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