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No more paper tax returns | accountingweb
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Paper SA tax returns now only available on request

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Taxpayers who want to complete their self assessment tax return on paper for 2022/23 will have to call HMRC to ask for a form to be posted to them.

28th Mar 2023
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In the latest Stakeholder Digest, distributed to certain professional bodies, HMRC announced that the self assessment tax return forms for 2022/23 will not be available to download from gov.uk. If a taxpayer wants to submit their tax return on paper – and some people are forced to do this – they will either have to ring HMRC and request a form or use commercial software to print the form.

Letters in the post

HMRC is currently writing to 135,000 taxpayers who normally file their self assessment tax return on paper telling them they won’t automatically receive a tax return form this year. The taxpayer is asked to file their tax return online by going to gov.uk and searching for “self assessment”, then choosing “file your self assessment tax return online”.

A person who has no internet access will have difficulty following these instructions, in which case HMRC advises them to ring the self assessment form order line on 0300 200 3610 to ask for a paper tax return. 

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Replies (33)

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By SteveHa
28th Mar 2023 11:23

So forcing more people to incur additional costs, that are not tax deductible, just to meet their filing obligations. Whilst 0300 numbers may be charged at local rates, even a one hour call at local rates is an unwelcome cost.

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By Catherine Newman
28th Mar 2023 13:54

This is ridiculous. As SteveHa has said hanging on the phone for hour is frustrating.

Digital by default does not work. I have had two clients ask for SA302s today. They have PTAs as they claimed the grants but as I have filed their returns using third party software their PTA tells them to contact me.

How is the HMRC computer going to determine who usually files on paper? What is going to happen when current non-taxpayers get caught in the tax net due to the reduction in exemptions?

On the plus side it might bring me more clients.

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By Hugo Fair
28th Mar 2023 14:26

It'd be interesting to hear any (unbiased) results from the HMRC "trial of SMS messages to redirect some callers to relevant information on gov.uk, which should answer their caller’s question" - that is mentioned in passing and which ran from 19 January until the end of this week.

Of course analysis should be based around 'quality' (timeliness, relevance, correctness) NOT just the HMRC concept of 'efficiency' (fewer resources even when results are questionable).

It's about time (as indeed it always was) that HMRC understood 'digital by default' has no relevance if it merely refers to the comms channels ... it needs to be part of the very infrastructure of all their systems.
Sounds obvious? But if it was so then you wouldn't have the copious examples of where you get different data depending on which of their channels you happen to use - see https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/are-these-hmrc-texts-legit from yesterday (and countless other examples).

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By Paul Crowley
28th Mar 2023 14:49

Why cannot taxpayers just Email HMRC?
Even the not connected can find someone to do it

But then as an agent, why can I not Email HMRC?

When will HMRC understand modern technology exists in the postal world

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By Tom+Cross
28th Mar 2023 16:05

Taxpayers are subjects.

Tax agents are objects (of fun, I imagine). Well, let's be really honest, when do you last recall HMRC offering any respect to our sector.

Thanks (8)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
28th Mar 2023 15:25

Hmm so either
(A) send out 135,000 returns by post which will have little human involvement

(B) not bother, and then hope that

Saving of not sending them out + saving of processing paper filings vs online

is more than

(1) cost of fielding thousands of calls from tax payers wondering where the return is, PLUS
(2) Cost of sending out returns individually [which will be much more than batch sending], PLUS
(3) Cost of chasing round people who don't file, PLUS
(4) Cost of dealing with penalty appeals, PLUS
(5) Tax forgone for those who don't ever file, LESS
(6) Extra fine income.

Cant see it myself, uneless (6) will be massive.

Thanks (11)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
29th Mar 2023 09:29

Quick maths, so if it costs say £2.50 to send out a paper return as a batch, thats £337,500.

Assuming 2/3 of people then call up, that is 90,000 calls.
Call it 10 minutes of time as the callers are likely to be old and chatty/generally confused. So that 15,000 HOURS of call time added. The average call handler probably does what, 1,200 hours FTE on the phonee. So thats 12 or 13 FTE just to handle the calls. And THEN send them all out, one by one, which will no doubt cost more than batch sending them out.

It would be interesting to see their cost benefit analysis having mapped the behaviours flows of this policy decision.

no doubt it say "post saved" and forgets about all the downstream issues.....

Thanks (5)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By codling
29th Mar 2023 10:15

Don't forget the postage costs of having to send a Notice to Complete instead of the actual Tax Return, which was the notice in paper Return cases.

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By Open all hours
28th Mar 2023 20:18

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing but they sure go out of their way to make life difficult even for ‘customers’ who deserve much more considerate treatment.
Paper will die a natural death in time but 135K is not last knockings.
HMRC really should think a little bit harder.
Once again, over to you ‘Sir’ Jim.

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Replying to Open all hours:
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By tedbuck
29th Mar 2023 10:46

HMRC think???????

You obviously live in a different world to me.

The whole of the responses here suggest that HMRC can't think.

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By Duggimon
29th Mar 2023 10:06

I'm ok with digital by default if they fix the glaring issues with digital before making it mandatory, but they seem to be intent on forcing everyone on to digital first and then having a look at what the problems might be with that.

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By LouiseHerrington
29th Mar 2023 10:25

What about people that can only do a paper tax return and cannot do it online - miniters of religeon pops into my head (which is now in my hands).

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By [email protected]
29th Mar 2023 10:30

Is this going to apply to SA900 as the online version requires expensive software and the registration process is not user-friendly for "one-off" trustees. If so this will likely catch out vast numbers of people come late October no doubt raking in lots of penalties for HMRC

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By ralan
29th Mar 2023 10:31

"There are certain categories of taxpayer who are prevented from filing their personal tax returns online, for example taxpayers who have special security concerns, such as MPs and senior members of the armed services. These individuals normally have their tax affairs dealt with by HMRC’s Public Department 1 and are exempt from the requirement to file online."

So HMRC systems are not deemed secure for these people but are for your genersl public. Makes you wonder who really does see to the security of HMRC information.

Bad enough at the moment trying to contact HMRC on the Agent Help Line which now takes up to 30 mins to connect to someone working from home, why are they working from home when everyone else is back in the office.

Makes you wonder if they are working or sitting drinking coffe and chatting with friends!!

Confiedence in HMRC security now at rock bottom after seeing this.

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Replying to ralan:
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By moneymanager
29th Mar 2023 11:25

My thoughts precisely, at a base level of difficulty, a non client applied for MTD VAT Exemption in their personal capacity, the letter carried a telephone number and as the letter invited them to call they did so only to be told, following some fourty minutes, that as the matter related to VAT the call handler couldn't help!

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Replying to ralan:
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By farrcorfe
29th Mar 2023 12:29

They are all probably down the pub or on the golf course along with all those GPs who never see patients nowadays.

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By Mr J Andrews
29th Mar 2023 10:32

At the same time - cutting down the time limit for filing.
A Tax Return Notice to file a Return dated 6 April is invariably received some 6 weeks later.
Realising a Return is required , a phone call for a paper Return is made [ more likely several phone calls are made ], logged etc and with a bit of luck issued within the next 4 weeks. October 31 becomes a lot sooner.

And can anyone confirm the legality of the issue date of the 6 April 'Notice To File'. Should this be 6 April - or the date someone within HMRC presses the button for that particular batch of forms SA316 to be issued. And further - are HMRC guilty of [ at least ] carelessness, with this post dated batching system of issuing these Notices ?

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By Les Smith
29th Mar 2023 10:45

I think everybody is missing the point.
HMRC insists we (the public) intersect with it digitally whilst important parts of their systems can only deal with paper delivered by post.
Is mine the only practice to have changed address recently?
I have had to write to PT operations multiple times to change address details for each service
i use and then HMRC are incapable of applying the new address to my clients so I then have to send
in a list of clients. HMRC helpfully respond that they may have made the necessary changes in
10 months time.
AND the bast***s want us to do everything online!

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Replying to Les Smith:
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By tedbuck
29th Mar 2023 10:58

Now you really have my sympathy - I have a case where HMRC have been less than helpful but a letter to the Chancellor (after many other complaints failed to generate a response) - previous but one Chancellor not the incumbent creature - actually managed to get someone who could sort it - so the people are there but few and far between. As you surmise I expect most are WFH still and you have to fit in the 'work breaks' between important matters like tea and biscuits, the daily paper (or the intrusive and distracting MSN) and plotting the evening's entertainment.
No - I am not cynical - just fed up with a rotten service from HMRC - it was far better before they had all these wonderful computer systems - GIGO as we used to say many years ago and it is still true although HMRC won't understand it.

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By moneymanager
29th Mar 2023 10:52

"There are certain categories of taxpayer who are prevented from filing their personal tax returns online, for example taxpayers who have special security concerns,"

That should be all of us, if a system CANfail it will fail, we have enough evidence of that.

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Replying to moneymanager:
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By tedbuck
29th Mar 2023 11:03

What interests me is how these WFH officers secure the data of taxpayers. One does read of laptops left on trains etc but what about the ones open on tables at home or next to the deckchair in the garden when the sun is shining and the officer is having a nap. Please don't try to convince me that the data is secure - the hackers are far cleverer than the average computer user.
Perhaps HMRC just don't care.

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Replying to tedbuck:
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By moneymanager
29th Mar 2023 16:54

We, or rather government, is hell bent on destroying system redundancy, Royal Mail is declaring war in letters, it is quite overt in wanting to end the universal obligation, government, and it must be government, has already declared the ending of fixed line telephones (during WWII war critical land based systems were quickly repaired with copper wire and in the interim with Boy Scout runners and bicyclist and I can't see "Uber Eats" man standing in that place) and even transport, Maggie was lambasted for the supposedly miner's strike inspired destruction of the Midland line and now we have not just the war on cars but the war on ALL private road transport, all of this, is leading us toward increased statism, the really stupid thing is that the idol worshippers of all things "digital", "green", or whatever will find themselves redundant too, with fully programmable CBDCs there tax code will simoly be what the BIS decides it is, it will calculate your liabiity and simply deduct form your balance, i.e. no need for accountants?

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By GMTax
29th Mar 2023 11:03

This seems bizarre given the number of cases where SA online does not provide the relevant functions. Even the simplest partnership return can't be filed though SA online so you either have to get specialist software or (much easier in my view) you file a paper return. So I always file the partnership return on paper, but use SA online for our personal returns. So it seems I will now have the extra step of calling HMRC for a paper return. [I speak as a taxpayer doing returns personally for my wife and myself - I don't currently act as an agent.]

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By Beef curtains
29th Mar 2023 11:05

They did this a few years ago. I've been downloading returns ever since. Some people did, I know, receive pre-printed returns, very much on a hit and miss basis. Wonder what will happen now in the Revenue's magic world of sare (it's an anagram) and elbow?

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By listerramjet
29th Mar 2023 11:23

Surely a pact with the devil is on written on skin in blood! The HMRC SA on line process is the web equivalent.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
29th Mar 2023 15:39

This just demonstrates how out of touch with reality those taking these decisions are.

And where are our august Institutes and members of the various committees that meet with HMRC telling HMRC this is unworkable?

Removing the ability to download forms isn't progress- it's just making it more difficult to do the most basic tasks.

As anyone who has tried using certain 'online' forms will attest, half the time you get met with a blank screen or it dies half way through then the long number generated at the start doesn't work either.

I expect more people just won't bother to file and will be fined.

I can see the penalty appeal case now 'did you attempt to obtain a paper return' 'yes, I tried online and it wouldn't let me, as HMRC have decided their forms are too precious to allow taxpayers to access them'. I called and got cut off after waiting for an hour several times.....

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By tedbuck
30th Mar 2023 10:25

The whole effort of HMRC is directed to replacing people with computers and ultimately by AI thus saving a huge wages bill. Bit like the banks. My standard way of dealing with the bank's chat box when it cannot answer the problem is "Can I speak to a human please?" It usually works.
I suppose the problem with HMRC is that they don't train their staff - about 3 out of four enquiries over the telephone end up with one being transferred or asked to phone a different number - so one must conclude staff aren't trained. Of course the tax system is now so convoluted that I am unsurprised that they don't understand it - I should think few people do so why should HMRC?

Doesn't seem to me to be a good place to start.

One thing that does annoy me is receiving post from HMRC dated a fortnight before, where dates matter because it is a penalty notice or similar, but I guess it is just another regular failure to be competent by HMRC.

Perhaps we , as a profession, ought to produce a list of failures in HMRC's procedures and hit the Treasury with it weekly until they do something useful about it.

Wishful thinking that is. And think of the megabytes it would take on their computers. Hmmm! Perhaps there's an inkling of an idea there. Something to do whilst waiting for HMRC to reply to a letter perhaps.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By djtax
30th Mar 2023 10:25

'members of the various committees that meet with HMRC telling HMRC this is unworkable?'
I am one such but my experience is one of futility and frustration. I had hoped that senior HMRC personnel would have direct involvement but alas no, it is staffed by lesser personnel and the message, if it ever reaches the upper echelons - just falls on deaf ears. I have in as many words expressed my concern that it seems to be all talk and no action - an offence for which I await a perhaps inevitable 'cancellation'. HMRC do not appear to welcome negative feedback.

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By Victor Bellingham
29th Mar 2023 20:59

What happens to partnership returns where one partner is over 70 years old

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By Moo
30th Mar 2023 11:52

I've had to read this several times to take in the message that for 2022/23 I will not be able to refer to a pdf of the various SA forms on the HMRC website - WHY ffs?
Only plausible reasons that I can see is this is part of the penalty farming campaign which we have seen HMRC pursue for the last few years together with their determination to make everyone else's life more difficult.
These are not just used by pesky people wanting to make the tax men do some work by sending in paper returns or cheapskates who don't want to swell the coffers of the software houses.
For years now my second week in April focus has been to update the firm's standard SA information questionnaire and rental income spreadsheet to take account of any changes in the tax return forms.
OK, we use BTC software so I can wait for the software update and use that instead but seriously who do the tax men think they are working for? About time these numskulls gave a teeny bit more thought to improving 'customer' experience.
And what about the annual notes that would previously go with each part of the tax return? Have they been ditched completely?
Really angry about this.

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By Inquisitive
30th Mar 2023 16:43

"Age and capability exemptions

HMRC has decided not to push older taxpayers into filing online. Those taxpayers who are aged over 70, who are not already filing their tax return online, and who don’t have a tax agent appointed, will continue to automatically receive a paper tax return form."

I'm over 70 and (as yet) not received a letter. My wife is over 70 and has received a letter. I am her agent.
Does this show a programming error in HMRC?

I started my programming in 1968 having taught myself fortran from a manual and trial and error on the physics department computer. My business experience showed me that programmers usually do not thoroughly test their programs and try and get away with Mr Average user. As a result I do not have a high trust in computer programs, particularly online ones. Then there are hackers. Is HMRC totally secure or so far just lucky?

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By Normade
31st Mar 2023 10:06

Download and print a 2022 Tax Return and just change the dates?

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By GMTax
21st Apr 2023 17:59

Well, it seems HMRC have changed their mind on this. Today (21 April) I received a normal letter through the post with a paper copy of the 2023 Partnership return and Partnership Tax Return Guide as in previous years, having filed paper returns for many years for our partnership given that I don't want to buy specialist software. This is a husband-and-wife partnership where neither partner is over 70.

As it happens, HMRC's letter came too late! I had already prepared the 2023 accounts and printed off the SA800 form from the HMRC website and posted it off yesterday!

The only challenge was where to send it!! A few web searches persuaded me that the BX9 1AS address is still the one to use, but I could not find ANYTHING on gov.uk to confirm where to send paper tax returns.

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