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RTI stumbles into action

10th Apr 2013
Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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RTI teething troubles over the weekend spilled over into the first week of the new tax year as HMRC’s upgraded computers struggled to cope with the workload.

One software developer is already calling for HMRC's chief executive Lin Homer to resign because of "incompetence" surrounding the RTI upgrade.

The half-day strike called by the PCS civil service union did not help. With users encountering time outs and service delay messages from HMRC Online, the tax department’s helplines struggled to cope with demand, according to widespread reports from AccountingWEB members. The difficulties also extended to the helplines operated by commercial software suppliers including Sage, IRIS and Moneysoft.

“Sage phone lines are in melt down and [I] cannot get through,” commented George on Wednesday morning.

As previously reported, HMRC’s computers were taken offline for their April upgrade between 4-6 April. But on Sunday and Monday users were still getting “server busy” messages when they tried to file online. DMGbus tried to file a 2012/13 payroll year end at 1.49pm on Monday and got back a message from HMRC recommending that he try again after Wednesday 10 April.

Jane Green needed to pay someone for 2013-14 using HMRC’s Basic Tools and reported: “I can't download that till I've filed 12-13 which I can't do because HMRC servers are overloaded.  Let alone doing the RTI filing for the payment I need to make tomorrow… According to the helpful lady they have been surprised (& overwhelmed) by the volume of information being filed on line!  They have had dozens of phone calls complaining.”

While the niggles came through thick and fast during the first part of the week, there were signs that HMRC’s systems were settling down by Tuesday evening when mr. mischief reported that he had successfully filed 50% of his outstanding returns.

“I prefer to wait until most accountants have packed up and the database is getting less volumes,” he commented.

“Hopefully the database has now stabilised.”

A spokesman for HMRC told AccountingWEB that RTI will go through a “controlled go-live” for the next few weeks, during which some responses may take longer than will be expected.

The workload volumes were very high at HMRC's contact centres, which were adversly affected by Monday's industrial action. The centres have since recovered, and were handling calls in line with expected response times, HMRC said.

“We understand how frustrating it is when you can’t get through or have a long wait, and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused to customers.”

Can't log into the gateway

Aside from the basic lack of response from HMRC servers and helplines, the first alarms raised in Any Answers this week concerned access code failures after the upgrade. Steve 12321 experienced a 1046 authentication error using HMRC Basic Tools to file an FPS, but this was more likely to due to a cacheing issue, as ACDWebb suggested, or gateway validation error - but nobody could get through to get an answer from HMRC.

Landscaper, one of several members affected, reported that the problem resolved itself by noon on Tuesday. “All now working so I assume it must have been a maintenance/update issue but the error messages didn't say that - they told me my credentials were invalid - not very helpful! We battle on!”

Barred from RTI

We also heard from software developers that a small percentage of organisations are being locked out of the RTI system - including some that were part of the pilot scheme. Qtac Software managing director Peter Prater told AccountingWEB that hundreds of the company's customers had attempted to file submissions this week and got back the response, "You have not been invited to make this kind of submission."

Employers are being advised to contact the PAYE helplines to get the bar lifted, but many of them can't get through because they're always busy.

As a software developer that has liaised closely with HMRC during the RTI project, Qtac thinks that a system setting or flag was not switched for these customers during the software upgrade.

"I am furious, because my helpline staff are having to take calls that have been caused by HMRC incompetence," Prater told AccountingWEB. "Someone has failed to check this and the head of HMRC should do the decent thing and fall on her sword."

2012-13 year end problems

Many of the RTI issues raised this week were procedural, arising from the rules surrounding the regime or limitations in commercial software. The system appears to be working as intended, but will require many people to adjust their processes or payment dates to comply.

While HMRC appears to have focused on getting the updated RTI tools up and running for mass use, it seems to have paid less attention to transitional issues for those dealing with year-end processes for 2012-13.

On Tuesday morning bobhurn was happily filing P35s with Sage software until the HMRC online system notified him that one employer’s return was not accepted because they were already enrolled in the RTI pilot. This was a relatively new scheme set up in 2012-13 and bobhurn had been unaware that it was automatically put into the pilot.

SarahP also discovered that two of her clients with new schemes were put into the RTI pilot without her knowledge, and HMRC is now expecting FPSs for February and March - but her software provider says there's a problem and she can't submit RTI returns for 2012-13. She could use HMRC's Basic Tools if they're small schemes, but she replied, "My little heart sinks at the thought of having to run the payroll again."

Carolynne discovered that having made an RTI submission, she was not then able to submit P45s for that scheme. As a Moneysoft user, she was also perturbed to discover that she could only make one full payment submission (FPS) a month - even though she has two clients whose directors are paid on different dates to employees. Euan MacLennan advised that one way around this limitation was to set them up as separate payroll groups, but with the same PAYE references.

Can't file P45s/P46s for 2012-13

AccountingWEB member seitler, meanwhile, was unable to file P46s for 2012/13 this week. “HMRC assume that any P46s filed now will be for post 5/4/13 starters so reject them as they are not required under RTI but this ain't necessarily so.”

This cropped up several times, also affecting monksview and other members.

P45s were always due to be dropped from the online filing regime, but are being retained as paper documents for employees to pass their tax details on to new employers - and should no longer be filed with HMRC. In spite of previous alerts about this, neiltonks noted, “HMRC won't accept any 'old world' starter/leaver notices from such employers now, even if they relate to things which happened in 2012/13. Sadly, this wasn't made particularly clear prior to Saturday!”

While this issue took people by surprise, it should be resolved by the RTI alignment process when you make your first FPS, he advised. But also check with your software supplier - if you can get through on their helpline.

Further reading

RTI: Ending the tax year in real time

More RTI expert guides and Any Answers threads on AccountingWEB

How have your RTI experiences compared with those reported by other AccountingWEB members? Let us know by commenting below.


Replies (26)

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By doorsteps
11th Apr 2013 11:07

Shock horror

Would it ever be any different with any "upgrades" HMRC bring in. Another farce that will never quite be right.

Thanks (2)
By DHarris
11th Apr 2013 11:19

Annual schemes

HMRC have said that annual PAYE schemes are still possible however SAGE do no have any facility to allow this and after 45 minutes I was told that there is no work around. Not a great start!

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Replying to Cloudcounter:
11th Apr 2013 17:48

Annual Payroll
The instructions on HMRC web is to contact Accounts reference office and they will flag the scheme as annual thereby negating need for FPSs FO the 11 months out of 12.

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By jon_griffey
11th Apr 2013 11:27

annual pay work round

A possible work-round in Sage might be to run the annual salary in month 1, but advance their pay periods - essentially tell the software that they will be on holiday for the remaining 11 months and so you basically get the annual calculations.   This works in Iris Payroll Professional.

Thanks (1)
By David2371
11th Apr 2013 11:31

RTI Pilot Scheme

As other members, I found that 3 new PAYE schemes set up early in 2013 had been included in the RTI Pilot Scheme automatically. I was told by HMRC, initially, that this was because I had "ticked" the relevant box on the on-line application to register for the Pilot Scheme.

When told that this was most definitely not the case, and as I had the printed copy of the application in front of me to show that, HMRC then changed their version of events to advise that all new PAYE applications since the start of this year were automatically subject to the RTI Pilot Scheme.

How you can be automatically entered into the Pilot Scheme and not even be aware of it beggars belief, but this is typical HMRC.

However, on a more positive note, the problem was resolved by the kind lady at the other end of the phone "unticking" the RTI Pilot Scheme field in their records, and I am told problem solved. No need to deal with 2012/13 RTI at all in these cases.


We will wait and see!​

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By buttercup books
11th Apr 2013 11:42

- "You're on the RTI Pilot

From the above it is clear, that like me, many are being told they were put on the RTI pilot without their knowledge,


Having just worked through this,


The Online Services Help Desk tell me they can't reset the RTI status - ( waste of 3 hours , 2 phone calls and 11 sorry we're busy try again laters)

Ordinary Employers Helpline, can access the RTI status, and simply reset the start date to 6th April (takes 2-3 days to activate) - 14 minute queue, but simple 2 minute answer

Thanks (1)
11th Apr 2013 11:45

Cheapskate finds HMRC freebie PAYE software AOK

I'm a cheapskate cheapjack skinflint of an old b*gg*r so I thought I'd try out HMRC's free RTI online filing software before shelling out any hard-earned cash, and, to my delight, it works a treat. Even such things as annual salaries are easily catered for, too. The only downside is that you require a helluva lot of mouse clicking to get here there and everywhere, but so far I'm pleasantly surprised.

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By magocks
11th Apr 2013 11:47


I have been filing end of year 2012/13 forms for clients through HMRC PAYE online. While the P35 form was filed ok, when I selected to file Form P38(a) a message cam up saying it was an invalid request.

I phoned HMRC online and after 30m minutes waiting the adviser, after checking with tech support, said that there is a problem with this online form due to it becoming out of use under RTI. She said we need to download the form from HMRC website, complete it by hand and then post it to HMRC.

Interestingly a colleague of mine had the same problem and also phoned HMRC online services and they did not have a clue what my colleague was trying to tell them. They took her details and said tech support will contact her to fix the problem......she is still waiting. It seems as though the HMRC staff are gearded towards RTI and dont understand the end of year process for 2012-13.

This P38(a) mess seems to me to be a massive b*lls up by HMRC. Funny I don't think HMRC will even look at these forms if they are posted into them.

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Replying to pauljohnston:
11th Apr 2013 17:54

Doesn't need to be submitted just kept in file.

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By jon_griffey
11th Apr 2013 11:52

On or before/on or around?

As I mentioned in a previous post, the big problem with RTI seems to be getting clients to co-operate.  We have discovered that many clients pay their staff at random times - taking one client as an example, some staff get paid up front, some in arrears, some get an advance, some get commission paid at random times. the directors get paid willy-nilly.  You would expect the client to pay all of their staff at once - but it does not happen.

And there is confusion as to when best to make the FPS.  Should we press the button as soon as the payroll is run?  Should we wait a few days for the inevitable 'we forgot to tell you that X left last week' call?

This is only made a problem by this 'on or before' requirement.  It is impractical.  We can't make 4 FPS submissions every week. 

The temporary relaxation needs to be made permanent and also extended to all small businesses. I see no reason why the FPS can't be made within say the following week.  That would be ideal - make the FPS submission as we are about to run the following week's payroll.




Thanks (2)
By mitzra
11th Apr 2013 13:00

Sage '''help''' line !!!!

I rang Sage payroll on 9th April for assistance with entering an attachment of earnings, (which I had not done before). The message was a wait of 1.5 to 2hours. So it not being urgent, decided to try the next day. The payroll was due to be submitted today so I had no choice but to try again. Prior to 9am the message was ''we are currently closed, our opening hours are 9am to....''. So at 9am I rang and was surprised to be told I'd have to wait up to 2hrs for a reply. One hour and 35 minutes later I got the information I needed - but why is it that Sage - one of the biggest payroll software providers, was unaware that the first week of RTI would be a busy time? Surely someone would have thought of bringing in extra staff, putting the correct message on the answer machine or at least having a seperate line for non-RTI enquiries. As usual I am very dissappointed with Sage at year end.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
11th Apr 2013 13:15

I think I'll email Margaret Hodge...

Do you remember that Margaret Hodge had a 'go' at Lin Homer at the Public Accounts committee meeting of 28 January? (see link for a viewing)  


>>> in that meeting Margaret made a comment...'RTI... that will be a disaster!)

I think I'll go onto her Twitter or Facebook link and direct her to this site and everyone's concerns. 

Thanks (3)
By alisonhale
11th Apr 2013 13:25

Sage help line

I too had to phone Sage help line and was told my call would be answered in one to one and a half hours......... I duly held on for more than two hours.  The advisor was very helpful but could not solve the problem - so utter waste of time and expense on the 0845 phone number.  After all Sage users pay for the help line which is not cheap.  I will be invoicing the cost of the call to Sage.

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By The Rogue
11th Apr 2013 13:32

Sage help desk

I use Sage payroll but one day hope to have time to find something else.

However, I do find their helpdesk very useful.  I rang them yesterday and did wait for 80 minutes.  They say they do put extra staff on at this time of year and they do extend their opening hours and I believe them.  However, I don't suppose that there is a huge number of people who understand their systems well enough to keep helpdesk standards up.

By the way, I usually phone their sales line which is free and they transfer me into the queue.


I am not, and never have been, an employee of or shareholder in Sage.

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By [email protected]
11th Apr 2013 13:54

Shock, Horror, RTI system fail

Who would have thought the RTI system would have so many teething problems?

Answer: Just about everybody!

There was obviously very little testing before the system went live.  This is typical of the way HMRC seems to operate.  One day they are going to wake up to the fact that software developers don't always tell the truth and that new computer systems need comprehensive testing, through more than one pilot, to get the majority of it right before going live.

Thanks (1)
By 1stcallaccounts
11th Apr 2013 14:52


Just 2 words "NOT SURPRISED" lol !!

Thanks (1)
By jmleeco
11th Apr 2013 14:54

P38 (a) submission problem solved!

I also had the same problem with the P38(a) submission through the HMRC website, and read about you having the same problem.  I have just managed to submit the form by logging on, then going into the PAYE and clicking on the 'Filing Only Service', put the clients PAYE ref and name and was able to submit it just like that.  Other than that my RTI submissions using Moneysoft have gone very well.  All this extra time taken though which will be unbilled, as we don't feel its right to charge the clients extra when its the HMRC, are most accountants that do wages adding on extra costs to clients?  Thanks Jean

Thanks (0)
11th Apr 2013 16:35



We understand that this is frustrating for our customers who are trying to get in touch and every year we do as much as possible to support our customers at this time of the year.

We have known that the introduction of RTI was going to be a challenge for customers for some while now and we’ve worked really hard to get people thinking about the impact this might have on their business, through either the pilot programme we ran or by making sure they have as much information as guidance as possible.

Every year’s Payroll Year End is an extremely busy time for customers and understandably a busy time for us as we get more calls asking for support on a range of topics.

This year we’ve seen even more customers come to Sage and this has meant more are looking for answers, particularly as the HMRC points them in our direction.

For us this means getting as many experts as possible to help customers and we’ve recruited more people than we’ve ever had –but we also have more customers than ever, which has led to an unprecedented call volume at a time when we’re traditionally busy.

We were open last weekend when the RTI came into force and we’re open 8-8 to try to help businesses throughout the day.

Following customer feedback we’re also adding extra online Q&As, webinars and FAQs – for more information, please visit www.sage.co.uk/rtisupport

Jon Cowan - Sage


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By oldshoremore
11th Apr 2013 16:37

Cheapskate use HMRC at your peril! It is not password protected

HMRC's own RTI software has no initial password protection. So all your staff can look at it. Yes it asks for a password to submit the RTI online, but, mischief making apart, that is fairly irrelevant!

Any cheap package has this at its front end.

A solution would be to open up another user in your computer and load the software into that password protected area, but how many would be capable of that manoeuvre?

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By Lympete
11th Apr 2013 17:48

Magical P35/P60 vanishing tricks

I have used HMRC PAYE Tools 2012 to submit the 2012/13 P35 and P14's then installed and transferred over to HMRC RTI (tools upgrade).  RTI is working perfectly.  My filed P35's and P14's for 2012/13 have vanished off the face of the earth!  

The employees have also disappeared from 2012/13.  Several hours wasted as nobody answers the online helpdesk and I do not have the resources to wait for ever on the end of an unanswered phone.  So everything re-input to File Only facility to be told my submission is rejected as the data for 2012/13 has already been filed.  

So where the hell is it and why can't I find and print my P60's???

Waiting in forlorn hope for an e-mail reply from online services help desk.  I do have a reference number so my query has been received.

A further client dealt with this morning.  I have no authority to file through the File Only facility??  Think I will wait for reply query one to be answered first!!





Thanks (0)
Replying to andy.partridge:
By anne in basingstoke
12th Apr 2013 09:19

P60 vanishing tricks

Several years ago a client's annual submission went through to HMRC but was not shown as submitted at my end (cannot remember now whether it was noted as rejected or pending or ??).  I could not therefore print out P60s, nor resubmit. HMRC said they had a number of these cases, gave me a reference number and assured me their technical team was working on the problem.  However, this was never resolved, despite further telephone calls and letters over ensuing months.  Fortunately there were not too many P60s to write by hand....

I hope you fare better than I did!

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By ver1tate
11th Apr 2013 20:41


Now that Mark Thatcher is back in the country, would it be possible that HMRC may be able to charge him with mis-selling?

He assured them that the computer system he was selling them was perfectly able to handle all the requirements of HMRC, both then and in the future. From the number of breakdowns and repairs it has had, this was certainly not the case.

Although cheaper than the competition, it has in the long run proved more costly!

Thanks (1)
By RogerMT
12th Apr 2013 09:32

Mark T?

Mark Thatcher's behind it? Gawd help us all !

On a serious note - we use quickbooks and the RTI seems to have gone through with no problems so far. The only complaint I have is that after you've run the payroll a small screen pops up asking you to submit info to HMRC with a box for your Gateway ID and password. nowhere does it say that this is an FPS, but one assumes that's what it is?!

Re -HMRC's systems being upgraded over the end of the tax year (nice timing by HMRC, there - not), I took the details home over the weekend and managed to file 2 P11D online dispensation applications (back dated to 5/4/13 so hopefully I'll get it for 2012/13) and a VAT Return on the Sunday (7/4). Technically of course, this was possibly against Data Protection rules. You can't do anything in this country these days without falling foul of some belittling bureaucracy or other.

Although it is quite a while off yet, I cannot wait to retire!

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By Basingstoke accountant
17th Apr 2013 18:15

New 2012/13 PAYE schemes automatically included in RTI

It's mentioned in the welcome to PAYE letter which HMRC sends to all new employers.  There was no opt in or opt out, it was automatic.

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By ver1tate
17th Apr 2013 21:40

Mark T?

Mark persuaded HMRC (no nepotism involved?) to install a cheap American computer which he assured them would be fit for the purpose, then and in the future. It has not been fit since day one. Now that he is back in the country, he should be sued under The Sale of Goods Act.

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By abelljms
09th Sep 2013 12:52

RTI, - what a fritemare

Yet again bureaucracy fobbed onto small business, and particularly their accountants.
Guess how much extra I was able to charge my clients for the responsibility of filing the rti returns each week/month ON TIME ? £0.00.

At moment we are in a walking dream because HMRCy are very kindly not pestering us for fines for infringements. Once they take the block off and start lobbing fines everywhere people will start screaming.

For one small business running their own systems it is not a problem – if you are doing 100 payrolls you only have to miss a few and you are several hundred pounds per month down.

Thank heavens the government is reducing burdens on business as a policy, I hate to think what they would do if they didn’t care !


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