Online filing to break four million barrier

Online filing to break four million barrier

Self-assessment online filings are set to hit the four million mark this year, despite the largest firms holding back from filing online for all of their clients

More than two million filings had been made online by 6 January, a 25%
increase on the same time last year. Advisers and individuals filed three
million online last year, itself a 40% increase on 2004-05 filings.

However, the top six firms have still not fully embraced online filing, due
to the complexity of some of the returns they file. Deloitte has filed none
online and is just
using HM Revenue & Customs’ test submissions facility, it said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is filing ‘some’ returns online. ‘While we are using
the online system to file some tax returns, we are holding off doing all returns
on the system until we are satisfied that it is ready to cope with the more
complex cases,’ Clive Mackintosh, head of private client at PwC said.

KPMG is likely to file one-third of its clients online, while BDO has filed
from one major regional office.

Grant Thornton will file a ‘significant proportion’ of its 17,000 clients’
returns online, said Francesca Lagerberg, head of its national tax office. ‘We
spent a lot of time this year ironing out problems. HMRC have been incredibly
helpful,’ she said.

Ernst & Young, like Grant Thornton, was more bullish about online filing.
The firm filed a ‘very high percentage’ of its returns online.

‘We attempt to do it online unless there’s a major problem,’ said a
spokeswoman.

The firms are expected to file the vast majority of clients’ returns online
for the next tax year, as the paper return deadline is brought forward to 31
October 2008.

HMRC will be awaiting the outcome of the 31 January deadline with some
trepidation. It is possible that the civil service unions will vote for another
strike on that day, which could be a logistical nightmare for the taxman,
although last year’s strike proved manageable.

With the ongoing concerns over its data governance, it will hope its normally
robust returns systems hold firm, as it does not want to damage public
confidence in the department even further or put off the major firms from filing
online next year.

The taxman revealed that nearly 500 tax returns were filed online on
Christmas day, compared with 84 a year earlier.

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