This year has been one of massive change for Self Assessment and has brought challenges for us all. These included the introduction of the 31 October paper filing deadline, the 31 January deadline for online filing and changes to the format of the Self Assessment return forms. The period of adjustment has proved more difficult than we would all have hoped and we are very grateful for your patience and support. We are working hard, along with commercial software developers, to try to improve things as quickly as possible.
We appreciate that online filing of some returns may be more difficult than in previous years. Given the scale of these major changes it's not surprising that software has contained some initial errors and that it is taking users some time to familiarise themselves with the new return, but we recognise how frustrating and time-consuming this is. We are grateful for the very useful feedback that you and your representative bodies have provided.
Updated - November 2008: We understand that software developers have now completed their 2008 Self Assessment product updates. They have implemented workarounds for the known issues that they consider relevant to their respective customers. Some workarounds have been coded into the software so they work automatically. Others have been addressed by alerting users to particular action they need to take in certain circumstances. We also know that, for business reasons, not all developers have implemented workarounds for all issues. To ensure that you benefit from the workarounds and fixes that developers have implemented you will need to check that you have installed the latest version of the software you use.
In association with the Working Together e-Services Sub Group, we have produced a number of resources for use if you have problems filing particular cases online, including a help sheet which explains what to do if you cannot readily resolve the problem. This can be used alongside guidance on scenarios where returns cannot be filed online, returns that can only be filed using commercial software and common issues and workarounds when using commercial software.
We hope that this guidance will help you to solve most of your problems. But if you still have difficulties then HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will accept a printout from your commercial software as long as it is identical to the HMRC form.
Updated - November 2008: Some agents asked for further clarification around black-and-white PDF identical returns. A return printed using greyscale settings will contain various shades of grey. This is similar to the effect achieved if a colour return is photocopied in a non-colour printer, or to a black and white photograph of the return. This is very different to black on white computer output which, in contrast, contains only two shades - black and white, and no grey tones. It is the black and white only version that is not acceptable as an identical return.
If such a situation arises and you receive an error message, you have a choice of how to resolve this.
You can either print off the error report and file a paper return, along with a Reasonable Excuse Form (see the section What information do I need to include, below).
Or, you may prefer to file the return online at a later date.
You may also find it helpful to check the Service Issues pages on the HMRC website as this may give you additional advice relating to specific error codes.
Returns that are filed on paper after 31 October will normally trigger a penalty (a maximum of £100 per individual).
We will accept an appeal (under s.93, 93(A) or 118(2) TMA 1970) against a penalty for the late submission of a paper return on the basis of reasonable excuse where:
We will also consider sympathetically claims for reasonable excuse where you advise us that a paper return has been filed late because of another issue relating to use of the online service.
Please send a separate form or letter with the completed paper return as soon as you encounter problems with online filing. Please do not include the information within the white space as this may lead to a delay in processing your claim.
WTeSSG in collaboration with HMRC has produced the attached form that you may choose to use. It provides details of all the information required by HMRC for a claim for reasonable excuse.
The distinctive format will ensure that on receipt it is quickly identifiable, and will receive early consideration.
If you prefer not to use this template, then any letter you send needs to include the following information:
It would also be helpful if you would include a copy of any error message, or provide details of why a return could not be filed online along with details of the software package you are using.
We understand that you would prefer to prevent a penalty notice being issued to your client in these circumstances. If a claim of reasonable excuse is received and accepted prior to the penalty notice being issued, we will normally be able to inhibit the issue of the penalty notice. We will give you further guidance on this closer to the online filing deadline.
The claims will be dealt with by specialist teams who are experienced in the handling of reasonable excuse cases.
The capping provision will continue to apply this year to returns for Individuals and Trusts. This means any penalty charged would be the lesser of £100 or the tax due and remaining unpaid as at 31 January. We would therefore encourage your clients to pay any tax due by 31 January to ensure they minimise any penalty. No capping applies to Partnership returns.
Late filing penalties are being reviewed by the Powers Review and it is possible that the capping provision will change in the future.