BACS filing promises peaceful future

BACS filing promises peaceful future

What are the implications of a move to filing tax returns through bank clearing systems for advisers, and for the tax authorities?

The basic aim must be for a little more peace and ease of use. HM Revenue
& Customs’ e-filing systems have come under a great deal of criticism, some
of it justified and some of it less so.

Whatever happens with VOCA, which runs BACS, HMRC might not have to hire so
many expensively paid consultants to fine tune its IT systems.

Advisers could also find that VOCA finds the volumes easier to handle. The
bank clearing system processes five billion transactions a year, and has handled
up to 75 million transactions in one day. However stressful tax deadlines have
become, there can never be as many people as that filing tax returns.

The system will also mean that you can send everything at once. At present,
e-filing is not flexible enough in many cases to accommodate extra documents.
With BACS, the promise is that they can all be put through at once.

Advisers will be able to prove when they sent the return, with an independent
audit trail. ‘Agents’, as HMRC likes to term tax advisers, will be familiar with
BACS, so they should not be thrown by that either.

If advisers don’t like the new service, they wouldn’t necessarily have to use
it. It is envisaged that it will sit alongside the other methods of tax return
filing. If taxpayers want to post it off, they can post it off.

What will it cost? Nobody knows. There is some suggestion that people might
have to pay by return. Whatever happens (and the cost is not seen by those
involved to be a huge issue) the taxpayer will pay the bill in one way or
another, of course.

What’s happening now? HMRC is pursuing a pilot study, and a small number of
businesses are being enrolled to take part. The taxman needs two agents, two
large businesses and two payroll bureaux to undertake the pilot.

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