Carter Review: The future

Coverage of Lord Carter’s review into the future of Her Majesty’s Revenue
& Customs has been dominated by his recommendation to bring forward SA
filing dates, a move that has led to much consternation among the accounting

But many of those detractors have also expressed regret that the SA deadline
move will smother many of the extremely sensible and exciting recommendations
made by Lord Carter that have been accepted by HMRC.

‘It’s a very good report,’ says Francesca Lagerberg, senior tax director at
Smith and Williamson.

‘But it’s a shame we’ll talk about [SA tax deadlines].’

The overarching target set by Lord Carter is that HMRC should work towards an
aim of ‘universal electronic delivery’ of tax returns from business and
‘IT-literate’ individuals by 2012, but only if efficient online filing systems
are in place and ‘fully tested’.

Lord Carter explained that there was now a general acceptance of HMRC online
services, and his plans had been cemented following the success of self
assessment online filing in January.

There are a couple of real benefits lined up for accountants by Lord Carter.
First he has recommended linking the period HMRC has to query a tax return from
the date it is filed, and secondly said HMRC should make its internet service
have more filing capacity. This will enable accountants working on behalf of
clients to file extra attachments with returns. Both moves have been warmly
welcomed by the profession.

Agents, who are accountants in the vast majority, should be made part of an
agent registration scheme to enable potential clients to identify agents
registered for and using HMRC online services. Those that apply for the sceheme
could be required to abide by a code of practice.

Recent consultation between HMRC and Companies house on aligning filing dates
has been endorsed by Lord Carter, although accountants have slammed the
proposals as increasing red tape and not saving money.

HMRC should build-in more rigorous testing to deliver robust high-capacity
services. Capacity should be tested for at least a year before any of Lord
Carter’s filing recommendations are implemented.

For businesses, Carter has recommended that they are required to file VAT
returns, PAYE in-year forms and company tax returns online in phases from April
2008 through to 2012.

HMRC should stop accepting computer-generated SA substitute returns on paper
from April 2008.

HMRC should set up a Taxpayer data Standards forum, with membership drawn
across a cross-section of employers to look into best practice for cleaning data
and maintaining quality.

With HMRC planning to spend £340m in online service infrastructure over the
next nine years, Lord Carter expects implementation of full online services to
save business and taxpayers over £175m annually from 2012/2013, with government
savings of £84m a year by 2013/2014.

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