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HMRC gets something right at last!

It’s unusual for anybody to praise HMRC [1] these days, but contractor accountants may be interested to learn that the Chartered Institute of Taxation recently did exactly that.

Last year the Revenue took down its online filing system at the same time as the deadline for filing April’s VAT returns became due. This caused wide scale pandemonium and the CIoT [2] was quick to express its concerns.

This year, HMRC has decided to take the filing system down between the 8th and 11th of April – directly after the 7th of April deadline.

Simon Newark, the vice-chairman of the VAT [3] and Indirect Taxes Sub-Committee at the CIoT, said the Institute congratulated the Revenue on making a sensible decision this year. Along with other professional bodies, the CIoT has been putting concerted pressure on HMRC to rethink when it upgrades its systems.

He went on to explain that the Revenue’s complex systems need a certain amount of downtime when upgrades are being implemented but this needs to be timed so as not to adversely affect businesses that are trying to file their returns. Providing companies file their February VAT return online by the 7th of April, they should not be affected by the upgrade downtime.

He also suggested that HMRC might want to follow the lead of Companies House and send email notifications of future downtimes so that businesses can plan in advance.

Last year was the first time when businesses were penalised for late filing and the downtime caused huge problems for a lot of firms and advisers. The Revenue scheduled downtime for the 7th of March this year and some businesses were annoyed that HMRC gave very little advance notice of this.

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