Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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PAYE Online struggles with RTI filing volume

14th Apr 2014
Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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The government web gateway and HMRC’s PAYE computers slowed to a standstill as a result of the volume of RTI submissions that started arriving  on Friday 11 April - the first payday of the new tax year.

After numerous complaints over the weekend, the tax department announced on its service availability page on Monday, “We are aware there have been service issues since mid-afternoon Friday 11th April, and apologise if you have experienced problems while trying to submit returns to us.”

The problem has affected RTI filings, SA Online, VAT, student loans and pensions reports. The department said the underlying issue had been resolved, but a backload had built up for submissions between Friday and Sunday.

“We are working to clear the backlog and expect to have done that within 24 hours.”

Just before noon on Friday, an AccountingWEB member reported that FPS and EPS submissions were taking 9-10mins each to go through to HMRC. More problems were reported during the afternoon.

The diagnosis from AccountingWEB member coops456 was simple enough: “The usual Friday payday FPSs on top of thousands of year-end EPSs = inevitable bottleneck.”

By 8pm, Xcast complained that they were still waiting for acknowledgements for FPS submissions filed at 1.13pm.

On Saturday and Sunday, accountants who opted to work over the weekend rather than cope with Friday’s delays found the system’s behaviour became more random - some submissions breezed through, but acknowledgements for those filed the day before still hadn’t shown up.

Kazmc got through to the HMRC helpline and was told, “Yes they are receiving submissions however their system cannot 'pass' or 'fail' the data. So we are receiving successfully received emails from HMRC but the pass or fail marker is not being sent back to the payroll software.”

As the first member to start lobbying for an extension to the filing deadline on the 19th, Kazmc wrote to HMRC director-general for personal tax and got back the reply, “We will obviously not be applying penalties if customers have missed the deadline due to technical problems in our systems but hopefully we can resolve the problems well in advance of the deadline.”

The acknowledgement emails started showing up on Saturday - in their hundreds. Mike Watton got 13 acknowledgements for one SA return filed on Friday. JennieF received an average of 20 acknowledgements for her clients’ RTI submissions. Since some clients still had not received receipts, she had to open up all the 2013-14 payrolls again to check who all the emails were for.

Kazmc claimed the crown with more than 1,000 notifications.

An employer’s update sent out this afternoon confirmed, “Due to the high volume of submissions being made to the government gateway it may take up to 48 hours for you to receive an acknowledgement.”

Postscript, 17 April - HMRC contacted AccountingWEB to ask that we publish this clarifiction: “It is incorrect to suggest that the problems customers experienced when sending returns though the Gateway over the weekend were related to RTI transaction volumes. In fact our busiest day was Tuesday, when we received over 311,000 RTI submissions without impact on the service. The previous busiest day was 7th April 2014, when we received a total of 285,000 RTI submissions."


Replies (15)

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
15th Apr 2014 10:21

At last - an explanation from HMRC

Yesterday evening, software developers received an email from HMRC giving more background detail about the situation, and promising that the problems should be resolved by Tuesday morning.

The backlog started building on Friday, the department explained, from a problem in the link between its computers and the government web gateway, so that the normal ‘success’ and ‘failure’ responses were not getting through.

HMRC and the government gateway team rectified the problem on Sunday and any submissions since 11pm on Sunday night have been been processed normally, with acknowledgements dispatched correctly.

They turned their attention to the backlog on Monday morning and expected to dispatch all outstanding by Tuesday morning (Tues 15 April).

The department urged developers to tell their customers NOT to resubmit any submissions, not to call HMRC about them, and especially not to delay submitting 2013-14 Full Payment Submissions, as HMRC’s system can only process them up to and including 19th April.

As for the multiple acknowledgements, HMRC explained: “When we send our validation responses, our system expects the Government Gateway to confirm that the success message has been sent. In this case, our systems did not receive these responses. Where HMRC does not receive the expected acknowledgement, it tries again up to 7 times.  So, some customers may have received up to 8 messages for each submission.”

If they do not get an immediate submission confirmation, some software packages “poll” HMRC and resubmit if they do not get an immediate response. “In these cases, substantially more responses may have been received,” HMRC advised.

The message added that no late filing penalties for 2013-14 PAYE submissions will be raised as the employer submitted a correct FPS by 19 April or an Earlier Year Update by 19 May.

Update: We did get direct confirmation of this information from HMRC a couple of hours after this comment was originally posted. Thanks for those involved for dealing with our request, but the question still remains why it takes the department so long to respond when it is able to deal with software industry queries 18hrs earlier?

Thanks (1)
Nichola Ross Martin
By Nichola Ross Martin
16th Apr 2014 12:36

Why did they not report this as a service issue asap?

Few things are as dull as sitting in front of a PC waiting for an online filing acknowledgement that does not arrive. Every time you navigate away the software helpfully reminds you that you have Outstanding RTI submission. I kept looking online to see if there was any "Service Issues" and nothing - its highly disruptive having to recheck and recheck and recheck. So we are having automatic RTI penalties from October? Perhaps get the current system working first?

Thanks (1)
By Bolebrook1
17th Apr 2014 12:30

PAYE Online struggles with RTI filing volume

I can add to the grumbling that it took a long time to get a response by telling you that my software (QuickBooks Premier) submitted the final submission for one of my clients and the usual "TEST" confirmation was received. After a substantial wait with no response the contact with HMRC was closed by the software. After about 10 more minutes I started receiving multiple acknowledgements of the "TEST" Gateway confirmation. By multiple I mean over 50 for the same client during the course of the weekend.

To add to my burden the same client had answered one of the questions incorrectly saying that the company was not a service company. Trying to establish how to go about filing a correction as straightforward as that is one of the hardest things to do because the software support personnel advice "re-file the submission with the corrected answer AND THEN TELEPHONE HMRC TO TELL THEM THAT AN AMENDMENT HAS BEEN FILED SO THAT THEY CAN OVERWRITE THE INCORRECT SUBMISSION"

I wonder if they have ever tried to telephone HMRC - especially now!!

You can't get past the automated voice that asks for the reason for your call and I wonder why the only place to call is the helpline when one is actually trying to notify HMRC of an amendment. The automated voice asks for a few words to describe the problem and then suggests that a few words such as "I am having a baby" is what can be said. How utterly ridiculous is that?!
It seems to me that it would be better for the software companies and HMRC to organise things so that there is scope for indicating on any re-submission that it is indeed an amendment.

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By jamiea4f
17th Apr 2014 12:36

Do they not...
Actually test any of these systems before foisting them upon us? I have had several issues with RTI, including reminders being issued for closed schemes, assessed amounts for periods where the nil return has actually been filed... Etc. This new "tell us why you're calling" farce is a joke, makes a mockery of taxes being "private" matters. The day they introduce this to the agent line is the day I pack up a bag and head off to Australia....

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By AndrewV12
17th Apr 2014 12:36

Another amnesty period

Public Sector computer hardware and Software never lives up to expectations, promises  or slick sales patter. I think there will be an extension to the  penalty free period, officially or un-officially a well time excuse may be required, get them in early. 


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17th Apr 2014 12:40

PAYE online Filing
I hate this regime of fear that RTI has created. All us small agents worry about these submissions because we are in the firing line from our clients should there be a penalty. Even at the moment with no penalties being issued a Generic Non Filing Notice gets our clients back up! The actual RTI processing is Ok. It's the time taken to sort out issues like what has happened tho week. Until a successful submission falls into our laps we are unable to relax. And yes, I too kept going into the Service Issues. It can't be beyond the wit of HMRC to get something on immediately. It doesnt need to fine tune the reason. Just indicate there is a problem. Isn't that what it's there for?

Thanks (1)
By pstoneman
17th Apr 2014 12:44


I encountered the problem. Received back 52 TEST passes. If HMRC have a Service Availability and Issues page, Why not use it, it would help. Real Time my axxx

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By anthonystorey
17th Apr 2014 13:13

Employers packing in because of RTI

I only have a dozen or so payroll clients and 3 of them have already stopped employing people because of RTI. When the government is trying to encourage small businesses to expand and take on employees why have they introduced such an onerous, penalty loaded and unnecessary system like this. It was supposed to have been introduced to support Universal Credit (don't laugh) and that is nowhere in sight. Under what other circumstances do you have to report on or before an event has happened. It might work for a large firm paying salaried staff once a month but for my small employer clients who pay their part time staff on different days of the week and at the end of each individual shift when the hours worked are known, it's a complete nightmare.

Thanks (2)
By sueber
17th Apr 2014 13:17

VAT too?

 Can I presume this was the same issue that prevented me from sending VAT returns on Friday and Saturday?

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By janehollins
17th Apr 2014 13:24

We had same problems with an FPS sent Friday afternoon and today received a late filing notice for it! Must have had at least 20 acknowledgements by Monday lunchtime. I know fines aren't being imposed yet but imagine if they were

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By TamsinM
17th Apr 2014 16:24

RTI failure

Having dealt with countless submissions in the last couple of weeks, and several final submissions that came back as expired!!!!.. Then first transmission of pay did same and could not be resubmitted or deleted etc. HMRC said this was a new feature of theirs, they said that it was mostly solved but might have to be removed. If you get expired transmissions it means the transmission got through but you have not got a success or fail, so you have to ring (wait 25 mins in a queue) each time to get the success code of check if a fail. If you do not and it is a fail then yes, fines may follow. YEAH FOR HMRC AGAIN!!! a complete muck up from beginning to end, a stupid system. I believe the system should be no more than monthly submissions due 19th of the month as the CIS scheme. These countless weekly submissions is totally crazy and not realistic for business owners who pay weekly, and if you are an agent for loads of clients submitting them all prior to date of payment is extremely difficult with the ever changing wages that people have.

Thanks (1)
18th Apr 2014 06:41

I wished I had one acknowledgment when I registered a new client for a new PAYE scheme! Is this also affected?

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18th Apr 2014 09:11

Poor performance of Government IT systems

As a long time IT professional (48 years) it occurs to me that there are two fundamental issues with Government IT applications.

In my opinion, the modern hardware and software platforms are inferior to legacy platforms and furthermore, the level of expertise of the younger IT personnel is frequently not up to standard.

I visited a seminar in my local University and during the evening spoke to the "professor" of IT, who couldn't answer my fundamental test question for IT personnel "what is the difference between ASCII and EBCDIC codes".

It's like asking a professor of automotive engineering "what's the difference between a petrol and diesel engine". They both provide the same result, but in a very different way.

So with such ignorance on the part of the academics, it's not surprising that the IT graduates in many ways are not prepared well enough for the professional IT environments. 

Arguments continue to rage between older IT professionals and the younger generation about hardware platforms. But let me state this "as far as I'm aware, there are no known viruses in any of the mainframe or midrange operating system platforms".

I don't believe this can be said of the PC environment. More and more organisations are depending on a PC/Windows environment for their IT systems and in my mind, this approach is questionable. I don't know the whole HMRC hardware landscape, but I guess Windows figures predominantly in it.



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By ElizabethW
18th Apr 2014 09:37

End of year payroll submissions

I had the same problems, working over the weekend sending down end of year payroll submissions.  I countless emails for different companies the day after submissions and several days later. But one company I have not received any emails for, so I went on my HMRC account to find out why and found that all my Companies have not sent in any submissions for end of year.  So I will have to telephone HMRC after the easter holidays to find out why!   

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By Peter Tucker
19th Apr 2014 12:21

HMRC RTI problems?

Might be worth informing your local MP of the problems and then copying the letter to Ms Homer, obviously marked Personal, as well as Mr D Alexander MP. After all if these individuals don't know there is a problems, it probably wont get dealt with and as evidenced by the various posts in Payroll magazines and on this site, there are some problems which require attention ??

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