ICAEW-endorsed Bacs service provider Credec warned that the PAYE real time information (RTI) system faces its most critical test in the final few days of April.
Credec director Alexander Meynell told AccountingWEB that the profession has been in the “Twilight Zone” during the first month of the new filing regime.
“HMRC reported that it had handled 70,000 submissions in week one of the new tax year: that’s 3.5% of the total. The end of the month is the real acid test.”
Meynell is concerned on two fronts: first whether the government’s web gateway will cope with the volume of submissions; and if they get through, will HMRC’s back-end computers reconcile the data fast enough to stop backlogs from building up?
“Were RTI not to perform and government gateway has a collective heart attack from the 30th when it is hit by this surge of reporting, in due course HMRC will send out letters. The recipients will call their accountants and payroll providers and want to know what happened,” he warned.
“There’s nothing more emotive for small business than things that touches payments to staff. RTI is as close to that tender nerve as it is possible to get. It puts the profession in a very, very uncomfortable position.”
As a provider of RTI-enabled electronic payment services, Meynell said Credec offered a way for accountants and payroll providers a safety net to avoid such uncomfortable situations.
“Where practice payroll has RTI software with direct support for Bacs, the payroll software will insert the Bacs hash reference in both outputs,” he said.
“If there should be any difficulties filtering submissions through the government gateway, the employer will still have a record of the payment made, and proof that they complied with the filing requirements.”
Helen Hargreaves, the senior policy & research officer for the payroll professionals’ body CIPP, is hosting an RTI clinic for Sage customers this week, but was not anticipating an RTI meltdown.
“We have always predicted that there will be peaks and troughs throughout the month for RTI submissions,” she said, saying spikes were to be expected at the beginning and end of the month, with some respite through the middle.
“As the RTI pilot has progressed throughout the last year HMRC gained more and more experience of these peaks and troughs. There was widespread speculation that when RTI went live on 6 April it would fall over. Thankfully it didn’t and has in fact processed more than half a million submissions in its first two weeks,” she continued.
“Naturally there have been a few areas where it has become apparent that clearer guidance is required, but generally it seems as though the launch of RTI has been successful so far and at the moment we have no reason to believe that HMRC systems will not be able to cope with the anticipated peak at the end of April.”
Rebecca Benneyworth, who is also offering RTI support to AccountingWEB members in a series of guides and webinars sponsored by Intuit, talked to HMRC chief executive Lin Homer last week and heard that the RTI team was in a confident mood last week.
“There were some issues the week before last because people couldn’t get through, but that was because there had been three equipment failures in the telephone system,” Benneyworth said in her RTI implementation Q&A on Friday. “They’re reasonably confident that the system will hold up and I’m happy to wait and see.”
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.