ANY ANSWERS: PAYE pains. By Dan Martin

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Following a deluge of complaints from AccountingWEB members about problems with HMRC's online PAYE filing system, Dan Martin spoke to the Revenue to try and get some answers.

Over the past few weeks, AccountingWEB's 'Any Answers' forum has been inundated with comments from frustrated users struggling to successfully file their PAYE returns using HMRC's web system. Unrecognised passwords, website crashes and a lack confirmation messages are just some of the issues that have been raised.

  • Website down

  • Lack of confirmation

  • Non-recognised logins

  • Deadline concession

  • Communication

  • The future

Website down

The latest reports of problems began on the morning o...

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23rd May 2006 18:12

Access to other accountants clients
At least half of my PAYE filing logins direct me to another accountant/s client list. I can access all employee data eg P60 for these. Apparently there was a "major similar" incident a month or so age. Any one else had this experience ?
The problem is ongoing for me but has now been given "no 1" priority!

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24th May 2006 08:00

Roll forward to 2008 you can just see the very same problems arising, multiplied ten or twenty fold.

If HMRC systems cannot handle online filing at peak times 9am to 5pm, then online filing should not be mandatory. If we all continue working out of hours we condone the attitude of the Government to taxpayers and nothing will change.

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By Anonymous
20th May 2006 07:45

No problems at all after 8pm and before 6am
As we always leave everything to the last minute, I was getting really worried by all the problem reports.
We used the IR's own software and did half after 8pm on 18th and the rest between 5 and 6am on 19th. No problems at all, in fact it was very smooth -- less than 30 secs to submit and email confirmation within 2 minutes. Better than last year I thought.
Having all the P11 end-of-year summary data checked and ready beforehand really helped of course. We made a few mistakes in pence/no pence fields but error-checking was excellent.
Sorry for being so positive, but that was our experience.

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20th May 2006 10:56

Null Forms?
Had no problems filing this year except one thing I have noticed about the online PAYE process is that HMRC are trapped by their Prime Directive, "We cannot discuss with you ways of avoiding paying taxes".

Not that one wishes to avoid paying taxes but in the paper bound days we would send in a null P11D/Forms to indicate inactivity.

However, online you cannot do any such thing. All the site says is tick this box if P11D's are not due. Inferring if you don't send one we will consider laying penalties on you.

What you may not know is that HMRC internal systems have a tick box that indicates whether they expect one to be sent anyway.

The whole ethos with HMRC is to try and catch you out so that penalties can be levied especially when the Prime Directive is involved no matter how tenuous the connection.

A similar thing happens with quarterly payments, you have to send a null payslip to indicate nothing will be sent and to hold off the reminder that is posted to you.

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20th May 2006 16:25

Well, that was useful then
The Revenue are clearly in denial and are never going to admit to anything. As a taxpayer as well as an accountant, I find this misuse of my resources totally unacceptable.

Frankly, if this was an animal, you'd be thinking about getting your gun out, putting it out of its misery and starting again with no bad eggs (yes, I know you can't use a gun anymore and that I've mixed my metaphor but you get the picture...)

That is my view on the Revenue's IT adventure / odyssey / disaster / blackhole / pipedream (the only word you can't use is "achievement"): scrap it and start again from first principles. Dreaming, I know.

I occasionally bump into a local Inspector on a social basis. Reading between the lines of what he lets slip from time to time, it is pretty clear that officers on the ground also think that Revenue Central have "lost the plot" and that they don't know their arse[***] from their elbow when it comes to IT development.

So, I think we as a profession should stop being nice to the Revenue and thereby giving them the excuse to say they have consulted. Instead, the profession should be backing up Nichola Ross Martin, who started this ball rolling, and ensuring that as much negative evidence as possible is reaching the parliamentary sub committee currently investigating the Revenue's provision of IT services.

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By Anonymous
20th May 2006 18:57

RE: Null Forms?
Thanks to John Straker for allowing me to inject a bit of off-topic negativity to counterbalance my previous positive comments...

OK, this is maybe off topic (new thread perhaps?), but after some years of doing electronic payments to Shipley, we have had to go back to those silly yellow books in order to post nil quaterly payment because BACS can't do zeros.

I phoned the IR helpline... "What about if I send you 1p by BACS" to indicate a nil payment". Sweet, simple and cost-effective (for everyone) I thought -- no, back to dead trees.

Back on topic : I really welcome the ability to file electronicly for PAYE EoY (& Corporation Tax, VAT too) -- all our records are on comptuter, paper is just backup.

What's missing on these regimented electronic IR forms is any ability to add user comments "outside the norm" to the explain the "unusual" which I'm sure we all need from time to time.

Sorry if I'm rambling, too many 5am starts this week perhaps :)

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19th May 2006 22:20

Deadline passed?
Why at 22.15 on 19 May 2006 does the HMRC login page say: "The 19 May deadline for sending your Employer's Annual Return has now passed."?

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19th May 2006 14:16

PAYE Online filing failure
I have spent everyday almost since the 6th Apil trying to file online as an agent. I have not kept a detailed time record of this process but I would guess it has taken at least 3 times as long as when it was done by hand.

The problems encountered include:

1. Third party software (IRIS payroll) and the IR site not talking to each other. In one case it resulted in 23 email confirmations being issued in spite of the software saying that no confirmation was received from the IR. A problem also encountered using Moneysoft payrollbut in a different way.

2. Login details not recognised especially at the last stage of filing a p35 using the IR online software. This requires a two hour wait before retrying (that is as stupid a security feature as I have ever encountered!)

3. impossibility in getting through to the helpline (only one unsatisfactory contact after 8 attempts)

4. Client Id's after online agent acting requests not arriving in the post at clients or if arriving clients not admitting to it.

5. The System not recognising one as an agent for clients even after several days elapsing after inputting the correct ID and having it confirmed as accepted.

6. Where two p35's have been issued for the same organisation it is impossible to register as agent on either reference.

I suppose I might be persuaded that I should persevere with it next year if at least a baker's dozen of senior IR officials were fired over the debacle. Some fat chance! Put Alan Sugar in charge of the IR!

I am now finishing of the exercise today by doing the last lot by hand and trusting that they arrrive before the concessionary deadline of 29th May.

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19th May 2006 12:45

This has been just as trying as the SA deadline
Well, this week has been awful.It used to take me a couple of quite easy days to deal with our dozen or so P35's.That of course was in the good old days prior to filing online.Over the last two weeks I have spent something like 70 hours trying to file the same dozen or so P35's.
I have experienced:
1.Being told by the system that my password was not valid, when it was the only password I have ever had and always worked before.
2.When phoning the helpline, hearing a message stating they were unable to take my call as they were so busy, then the line went dead.
3.Having an 18 year old helpline operative threaten to terminate the call when I politely asked if she could use a little common sense (that was after being asked to confirm our postcode three times!!!).
4.Being unable to print out any P60s since Tuesday.
5.Being unable to even enter details for a client as the link to the software does not work for that particular client.
6.Being timed out after less than 10 seconds.
7.Being timed out after less than 10 seconds at 5am!!!! Silly me that must be a peak time.
8.Not receiving confirmation emails.
9.Not receiving callbacks when requested and promised.

I am spending more and more of my time because HMRC employ poor systems and increasingly badly trained low calibre employees/agents, and this is while we still have the call centres in this country.
HMRC are aiming to save millions implementing these systems and its costing me personally a small fortune in unbillable time.

Regards to all.

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19th May 2006 12:49

If the paper forms are still available, and online submission proves impossible, maybe you should go back to paper submission, with a covering letter stating that you are finding the online system unworkable ...

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19th May 2006 11:58

Is that a joke?
We have had problems of a varying nature for the last two weeks.
Problems such as:

Simply not being able to log in because the site is too busy (understandable)

Being told we have timed out just seconds after logging in

Being told that we have not used the login for 30 minutes and being automatically logged out, again within seconds of logging in

On asking to print P60 forms, the screen says that they are loading, but they never do

being given the message that the user ID and Password were incorrect when entered for submission, even though it eventually transpired that it was the PAYE reference that was actually one digit short, the ID and password being correct all along.

And now, last night, whilst filing a client under the unauthorised list, the system told me half way through submission that the system has suddenly become busy. This morning I receive a confirmation of submission e-mail, but all attempts to access the client for printouts are still met with the message that the system is busy. (Despite being able to access other clients without a problem)

What a mess!


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By appacc
19th May 2006 11:48

When I phoned about the invalid log-in, I was told that this happened if you file without FBI2 authority and the PAYE ref was wrong. That turned out to be true in my case (or rather, HMRC had closed a scheme which should have been open) but the error message did not match the error.

No-one has yet mentioned the need to enter 0.00 in most boxes. But some boxes are just 0 and the error trapping sees a difference between these 2 values. Its a pain when there is a requirement for a 0 in the middle of a column of 0.00's.

And if you put a 0 in subcon, it tells you the box should be blank, not 0!!

My other point is that agents who file a lot of P35's need the whole period 6th April to 19th May to get the work done and filed. We are working on this all the time so its not appropriate to ask us to file early but avoid 6th and 7th April, etc.

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By Anonymous
19th May 2006 10:53

No evidence!? are they deaf/blind!
Can't get into the Revenue web-site so might as well comment. I just can't believe the arrogance of the Revenue responses, particularly regarding the difficulties re passwords and logins. It wouldn't take much imagination to interpret their comments as "we don't believe you". Surely they don't think we're all making this up.

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19th May 2006 15:49

PAYE Extended deadline
It's all very well extending the deadline now - but it's not a lot of compensation for those people who managed to get their returns in on time in spite of the frustrations; using evenings and weekends to avoid the peak periods. When it was clear the system couldn't cope, (round about 6th 7th April perhaps) instead of telling everyone to file outside peak periods they should have determined then that the deadline would be extended. Maybe a few more people would have had the opportunity to make the occasional personal commitment in their 'free time' - not just HMRC! Clearly, 'work/life balance' is not intended to apply to anyone dancing to the Inland Revenue tune.

I do wonder how HMRC can consider forcing on-line filing for SA by September 2008 after this fiasco.

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19th May 2006 14:17

paye online filing
Thanks for that great advice - which worked !

I got so frustrated I went for a short walk.
This Accounting Web thing is a really great idea, it's almost like an old style Union - but I digress.

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By Anonymous
19th May 2006 14:09

Ticketbook expired
John - go to "Tools", "Internet Options", Temporary Internet Files - "Delete Files", "OK", "OK". Close "Internet Explorer". Reopen "Internet Explorer" and start again - should work.

£250 incentive due even if return submitted late - though late filing penalty may apply. No ten day extension required as this is automatic.

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19th May 2006 13:27

PAYE Online
The frustrations of the 19th May...

Now exacerbated by a new error message " Error - Ticketbook_Expired". What does that mean... ? and this was during the course of a submission.

I note that the Revenue do not issue a penalty if the Online submission is made before the 29th May 2006, so presumably I acn go to the Theatre tonight. Please do not let my clients know that I have a life away from this computer.

Perhaps we can also assume that the £250 refund will also be extended by 10 days ? Just a thought.

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19th May 2006 12:02

"The whole point of online filing is to speed up administration,

It does make it cheaper and easier; but only for the Revenue's staff. The burden (as in so many other areas) has been passed on to us. Now we are left with time costs that we can't bill to anybody.
Great work by the civil service. Genius really.

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By Anonymous
19th May 2006 11:43

Going round in circles!
I have had a data validation issue for 2 weeks that the IR Employer helpline and our software supplier agree shouldn't be occurring, it is linked to a change of NI code for directors during the tax year.

The Online helpdesk referred me back to the IR Employers helpline concluding my data was incorrect - they are now looking at this again given that I have already spoken to the Employers helpline who concluded my data was correct!

I have lost count of the hours wasted on this!

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By dan06
19th May 2006 15:54

PAYE extension
To clarify, HMRC has not actually extended the deadline in response to this year's problems. The deadline concession has existed for 10 years and allows for postal delays and problems with internet connections. There has been some confusion over this as explained in my feature above. This is how HMRC explains the concession on its website:

"Extra Statutory Concession B46 allows you up to seven more business days after the Employer's Annual Return filing deadline of 19 May to send your Return before we start to calculate a late filing penalty. This concession allows for postal delays and problems with internet connections, including delays and occasional slow services experienced. Due to Bank Holidays, we will not charge a 2005-06 late filing penalty if we have your Return by midnight on 29 May 2006.

If you are a small employer, you will still get your tax-free payment if you send your Return online after 29 May, but you may be charged the late filing penalty."

Dan Martin
Business Writer

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