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SEISS grant bug discovered in HMRC's self assessment API
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Tax return data feeds misreport SEISS figures

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Yet another technological gremlin has struck HMRC, this time inflating the figures reported on self assessment returns by receipients of self-employed income support (SEISS) grants.

26th Aug 2021
Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
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During the past week, reports have been streaming in about a bug in HMRC’s self assessment application programming interface (API) that is corrupting figures entered on 2020-21 returns for SEISS grants.

Million-pound SEISS claims?

The first report arrived from AccountingWEB member Rmillerlee, who reported that a million-pound SEISS claim had appeared in one of their clients’ tax return. The feedback from other members and succession of posts from readers including Harry B’s crazy SEISS figures (24 Aug) and Jennifer Adams (24 Aug) confirmed that this was not an isolated incident affecting a particular software program.

In all, around a dozen AccountingWEB members were affected and commercial software developers have confirmed a number of similar cases from their customers.

An HMRC spokesperson confirmed: “We are aware of a problem with the way that SEISS grants received in the 2020/21 tax year are being presented on the individual income API. Figures are being presented in pence rather than pounds. This is impacting individuals who use commercial software only (customers using our online portal, for example, are not affected). We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing. 

“We advise that customers check the pre-populated SEISS entry and where necessary, delete the pre-populated figure and manually enter the correct amount. Our system will not process a return if the SEISS grant entry does not match our record of the amount paid.”

In its report on the issue the ICAEW Tax Faculty  noted that where the SEISS data reported through commercial software does not match HMRC’s records, the grant amounts entered on 2020/21 SA returns were being corrected, but this workaround has caused its own problems.

Questionable corrections

On 19 August, Pauhelliker reported five examples where 2021 tax returns for self employed clients were amended to group together the original profit and SEISS grant and then add in the SEISS grant for a second time. By this week the number of cases had climbed to 11.

AccountingWEB member Ben Alligin filed a 2020/21 tax return in May for a client who had claimed three SEISS grants, but when a revised tax calculation arrived from HMRC, the first grant had been deducted because HMRC’s systems showed that it had not been paid.

“Wrong,” commented Alligin. “Client was previously registered with PD1 which proved a big enough headache for claiming the SEISS grant in the first place, because HMRC software didn't recognise that he existed due to the special status of PD1. Well we got over that first hurdle in getting the grant awarded, only to fall at the second since HMRC main body are now correcting his submitted tax return and don’t have access to the full details.”

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Replies (48)

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By GHarr497688
26th Aug 2021 09:37

Hail MTD !

Thanks (8)
Replying to GHarr497688:
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By johnjenkins
26th Aug 2021 10:58

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide.
No escape from reality.
Did Queen know something all those years ago.

Thanks (12)
Replying to johnjenkins:
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By Open all hours
26th Aug 2021 11:44

Rhapsody in Blue. Sadly.

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnjenkins:
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By Hugo Fair
26th Aug 2021 12:10

Would someone please get Jim Harra (and colleagues) to read all the reports and subsequent court cases on the Horizon IT fiasco at the Post Office ... as a salient lesson in what happens when you believe without question in the supremacy of data within a central system that is itself corrupting the data!

Thanks (10)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By johnjenkins
26th Aug 2021 12:57

You've only got to look at the EU, slightly different but same principle.

Thanks (2)
x
By rockallj
26th Aug 2021 10:55

Absolutely appalling again by HMRC where IT is concerned.
It is not right that taxpayers should have their refunds held up because of this.

I filed a return on 11.05.21 and it still hasn't been processed due to the SEISS grants apparently not agreeing. But the client sent me a snapshot of their account with the grants on it straight from.... you guessed it, their HMRC tax account.

MTD for IT should be halted and they get their own house in order first.

Thanks (8)
Replying to rockallj:
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By snickersinatwix
26th Aug 2021 11:10

they are too busy preparing for MTD to worry about this.

Thanks (2)
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By Paul Crowley
26th Aug 2021 11:10

So clearly HMRC are saying do not trust the data HMRC passes to commercial tax return software
This is really easy stuff
MTD will fail if HMRC cannot sort this really small stuff

Thanks (5)
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By lh3f9764bg1g
26th Aug 2021 11:11

I only ever try to use their API if I am desperate for information (e.g. trying to find out a State Pension for example or a works pension) but it is so rare for the API to provide the relevant figure that I have more or less given up on it (how the heck it can't be providing information like this at this time of the year I'll never know). However . . . . . as an experiment I had a look at one there now (an uncompleted but open Return). The SEISS was reported in it as being £665,900 rather than the £6,659 it actually was. Does there system not even have checks that would limit the reported amount to the maximum? I mean to say . . . . . . that's just ridiculous.

Thanks (1)
Replying to lh3f9764bg1g:
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By Wanderer
26th Aug 2021 12:06

API doesn't give the State Retirement pension.

The irony of that seems to completely escape HMRC.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Wanderer:
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By Paul Hawes
26th Aug 2021 12:42

HMRC logic is always great. You can call up as agent and they won't tell you employment income information but you can request it through software. On the other hand you can't retrieve the state pension through software but can call up to request the figures on the phone.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Paul Hawes:
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By Seadog
27th Aug 2021 21:29

Ironic really when you think of all the money thrown at software developers and the redacted contracts so called published on gov.uk.

You can get the State Pension figs on the Agent login under "information to help you complete your tax return". Not always accurate, not always complete.

Thanks (0)
Replying to lh3f9764bg1g:
By SteveHa
26th Aug 2021 12:49

But according to HMRC systems, it is reporting the correct amount, being £665,900p.

Thanks (0)
Tornado
By Tornado
26th Aug 2021 11:22

'Unsurprisingly, the SEISS API glitch prompted yet more accountants to question whether the tax department is actually equipped to roll out MTD ITSA in April 2023. As AccountingWEB member AdamMurphy put it, “This is exactly why HMRC should not be proceeding with MTD – they can’t even get current systems working correctly.”'

This is possibly unfair to HMRC as they are probably working very hard indeed on getting MTD right and simply do not have the time to deal with current problems.

Thanks (0)
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By dul50n
26th Aug 2021 11:32

I'm really not buying into "the barrage of compliance changes and the imperative to make tax digital are beginning to overload the department’s software development capacity".

The introduction of the online service for Machine Games Duty in 2013 was a disaster and to this day the Gateway still doesn't reflect the taxpayer's account properly, that's eight years later!

Annual accounting for VAT was and still seems to be in complete disarray

I was staggered to recently see that we'd been granted access to client's PAYE accounts through our Agent's Gateway, however a handful were deemed to be of limited authority, so we duly applied for full authorisation as instructed and has that made any difference, none at all, we still only have limited authorisation, a complete waste of time

Still, these lame and limping systems seem to be regarded by HMRC staff as some sort of overlord that can't be wrong and must be obeyed irrespective of what rubbish they produce

At the end of it all HMRC don't answer to anybody and consequently the overriding attitude across the board to any issue is that they don't really care, albeit covered with the obligatory thin veneer of "your problem is important to us"

Thanks (6)
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By jline199
26th Aug 2021 11:35

In the past I worked for a Computer Software House, and quite a bit of the time there involved testing. After all whilst it would be great if anything new in the software worked first time, the reality is that is often not the case.

So what do I think about the current problem? Simply, it was not tested, I am going to say, at all, let alone sufficiently. The software house who was involved in this has some explaining to do.

Thanks (2)
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By DavidAWilks
26th Aug 2021 11:41

I too have had a case where an amended tax calculation has been sent claiming an underpayment of tax because the SEISS information on the tax return does not match "the figure we hold". No details as to the figure HMRC are holding and, when I contacted HMRC on the dedicated line the operative had no idea either. There was just a note of the amendment on my client's record. I commented that this was crass and he agreed! Needless to say I have written HMRC requiring a full and detailed explanation.

Thanks (0)
Replying to DavidAWilks:
By SteveHa
26th Aug 2021 12:53

Come back in 2091 when you receive a response and let us know what their reply is.

Thanks (2)
Replying to SteveHa:
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By johnjenkins
26th Aug 2021 13:01

Bit hopeful aren't you?

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnjenkins:
Tornado
By Tornado
26th Aug 2021 17:01

Ditto

Thanks (0)
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By wendy-carter
26th Aug 2021 11:49

I have had an issue where HMRC are amended returns submitted, as they are trying to include 21-22 grants issued into the clients 20-21 tax year. Has anyone else experience this?

Thanks (0)
David Ross
By davidross
26th Aug 2021 11:55

Happily with TaxCalc there is a workaround. Look at what Fetch says, then take off the two zeros and write the figure down. Then re-enter manually (because the silly figure does not get saved). I twigged this when I noticed the similarity with figures reported by clients!

Since Fetch cannot get State Pension my other workaround is to pretend to file a Return using the HMRC website until I get to the point where HMRC auto-fills the figure, then use that. I agree that this reveals a useless API from HMRC, but it gets me through for now.

Thanks (0)
Replying to davidross:
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By Catherine Newman
26th Aug 2021 13:28

What a great tip. Thank you very much for that,

Thanks (0)
Replying to davidross:
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By AdamMurphy
26th Aug 2021 15:38

You don’t have to mess around part completing a tax return. Just go to your client on their list, then Tax Return options, choose the right year and scroll down to where it says Information to help complete your tax return. State pension is on there

Thanks (0)
Replying to AdamMurphy:
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By Ken Howard
26th Aug 2021 16:31

AdamMurphy wrote:

You don’t have to mess around part completing a tax return. Just go to your client on their list, then Tax Return options, choose the right year and scroll down to where it says Information to help complete your tax return. State pension is on there

Nope, just checked for a couple of my state pension clients and I've done what you suggested. "Not available" in the state pension box, in fact "not available" in every box! HMRC are truly hopeless.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Ken Howard:
Tornado
By Tornado
26th Aug 2021 17:07

Yes, this is right. I have never worked out why you can retrieve some State Pensions from the Agent Account and some are not available at all anywhere, not even though the API.

Another Government shortcoming as HMRC are the only pension payer who do not provide a year end P60. I wonder how many people have taken the amounts received in their bank as the State Pension when the payments could include non-taxable income such as Attendance Allowance.

Disgraceful really.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Tornado:
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By Catherine Newman
26th Aug 2021 17:47

It is there sometimes. If your client isn't in SA it isn't. If your clients doesn't have a PAYE code it might or might not be there. If your client does have a PAYE code look at the code as it has State Pension coded out on any event.

Thanks (0)
Replying to AdamMurphy:
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By Paul Crowley
26th Aug 2021 19:18

Literally just did that on a client that has had the information there every year to date
Showed it to the the client £0
Then looked at coding and it was on the coding for 2021
My third option is ignore HMRC and ask client for the notice of increase
My fifth option is to ask client for a June bank statement
Find DWP
divide by 4 and multiply by 52
Usually works, but there are 53 week years inconsistently applied
There are also regular differences between portal
information to complete.... and the coding
If so I use the smallest figure

This client's tax should be £520 being tax on an unchanging rent
The non state pensions are unchanging
YET Not one year in the four I just checked was correct because the coding HMRC computer just cannot get it right
All wrong by over £100 as a result of incorrect coding
All overcharging the tax so a refund appearing due until I add the rent

Thanks (0)
Replying to AdamMurphy:
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By lh3f9764bg1g
27th Aug 2021 16:01

Tried that. Not a dicky bird.

Thanks (0)
Replying to AdamMurphy:
David Ross
By davidross
27th Aug 2021 16:19

That's brilliant - thank you. Micro-savings in time will add up over the years!

It is not perfect, as others have observed, but every little helps

Thanks (0)
Replying to davidross:
Morph
By kevinringer
27th Aug 2021 15:36

davidross wrote:

Since Fetch cannot get State Pension my other workaround is to pretend to file a Return using the HMRC website until I get to the point where HMRC auto-fills the figure, then use that.


I had tried that using HMRC's software on GOV.UK but it doesn't tell me the SEISS figure for any client. Can you see the SEISS figure for your clients?
Thanks (0)
Morph
By kevinringer
26th Aug 2021 11:57

Those of us on HMRC's Agent Forum have been asking since last spring for the SEISS figures to be in the 'information to help complete your tax return' on the agent's GOV.UK page for the client. HMRC already includes some other income info such as state pension, but HMRC said 'no'. Instead HMRC eventually said it would be included in v1.2 of the SA API but we've had to wait months for the software industry to start using it. And now look at the fiasco. But it's worse than reported because some software such as PTP is not returning any SEISS data at all, and I've been told that Wolters Kluwer is putting the figure in the SEISS overclaimed box!

When HMRC started selling MTD to agents way back in 2015, HMRC bragged about how it was using 'agile technology' to make sure all APIs are fixed quickly. Well we now see just how un-agile it is.

Another problem is the slowness of the software industry to use the latest API. HMRC have said that old APIs are kept in HMRC's library for six months. Why? Surely the software industry should be compelled to use the latest API.

Thanks (2)
By Nick Graves
26th Aug 2021 11:59

This started off as a nice little skit about old ladies attacking fit young men, but now it's just got silly.

Stop it!

Thanks (0)
ghm
By TaxTeddy
26th Aug 2021 12:00

I must admit that I am beginning to enjoy reading these tales of disaster from HMRC.

In a sense, it's like watching the second law of thermodynamics playing out in real time - clearly, HMRC's mission is to increase the entropy in the UK tax system.

Thanks (1)
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By DMBAcc
26th Aug 2021 12:24

Having given up on a previous AccountancyWeb feed now I am in abject DISPAIR. Do they actually have any qualified accountants working in their teams? where do they get their programmers from? Has anyone in HMRC ever run their own sole trader business and had to submit their own tax returns? They need to get out of their dark rooms and smell the coffee !!!

Thanks (6)
Replying to DMBAcc:
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By johnjenkins
26th Aug 2021 13:08

Now if HMRC had said "look lads and lassies, this is what we want. Get together with IT and give us the best you can". Yes we would be doing all the work but the result would be mind blowing expensive, within a workable time scale.

Thanks (0)
Replying to DMBAcc:
ghm
By TaxTeddy
26th Aug 2021 14:04

All of the good programmers left when IR35 kicked in, about 2 years ago.

Thanks (2)
Replying to TaxTeddy:
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By johnjenkins
26th Aug 2021 15:08

Yep, IR35, another of HMRC's masterpieces.

Thanks (0)
Replying to TaxTeddy:
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By lh3f9764bg1g
27th Aug 2021 14:22

Are you seriously suggesting, Teddy, that they had good programmers two years ago?

Thanks (1)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
26th Aug 2021 12:24

Mistakes happen in poorly tested "agile" systems (ie launching half finished beta dross on the public) but the question remain, why is this not fixed within a couple of hours?

Truly "agile" systems would be fixed immediately. Its clearly one line of code that needs amending. Shouldn't be that hard for anyone who understand the code to know where that line is an change it.

"world class" IT systems would fix it before it even become a news story.

Thanks (4)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By alialdabawi
26th Aug 2021 13:19

Bang on. Errors happen. Fix it by rewriting the code to show the figure divided by 100. End of. ANYTHING else other than these steps is sheer incompetence.

Thanks (1)
Chris M
By mr. mischief
26th Aug 2021 16:38

I've only just posted this to HMRC, regarding the very common misallocation of corporation tax receipts so you keep chasing year x whilst showing a big credit on year y:

"Your poor quality system has allocated my client’s cheque payment to the wrong year, as the enclosed schedule shows. Please correct this error.

Note it is actually very easy – in fact pretty “box standard” – to write software that autocorrects obvious mis-postings like this so they don’t happen in the first place. Instead of embarking on the mind-numbingly stupid and over-ambitious Making Tax Diabolical project, kindly switch that scarce resource to sorting out the only too numerous flaws and problems in the existing HMRC system."

In fact the list is utterly endless. Two MTD mucked up records by HMRC so that I am filing by paper, going back nearly 2 years in the first case. CIS still not repaid for 2020-21, and so on. The whole system is rubbish on every single tax I deal with.

Thanks (3)
Replying to mr. mischief:
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By dul50n
26th Aug 2021 17:01

I can cope with those sorts of problems, if you use the wrong payment reference for the year in question then payments will get misallocated, it's your own fault

It's the deep rooted system flaws that nobody seems to have any interest in sorting out, but which cause endless delay and confusion that really boils my potatoes

Thanks (0)
Replying to dul50n:
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By alialdabawi
26th Aug 2021 18:20

Disagree to some extent, dul50n.

It must be so that UTR number are the ONLY digits needed as reference making payment. Why the need to specify tax year - and if so, bolt-on 2 or 4 digits to the end of the reference, rather than 5 digits - that too, a mix of alphabetic & numeric! - which have nothing to do with the tax year?

Within this system, HMRC can allocate to be most favourable to the taxpayer, or oldest first, or no allocations needed but rather a basic Debit-Credit/Payable-Paid/Due-Received columns on HMRC portals.

Same for personal tax payments: why the need for the letter K? Why not simplify this to make it UTR-only? Or UTR+2/4-digit tax year?

PAYE payments: With or without tax month digits bolt-on at the end, why not make all payment references the same across tax months/years?

Getting a reference number wrong makes it the 'taxpayer-to-blame' in the current tax administration environment, but it is the environment itself which needs to be simplified in the first place. And as it stands, there is great scope for doing so.

Agree or not, there are VERY easy wins to be made in the name of Tax Simplification - administration rather than legislation, however still the taxation system, meaning the OTS is equally incompetent seeing as none of these easy wins have been conceptualised, let alone implemented.

Thanks (1)
Replying to alialdabawi:
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By Paul Crowley
26th Aug 2021 19:29

The K simply identifies personal tax
UTRs are all the same length
I have seen clients pay wrong taxes all over
PAYE to Vat etc
Reason client picks HMRC as person to pay

Thanks (0)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
By SteveHa
27th Aug 2021 09:23

Paul Crowley wrote:

The K simply identifies personal tax
UTRs are all the same length

That doesn't, however, make a blind bit of difference. If payments were simply allocated against the oldest debt, regardless of whether it's SA, CT, PAYE or whatever, then only the base reference would be required.

I share the view that the simple act of paying is needlessly complicated.

Thanks (0)
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By AndrewV12
01st Sep 2021 10:51

Just make sure SEISS grants are recorded on SA tax returns in box 70.1, if not HMRC gets a little tetchy and adds ESISS grants to profits which almost certainly contain the SEISS grants but in a wrong box.

Thanks (0)
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By staceyDT
01st Sep 2021 23:41

On the phone yesterday to them 40 clients all had this done, I was told there was a memo that went to all Agents that and I quote “there was a glitch and the amendments were not being facilitated and the box 27.1 which is the SEISS grant box was duplicating in any other income

Thanks (0)