....no competition from excel/paper/clients doing their own preparation. Win-Win-Win. Their bugbear....they will be required to provide a small amount free...although even with the explosion in the requirement for their products it seems they don't even want to do that.

Thanks (5)
Replying to justsotax:
By Francois Badenhorst
09th Jun 2016 12:03

I do agree with you there. This whole model seems to be predicated on there being a degree of free software. MTD is starting to resemble the American model more and more, like I raised in this article: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/tax/hmrc-policy/the-slow-ascent-up-mt-di...

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Replying to Francois Badenhorst:
By justsotax
09th Jun 2016 13:19

it is a concern that it will be the software companies rather than the accounting profession who may have more influence when it comes to what level/type of income can be supplied in the 'free' software.

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Replying to justsotax:
By Francois Badenhorst
09th Jun 2016 14:31

That's an interesting point. Obviously, it would be in the software companies interest to push that "free software threshold" as high as possible.

This is where, I guess, the consultation process will take on an extremely important dimension!

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By janefg
09th Jun 2016 14:14

What will happen with clients who are elderly (I have an 84 year old client whose main source of income is rent) and do not have mobile phones let alone computers!

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Replying to janefg:
By Francois Badenhorst
09th Jun 2016 14:30

janefg wrote:

What will happen with clients who are elderly (I have an 84 year old client whose main source of income is rent) and do not have mobile phones let alone computers!

Hi Jane, thanks for your feedback. Certainly, the digital exclusion aspect is one we will be drilling into deeper.

Do you have any other lingering questions?

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Replying to janefg:
By petersaxton
11th Jun 2016 19:18

do you have a computer and internet access? what about doing it for them? or is that too much like being an accountant?

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By evo36nre
09th Jun 2016 15:34

Sorry, but is it just me missing something here? If self employed clients are dealing with their own tax affairs, then fine, they as a single entity can continue doing so, as they are obviously tech minded enough to "have a go". However, many of us are General Practitioners who deal with many clients' accountancy and tax affairs, because clients are just unable to deal with this sort of thing and not because they don't want to. So, regardless of how clients let you have their records, we are still going to need to prepare accounts to give an accurate report. Do HMRC really expect us to be able to report 100's and 1000's of quarterly reports, the content of which we don't even know yet, all at the same time? The reply by the Treasury Minister just smacks of arrogance with some of his remarks - who really is driving this digital revolution? Also, there are headlines being made on this website by Software Companies and in other twice daily emails from various companies, pushing for business, that we may need to decide which clients to keep! Again, what an arrogant message to make - are these commentators saying, therefore, that we need to ditch our own practices basically, because there are just going to be so many clients who will not be able to or want to "toe the line", or indeed accept much higher fees to somehow carry out this burden? If RTI and auto enrolment are benchmarks to go by, God knows how many hours will be required to carry this out. Some may think this a rant, but it is a comment from someone who has moved "with the times" throughout and who is still waiting for an answer of how we will get from A to B to C with this.

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By K81
09th Jun 2016 16:18

I totally agree with janefg. I have a very high percentage of elderly clients, over 80's, who have rental income, quite substantial in some cases.
These people do not use computers, a lot of them have large ledgers that they record everything in & just bring into the office each year.
A fair percentage of my pensioners are also not good on the telephone as hearing is failing & they hear better when they can see the person talking.
HMRC seem to think that just because they tell everyone to use a computer that they will.
What sort of penalties are we going to be looking at for non-compliance?

Thanks (4)
Replying to K81:
By Francois Badenhorst
10th Jun 2016 14:17

That's great, K81. Question about penalties has been noted! Is there anything else that's still puzzling you?

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By Tim Vane
10th Jun 2016 00:45

It may well be that many of the existing software providers do not want to deliver free tools. If they don't then it won't be long at all before free apps start appearing, probably geared by advertising, so I wouldn't worry about it.

A free MTD app will not have to be particularly sophisticated and the nature of the user will likely guarantee a lucrative advertising revenue stream, so they'll probably popup all over the app store.

Somebody will also produce a program that will convert a pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet to whatever structure is required for MTD submission. This will probably cost a few quid a go and solve the problem for 90% of businesses.

And elderly folk who don't have a computer or smartphone? They'll just post their books to a cut-price service that will outsource the MTD data entry (probably abroad) for a few bob.

Thanks (1)
By DMGbus
10th Jun 2016 09:11

The business model for software suppliers to support the HMRC promise of "free apps" from commercial suppliers would need to be something like the following:

1. The Free App would only send the basic minimum requirement of data of quarterly data to HMRC, there being an extra fee to extend the app to prepare / finalise the whole tax year return

2. Agents will need to have a software compatible with individual clients free apps, no doubt this agent software will have be at such a high price point to subsidise the promised free apps (extra costs for agents, ultimately a cost that has to be passed onto clients, so much for the word "free" [to taxpayers] misused by HMRC / the Gauke)

Those software houses that find that they cannot fund the development cost of the necessary free app + commercial agent version will, I expect, cease to be - ie. either cease to trade or seek a merger with / takeover by other software houses.

It will be interesting to see if individual "free apps" used by clients will be compatible with a single chosen commercial software by agents : if I had clients using say VT, Quickbooks and Xero would I need to acquire a commercial version of each "free" app or would there be a single solution multi-compatible agent software available? I consider this to be a serious commercial issue for agents - it might lead to some agents saying to client "we only use Sage tax / accounts/ EOY software here, so your free app must be a Sage one, you can't use Xero or VT as most of our clients use Sage".

This reinforces my concern that smaller highly regarded software houses could be put under pressure and result in the big and powerful software houses strengthening their stranglehold on the market.

What is seriously lacking so far in these proposals is an impact assessment - real cost to business of these proposals instead a Gauke vague phrase "Free Apps" misleading us all.

Thanks (2)
Replying to DMGbus:
By Francois Badenhorst
10th Jun 2016 14:21

"If I had clients using say VT, Quickbooks and Xero would I need to acquire a commercial version of each "free" app or would there be a single solution multi-compatible agent software available?"

Great question! It has been noted. I'll try and get to the bottom of it for you.

Thanks for the thoughtful response!

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By jon_griffey
10th Jun 2016 18:23

The only certainty we have at this time is that NO clients yet have MTD compatible software.

Once things become clearer then of course users of cloud software like Xero or Freeagent will have this functionality added - and no doubt with a captive market prices will rise.

The problem is that most clients do not use this software and so will be forced to incur expense. Never mind the elderly and other digitally excluded minorities, this is a much larger group - the small business.

We all have them as clients - they have an old PC running Windows XP, with a grubby keyboard and CRT monitor and a 15 year old version of Sage. However the system chugs away and allows them to maintain their records and raise invoices quite adequately.

It seems that with MTD, they are going to be forced to buy new software, which with the move away from one-off licences is likely to compel them to the cost of a monthly subscription ad infinitum. They will no doubt need a new PC to be able to run the software, which means getting to grips with Windows 10, Office 2016 etc.

All in all a major ball ache and expense for no benefit to the business.

Thanks (4)
Replying to jon_griffey:
By petersaxton
11th Jun 2016 19:33

so software should be for life no matter whether it is up to the job? no RTI no iXBRL no online submissions of VAT. I've never learned to read or write and add up and it's disgusting that HMRC should say I need to do any of those things or pay for somebody to do it for me.
I think this argument is wrong. I am in favour of progress.
What is worry is the fact that nobody - politicians or HMRC - will tell us why they want quarterly reporting. People don't need to send information to HMRC to know what their tax payments will be. They wont even tell us what they want us to do. They should cancel these proposals until they know what they are doing. They obviously dont have a clue at the present time. They are doing everything [***] about face like all incompetents do.

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By Vaughan Blake1
13th Jun 2016 10:25

I agree with Peter. HMRC/Treasury need to complete the sentence, "quarterly reporting is a good idea, because....."
Until this occurs it just looks like a pointless idea which will create a massive amount of upheaval for all concerned, with no benefit to HMRC or taxpayers.

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Replying to Vaughan Blake1:
By Francois Badenhorst
13th Jun 2016 10:37

Thanks Peter and Vaughan. Good question: "Why do we need quarterly reporting?"

Noted and I'll add it to the pile. Keep an eye out for an update coming soon!


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By [email protected]
13th Jun 2016 14:22

What will be the requirement for charities who only have to complete a CT Return every 5-6 years if at all.

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Replying to [email protected]:
By Vaughan Blake1
13th Jun 2016 16:17

One would hope that they will be left as they are. But HMRC seem to go by the maxim, if it ain't
broke, then break it!

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
13th Jun 2016 17:54

Re landlords - I have a client who is a letting agent. I asked him his thoughts on MDT and how it would affect him. He just shrugged his shoulders - 'no problem for me' I have to prepare such figures anyway'. Have a look at my blog on this subject. My thought are that I will lose my rental clients. They are mostly computer/investment savvy so will do it themselves.

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
By Vaughan Blake1
14th Jun 2016 09:41

BUT, if they are that savvy, why don't they do their own SATRs now? Answer, because your service is much more than just number crunching!

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By justsotax
14th Jun 2016 14:34

we are entering uncertain times...but regarding clients doing their own returns wasn't that the same thoughts when SA was introduced, then when submission via internet came along with the free software. It doesn't change the complexity of knowing what is and is not allowable...

..but maybe when that is unravelled then we may worry, that said the whole idea is to collect unpaid taxes from those at the bottom end....so they are not suddenly going to let those people pay less tax by simplifying it. That would be contrary to what they are trying to achieve.

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By Jamesm2705
16th Jun 2016 12:28

If I understand correctly, as of 6th April 2018 Sole Traders will be required to submit quarterly reports. I presume that this means that the first reports will become due as of 6th July 2018 although I have no idea when the deadline for the submissions will be. Again, I presume the deadline will be sometime before 6th October when the second submissions will become due.
The majority of clients books are made up to 31st March/5th April. The deadline for these SA Returns is 31st January the following year. Are we supposed to submit quarterly reports relating to 2018/19 before we have even finalized the figures for 2017/18 or are we expected to do a full years work in the first three months before the first quarterly reports become due.
Please can someone square this circle for me.

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Replying to Jamesm2705:
By Vaughan Blake1
16th Jun 2016 14:11

Good question James! The key will be, what will these 'submissions' actually look like. We are told that they will not be quarterly accounts or quarterly tax returns, so what will they look like? This leads onto what will they be used for and back to "Why is quarterly reporting needed?" Until the last point is answered and the objectives stated, in my mind any further consideration/discussion is irrelevant!

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By Tom Featherstone
17th Jun 2016 13:48

I spoke to a member of the HMRC team at Accountex regarding how director's and their dividends would work but they couldn't tell me anything. Let's say the client's company has a 31st December year end and has to make personal quarterly submissions every Mar, Jun, Sep, Dec as well. The initial dividends declared are £30k split evenly. When we go to do the accounts we realise the actual dividends were £20k due to mileage, use of home, personal payment of expenses etc.

How do we tidy this up? Amend the 4 incorrect returns or do a negative dividend declaration on the next return due? If reducing the next quarterly return due, will the client not have possibly paid a higher rate of dividend tax than what they should of?

As expected the HMRC team member was drawing a blank, he did show me the pretty looking Agent Services page though!

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Replying to Tom Featherstone:
By Vaughan Blake1
20th Jun 2016 09:15

I guess that the HMRC team haven't factored in a system for illegal dividends and backdated a fudge adjustments to put them right!

The best way to tidy this up is to do it properly and pay dividends after the expenses and tax have been accounted for.

The HMRC official wasn't drawing a blank he was more than likely making a note of your name and address for a few investigations!

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17th Jun 2016 14:16

Someone needs to grasp the particular problems for seasonal businesses. Here in Cornwall anyone involved in the holiday trade will not be wanting to deal with accounts/tax in July (for the first quarter) without having a direct financial impact on their business. Can HMRC give me one GOOD reason why a quartely return in July will be of any use to these businesses. They are up at 5:00am and lucky to be in bed by midnight. Please can I suggest just a few influential HMRC staff come and work just for a week in one of my B&B clients' homes. They will then appreciate the heavy hand they are using against the very businesses the Gov't says it is supporting.

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By frankdavid
24th Jun 2016 15:35

While we are going about MTD can we get away from the stupid 6th of the month, none of the software I come across works with months ending on the 6th of the month following

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By AndrewV12
17th Nov 2016 09:18

“The silver lining for an agent is the new process will enhance the working relationship with clients.

I am not sure about that one, would you fancy explaining all of the above to a construction worker (not sure i understand it all myself), he will not understand it and turn around to you and say, that's your job.

Its that wally George Osborn's legacy, sneaky , stealth taxes.

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