En masse, the largest firms have boycotted online filing for years because HM
Revenue & Customs systems were unable to deal with large electronic files.
Or, at the very least, the advisers did not trust the system.
Things have changed rapidly. Complex returns will go through the system this
year in unprecedented numbers, breaking all records no doubt, and the taxman has
promised to continue focusing on the technology to get it right. So much so, in
fact, that HMRC will delay implementation of online filing for VAT and
corporation tax to make sure things are working. It seems that the techies among
the taxmen have taken to heart the Carter Review which warned that there was no
point in doing something half-baked.
But while advisers appreciate the approach, we shouldn’t forget that online
filing has been running for around ten years, a period in which the biggest
accountancy firms have avoided the system for its most complicated returns. The
delay in sorting the problem is somewhat shocking given that figures suggest
there are around 2.5 million complex returns currently submitted on paper. Once
again we are left asking why it is so difficult for government to get an online
service up and running promptly and effectively?
Even if the system had run perfectly, such a delay would do nothing to
inspire confidence in the taxman’s ability to build something that works.
All eyes will be on HMRC to see if it delivers on this latest promise because
if it doesn’t there will be further delays in producing VAT and corporation tax
services and yet further damage to a reputation that had finally begun to mend.
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