For all the talk of shifting self-assessment deadlines leading to staffing
issues for firms, and concerns that HM Revenue & Customs will impose more
late filing penalties, one market is expected to do well out of all this.
Accounting software businesses could find themselves in a prime position to
encourage take-up of accounts production and tax processing software, as the
implications of the Carter review into HMRC’s online services become apparent.
SA filing deadlines for paper returns will move forward to 30 September from
2008, with 30 November the online deadline.
‘It gives tax advisers no choice, but to be further reliant on IT,’ according
to Mark Holland, head of IT advisory at Baker Tilly.
‘With the change skewing an adviser’s business activities, will they use
technology to help or bring in a pool of temporary staff?’
Jerry Rihll, MD of tax software business Digita, points out that the new
deadlines will lead to a shift in workflow for practitioners, and IT could be
used to facilitate more timely information from clients.
‘The challenge is how to put things in place to make workflow easier. Perhaps
an electronic collection of client information, but this would require
co-operation from all parties who hold their info.’
Despite suggestions that the real winners from the review are software
companies, practitioners should not overlook the recommendations to improve
liaisons between software providers and HMRC, where improvements in their
communication could lead to better products.
‘HMRC could work more co-operatively with software vendors,’ the report said.
‘We recommend that test services should be provided for all services and at
least six months before the implementation of major changes to tax returns or
the online service.’
Rihll believes this recommendation has been possible because HMRC has
recognised that software vendors need to be successful to help the department
implement filing changes.
The report also recommended that HMRC should be more open with software
developers about the risk rules that apply to tax items that could attract an
enquiry, a boon for providers, and that it should also offer relief to
A communication channel should be developed between HMRC and software
developers to achieve quick resolution for queries, the review also recommended.
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