Advisers wait and see on complex online returns

Advisers do not trust the government’s systems to file complex tax returns
online, it has emerged, as the
filing deadline falls today.

The ‘attachments’ system, which enables taxpayers with complex returns to add
extra detail, has failed to earn tax advisers’ confidence, who are waiting to
see how it holds up before using the system for filing.

The latest figures for online filing indicate that the firms are still
sending hard copy attachments to the taxman to supplement online tax returns,
despite the introduction of an online system. Only 70,000 of the three million
online filings returned a week before today’s self assessment deadline contained
extra electronic documents.

In the past around 25% of tax returns in general have been accompanied by
paper attachments. Extrapolating the figure onto online returns, tax experts
said there was the potential for up to one million electronic attachments to be
sent. So far submissions have been well below that estimate despite advisers
arguing strenuously for the ability to send in electronic documents.

Advisers believe sending more information made it less likely that HM Revenue
& Customs would open an enquiry against clients.

The major firms had previously told Accountancy Age that they were
only filing a few self assessment returns for clients via the internet.

Paul Aplin, chair of the ICAEW
, said he was surprised at the lack of online attachment filing.
‘It’s a very low figure. I’d expected it to be much higher as the profession has
pushed for this for years,’ said Aplin.

‘I suspect the larger firms will want to make a lot of use of that facility
[in future],’ he added.

mith & Williamson
head of tax Richard Mannion said his firm was ‘taking
it slowly’ on filing attachments via the internet. ‘Let someone else be the
guinea pig,’ he said. However, he added that filing attachments online was ‘the
way forward’.

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