Editor at large AccountingWEB
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Users and vendors grapple with iXBRL

19th Apr 2011
Editor at large AccountingWEB
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The great iXBRL deadline passed without too much fuss on 1 April, but posts on AccountingWEB in the past few weeks have highlighted a series of false starts, software glitches and failed CT600 filings - as well as some encouraging successes.

After witnessing a colleague spend four days struggling with iXBRL in Sage Accounts Production, AccountingWEB member DMGbus commented, “There is no such thing as trouble-free software with iXBRL at present - there seems to be a steep learning curve. Where at all possible my view is try to use HMRC's product (hopefully clients fall into the narrow band of being ‘simple enough’).”

But this isn’t always possible. DMG’s comment was a response to another user who wanted to know where to include figures for the industrial buildings allowance on HMRC’s online CT600 (Short) form. Unfortunately, there are nearly 50 restrictions and omissions from the iXBRL-compatible CT600, meaning that anything more than the simplest of accounts may need to be accompanied by tagged statutory accounts and iXBRL computations from a commercial Corporation Tax package.

From the experiences reported on AccountingWEB, some of those relying on their software providers are finding that the iXBRL experience isn’t quite the “pushbutton” exercise they witnessed at software demos. Here are some recent examples of successful and not so successful iXBRL filing:

Early successes

  • Trying to complete the HMRC online accounts template drove Nigelburge “mad”, but he discovered that attaching a VT iXBRL file was “so simple - and it works!!”
  • “We are submitting using Absolute, have very few problems with it,” reported Gerawson.
  • Richard Breckman submitted the firm’s first CT return and accounts using Forbes without issues. “I had first attempted with Sage but gave up after getting lots of error messages!  Well done Forbes!” he wrote, adding, “Forbes and IRIS to name but two do actually seem to develop their products.”

Glitches appear
IRIS, in particular, has been particularly aggressive in marketing its software as a “safe haven” for Sage users frustrated with iXBRL delays. But the feedback from AccountingWEB’s IRIS tax/practice discussion group indicated that perhaps the company might have been flirting with the “glasshouse” syndrome.

As David Forbes himself pointed out last year, the code behind both the Forbes and Absolute accounts production products was written from scratch using the latest tools. In VT’s case, the solution was configured around an Excel spreadsheet that maps the output of VT Accounts to iXBRL tags. The larger, “suite” software developers have to retrofit the new functionality into much older software - much of which will have been tweaked to suit the individual needs of different accountancy practices. It’s a support nightmare, but this is how these companies make their money.

As the following examples demonstrate, it has not all been plain sailing for users of integrated tax and accounts systems:

  • Even before efiling became mandatory, IRIS users Heywood Shepherd and JeremyNewman reported that test filings using IRIS failed. “We used Iris accounts and TaxCalc's Corporation Tax return.  The accounts passed Iris's verification. However when we tried to submit the accounts and CT return the submission failed and the error message seemed to indicate there was a problem with the accounts." The problem was resolved after to-ing and fro-ing with IRIS support, by Heywood Shepherd complained, "Iris seem to be unable to appreciate the fact that the problem does not seem to be associated with the particular set of accounts we are trying to submit - but seems to be a generic error."
  • The IRIS 10.5 release that included iXBRL output from the accounts production also caused problems. AccountingWEB member ajkidd initially reported being unable to create new "Tuple" groups (tagging subsets within iXBRL), but eventually got the problem sorted out. Another user added: “We can produce [IRIS 10.5] reports but have found that things that worked perecclty well with 10.4 now do not.” The IRIS website also reported that there is currently “massive demand” for iXBRL support, which members confirmed by reporting 10-15min waits for their calls to be picked up.
  • CCH user Kathywilson “can only say it is riddled with problems. Out of five CT returns I have tried to file online with accounts last week, all have had to be reffered back to customer support. One was eventually filed successfully, but she added “Once you iron out the tagging problems another error or six seems to appear. It is a nightmare.”
  • TaxCalc user aadil got a warning from their CT software that the dates on the accounts and tax return period were not the same. TaxCalc responded: “We have an issue with our error checking when some third party accounts are attached as these two errors should not be showing you should be able to ignore these messages and file online successfully via the program.”
  • Sage Accounts Production Advanced - AccountingWEB contributor Nigel Harris did get his SAPA update as promised on 31 March. But the update generated an iXBRL tagging error that needed a call to Sage support. “Looks like they have thrown some money at this as the phone was answered instantly and we quickly had a fix,” he commented. “There seem to be a few glitches in the iXBRL file generation at the moment, but now we know what the issue is we should be able to fix these as we go. The main issue is where we have moved away from the default Reportpad text so the software doesn't know how to apply the relevant tags - easy to fix when you know this. Perversely, SAPA generates the accounts as a .htm file, but you have to rename it as .html before you can file it!”

Having taken a lot of flak for warning about its development difficulties with iXBRL accounts production, Sage Accountants Division managing director Jayne Archbold confirmed Nigel Harris's view by saying Sage increased the size of its support team by 50% in the run up to 31 March. They fielded 3,700+ calls in the week to 6 April, but of these only 9% related to the iXBRL functionality in Sage Accounts Production Advanced.

Technical issues
Not all the iXBRL problems will be down to software bugs. As more returns and accounts are filed, anomalies and unforeseen circumstances will crop up. Under HMRC’s newly branded Managing the Transition policy, returns should not be rejected for esoteric flaws in accounting treatments, nor will agents be fined if errors are discovered in the tagging itself. However, issues on both sides of the both sides of the efiling fence will need to be resolved during the transition period, including some of the following points raised by AccountingWEB members:

  • Are 64-8s required for efiling? “Been told by HMRC that if using third party software, the 64-8 Authorisation NOT necessary. But if using HMRC's software then it's a YES,” reported Kobus
  • Is a detailed P&L required? According to David Forbes, the minimum tagging list in place until 2013 does not mandate any specific items on the detailed P&L. “Nowhere in the legislation does it specifically mention a detailed P&L being required,” he added. The CT600 needs to be filed alongside statutory accounts and sufficient “workings” to get from one to the other. Normally these would include a detailed P&L, adjusted profit computation, Capital Allowances and a liability comp. “If you do not supply a detailed P&L at all it will not cause a problem at the gateway, but when it is presented to a human at the tax office the old procedures still apply,” And data within the detailed profit and loss account must be XBRL tagged if a corresponding tag is included within the minimum tagging list for the appropriate taxonomy, he added from HMRC’s advice.
  • Nil returns for dormant companies Clint Westwood received a notice to file a CT600 for a dormant company with a year end after 31 March 2010. He tried to file the form online using Sage CT software but HMRC rejected it.  “Apparently a CT return with nothing on it will not pass validation,” he warned. “Echoes of £nil P35 forms.”

This article is merely an overview of recent developments - so feel free to add your experiences and thoughts below, or join our iXBRL discussion group if you would like to take part in more detailed examinations of the underlying issues.


Replies (11)

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Tony Margaritelli, ICPA Chairman
By Tony Margaritelli
20th Apr 2011 08:16

Comprehensive Accounts, PTP and IXBRL

Comprehensive Accounts attached to PTP filed and accepted for my own practice.

Comprehensive Users have notified us of filing success when attached to TaxCalc, HMRC and Drummohr.

Tony Margaritelli - Chair ICPA (Comprehensive Accounts Partner) 



Thanks (0)
By Andrew Ross BTCSoftware
21st Apr 2011 12:10

BTCSoftware & iXBRL

Hi John,

iXBRL has certainly made us busier this year but without significant impact on support - which is especially pleasing given that this is also a busy time of year for self-assessment. HMRC reported a  99.5% success rate for March CT filings by our users. Over 75% of these were using iXBRL, and the total number of returns filed was NINE times more than for March 2010.

Andrew Ross BTCSoftware

Thanks (0)
By jasonholden
21st Apr 2011 12:16

VT and FTax

We use VT and FTax (discount code: FT54JH10) both work perfectly and so simple.




Thanks (0)
By kfatax
21st Apr 2011 13:21

VT and Keytime

We use VT and Keytime and have not experienced problems with the 3 cases so far filed.

Discovered Vt this year and its simply brilliant.


Thanks (0)
By nickja
21st Apr 2011 16:07

VT and Keytime

VT for accounts, Keytime fo CT both worked out of the box for me.    Both companies deserve heaps of praise for getting it right when most of the big boys can't.

Thanks (0)
By terry morris
22nd Apr 2011 09:44


I have used VT and Tax Calc for three years now and have not had one problem with the IXBRL filing.

Well done VT and Taxcalc


Terry Morris

Thanks (0)
By kevinringer
04th May 2011 13:36

CCH Viztopia and PTP CT Platform

Loads of problems with CCH/Viztopia - numerous cases have had to be referred to support. PTP - no problems.

Thanks (0)
By Tosie
23rd May 2011 11:35

Problems now arising

I filed using Tax calc and VT without any problem. Received usual HMRC email receipt. Now client has received rejection letter some  6 weeks after filing saying that the accounts were in PDF format (which ofcourse they were not). Checked with VT and I am not alone in this situation. VT think it is an HMRC problem rather than VT.

Sorry to have to report this but it may well be that other "successful" filings will be rejected.

Thanks (0)
By vtsoftware
23rd May 2011 13:12

HMRC rejections - might be a tax program issue

There is a facility in HMRC's specification for the electronic filing of CT600's for the submission of the accounts in pdf format provided a reason is given. Special elements have to be set in the XML file generated by the CT600 package.

Does anyone know if it is possible in Taxcalc to do the following in combination:

Accidentally tick a box for submitting accounts in pdf formatNot enter a reason for the aboveAttach an iXBRL file

Otherwise, we have to assume HMRC are sending completely spurious rejection letters.

Has anyone had this problem with any other tax package?

See also https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/anyanswers/company-accounts-filed-hmrc-pdf-instead-ixbrl-mistake/499584

Philip Hodgson
VT Software

Thanks (0)
By daveforbes
23rd May 2011 16:04

So far so good.
Not wanting to tempt fate, but not had any reports of this particular issue - with our own, VT or any other accounts transmitted from our tax package.

David Forbes

Thanks (0)
By vickyfox
24th May 2011 15:53

Problems filing using Digita - costs

We have had numerous problems with Digita and it generates accounts in an unacceptable format.  This is costing money, has anyone tried to claim from the supplier who has reassured us all the way through the run-up that its software would be ready for iXRL and then does not deliver?  Are accountants passing this cost covertly on to clients or taking it on the chin in partner profits?

Thanks (0)