Tax transparency: The tech challenge

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In his Budget speech last week, Chancellor George Osborne vowed to create a “a far simpler tax system, which businesses can easily navigate and where ordinary taxpayers understand what they are being asked to pay.”

The government’s tax transparency plans depend on technology innovations at HMRC to deliver them. During the Chancellor’s speech and afterwards, you could almost hear the “ker-ching” as pound signs registered in the eyes of government technology suppliers. Many others who have watched the painful evolution of the country’s computerised taxation systems started groaning, “Here we go again.”

We already know that the personal tax transparency proposals include a taxpayers’ statement detailing the income tax and NICs they pay, their average tax rates, and what the money will be spent on. When Treasury minister David Gauke launched the consultation document last November he mentioned the possibility of creating an HMRC tax app for mobile phones and showed screenshots for an online personal tax summary page that would allow taxpayers and employers to review and amend their records. Even constructing the basic reporting mechanism to deliver the information is likely to be a major exercise, whether or not the statements are delivered on paper or via the web.

Here are the other tax technology initiatives AccountingWEB has identified so far:

  • Business Tax Dashboard - From April 2012, businesses will be able to check online all of their taxes in one screen. The new Business Tax Dashboard is designed to help unrepresented taxpayers to help them keep track of what tax is due and what they have paid. The BTD will bring together a summary of the tax position for Corporation Tax or Self Assessment and VAT and/or PAYE from April 2012.
  • Merger of income tax and NIC systems - this latest policy compromise will add an extra layer of complexity to the RTI and Universal Credit developments as the guiding policy changes and new requirements are added.
  • VAT online registration - Until October 2012, customers wishing to register for VAT will be directed to the existing registration channels.   From October 2012, customers will be able to use the online tax registration service (OTRS) to register for VAT and be enrolled automatically for the VAT Online service at the same time.  Registering for VAT online will not be mandated and existing channels will remain.
  • Single registration service - This is a reference to the joint registration service which will be integrated into the existing Company House Web Incorporation service (it is expected that in due course commercial incorporation software will also offer this).  There will be two additional pages at the end of the incorporation pages where companies can include the additional information necessary to register for Corporation Tax with HMRC.  Completion of these pages is optional and companies can use OTRS or existing channels to register for Corporation tax with HMRC.
  • Machine games duty - a new IT system will be needed to process registrations and returns and permit taxpayers to register and file returns online. This project will incur approximately £10m in additional IT costs over a seven year period (TIIN A71).

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and


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29th Mar 2012 11:58

"the yet to be completed RTI project for monthly PAYE efiling"

I had not noticed this before. John, are you saying that RTI reports will be based on the Tax Months? I had assumed it would mean making a report every time wages/salaries were paid.

Thanks (1)
29th Mar 2012 12:13

I stand corrected

Article has been amended. I made the mistaken assumption that because I get paid monthly, so does everybody else. Not a very accountant- or business-like attitude to take, so thanks for pointing out the error and please accept my apologies for it.

Thanks (0)
29th Mar 2012 12:17

Tax Dashboard

I think this idea is fantastic but what I don't understand is why can't this be available for everyone i.e. all taxpayers (representred or not) and agents? It would be extremely useful for taxpayers with various taxes due/overdue to get a snapshot of exactly what is owing to HMRC.

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By Vince54
29th Mar 2012 17:12

Personal Tax Statement if my employer provides an e-P60 I won't get a personal tax statement?  Or has it been 'forgotten' by the Treasury / HMRC that P60s can now be provided electronically?

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30th Mar 2012 10:21

You Stand Corrected


If only RTI was periodic filing but it isn't. RTI is filed every time a payroll is run. So as a monthly paid accountant that is likely to be once a month. For some people who are monthly paid it may be several times a month as corrections are made and as bonuses are added.

For some people with multiple employements of differing frequencies with different employers, RTI has to gather the earnings and shovel them across to UC and one or other of the 2 systems will have to work out the pay for UC purposes. Based on the track record of each department it is quite likely that they haven't agreed which of them will create the "pay fo UC" value.

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30th Mar 2012 13:15


he stood up and said he wanted a simpler system, whilst delivering a more complex system.  A simpler system is about politicians accepting something they have never ever ever ever EVER accepted before.  Making changes has knock on effects.  Was he really expecting that backlash from a simple VAT change? And his child benefit fiasco was the result of a trite political throwaway line for a conference speech.  Imagine what would happen if he merged NI into income tax.  The best we can expect is that he will try and merge the management of them.


AND name one government sponsored IT project that has really delivered even half of what it promised.

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