Taxman braced as UK’s richest move online

Some of the UK’s richest taxpayers are to file tax returns online for the
first time in 2008, as the large firms finally embrace internet filing ten years
after it was introduced.

The biggest accounting firms, including most of the Big Four, still file
hundreds of thousands of complex returns in a hard copy format, but recent
changes to HM Revenue & Custom’s online filing regime are expected to push
the firms into filing clients’ returns on the internet.

Deloitte confirmed this week that it was piloting a scheme with a view to
moving its 25,000 private clients on to online filing, while other major firms
indicated they were making similar moves.

The introduction of the ability to create adequate attachments to online tax
returns last October has made it possible for the high-net-worth returns to be
delivered electronically.

The Budget’s confirmation of a shorter filing deadline for paper returns from
2008 has prompted the firms into action. Since they would have so little time to
file so many paper returns, firms are driving their clients towards the online

Tax advisers from smaller firms have driven uptake of online tax return
filing, particularly last year, when three million returns were filed.

‘We do expect a large increase in self assessment online filing… we are
already carrying out capacity testing of our systems against predicted volumes
for 2008,’ said an HMRC spokesman.

Deloitte’s Linda Foster said the firm had been testing its software and would
begin moving to file its 25,000 clients’ returns online: ‘We weren’t happy with
the technical aspect of the additional information box before. But now we’ve
begun testing,’ said Foster.

‘The big firms have been late to the game,’ said Francesca Lagerberg, head of
Grant Thornton’s head of its national tax office. ‘We, and most of those firms
now have full-on project management in place to file effectively for next year
and then 2008.’

KPMG director Carolyn Steppler said the firm was reviewing the option of
online filing.

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