back to article Peers to HMRC: Digital tax reforms 3 days after Brexit? Hold your horses, how 'bout 3 years...

HMRC's digital tax reforms to VAT – due to launch just three days after Brexit – will hit small businesses hard and should be delayed, peers have said. HMRC is alone in its confidence that all one million businesses will be ready for Making Tax Digital for VAT in April 2019... In a report (PDF) published today, the members …

  1. Dr Who

    This is indeed shaping up to be a classic omnishambles.

    For businesses not using a package that already supports MTD for VAT, building bespoke links into the HMRC API looks like it wouldn't be too hard, or alternatively for bridging software I've found this solution https://www.btcsoftware.co.uk/mtd-for-vat-software-solutions-2/ which looks pretty good.

    HMRC bombard us with info about all kinds of guff, but nothing about this, which actually matters.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      FAIL

      I saw it a few weeks ago and despaired at the thought of having to spend cash on s/w to fill in the 7 boxes (mostly zero) of the VAT return. Some googling has found some Excel bridging s/w, but I've not tested them, and am not looking forward to the inevitable cluster-fuck of the first return after this.

      HMRC are currently forcing everyone to have some 3rd party solution to submit their VAT returns - pain in the arse. They should publish their own (for small businesses, at least, like their PAYE tools), as well as the API details.

      Allegedly all in the name of making things simpler for small businesses - blech

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        How in hell is filling out 7 boxes once a quarter so complicated it needs automating?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          How in hell is filling out 7 boxes once a quarter so complicated it needs automating?

          I had to laugh when told that this would be a benefit to me as it would mean that my tax returns were more accurate. I said my returns had never been inaccurate before and I couldn't see any benefit to me of having to submit three extra returns a year. I don't even have to do VAT and earn under 12k a year so this will just eat into that.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            earn under 12k a year so this will just eat into that

            Just to clarify I earn that from the flat I earn more than that from my day job. Thanks to my pedantic friend for pointing that out.

            1. lglethal Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              @ JimboSmith

              if i read the article correctly, you earn under 85k on your VAT taxable items (or however you want to call it), so you dont need to change anything...

              So dont stress... ;)

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            "I don't even have to do VAT and earn under 12k a year so this will just eat into that."

            In that case you are exempt at the moment because you are below the registration threshold.

            1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

              @katrinab Technically speaking,I should be exempt too. But I'm registered because - surprise - I'm not exempt even though I earn under the £85K limit. The reasons are obscure and byzantine, but as far as I can tell, the headline is that everyone under £85K is exempt from being registered for VAT, but the small print has enough little traps in it that most people who run their own business ought to be, almost no matter what they earn.

              1. katrinab Silver badge

                Some of the reasons why you might be required to register even though you are below the registration threshold

                You are a non-resident trader

                Certain types of foreign / EU trade

                Part of a VAT group

                In all of those cases, you won't be able to register for MTD at the moment, because it can't cope with those scenarios yet.

        2. jmch Silver badge
          Boffin

          "How in hell is filling out 7 boxes once a quarter so complicated it needs automating?"

          Depends on how complex is the calculation to arrive at the values you need to fill in, no?

          1. AMBxx Silver badge

            Automating the 7 boxes is just the start. My accountant says that transaction level will be next.

            Frustratingly, I keep hearing people saying that the ONLY solution is to go cloud for accounts. I'm one of the few small businesses genuinely filing digitally and it saves me all of 30 seconds every quarter. No, I'm not using cloud software - I'd like my data to still be there even when I stop paying.

        3. SJM

          Filling in the boxes is not the hard bit.

          From the business side of things, working out all of the ins and outs is where the effort is and many business use a lot of spreadsheets with data in all sorts of places.

          The biggest challenge is working out exactly which transactions were included in the total of your last return. For example, if a purchase invoice comes in late, you need to know if you claimed it on the last return or not.

          If you hire an accountant, they may manage this all for you yet without good systems, it can still be a manual process, therefore more expensive.

          From the government side of things, they are looking to remove the paper forms which cost them a great deal to process and can create more errors.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Here are the API details,

        https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api

        I had a look before and there is no reason why you couldn't write your own software. I did consider putting something simple together however the problem you have is the no "copy and paste" rule which would mean tailoring it to each business or getting each business to tailor there data to yours, you can export to csv/xml and import back in leaving a digital link. At least how I see it.

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          > there is no reason why you couldn't write your own software

          Well you need to register and get access permissions for your application.

          This looks to be intended for commercial accounting software vendors, not for software developers who could write a 50-line shell script to do this for their own business, nor for open-source projects.

          https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/using-the-hub

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          gnucash

          HMRC should work develop and give away a free addon for gnucash https://gnucash.org/

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From Window Tax to Windows Tax

    "the Government should consider again the case for providing a basic, free software option"

    I'm willing to bet that a free software option won't be available for a variety of operating systems. So am I going to have to buy a machine with windows?

    In the 18th century, people used to reduce their tax bill by bricking up windows.....

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: From Window Tax to Windows Tax

      No need for an OS rant - this could be web-based (like for XBRL submisisons for small businesses to Companies House etc.).

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        Re: From Window Tax to Windows Tax

        And you think that they won't fuck it up by requiring use of Internet Explorer or a Java plugin that somehow works only on Windows? You are seriously underestimating gov's capacity for fuckups!

      2. Aqua Marina Silver badge

        Re: From Window Tax to Windows Tax

        "No need for an OS rant - this could be web-based"

        It already is web based, you log in online and fill in 7 boxes. This is no longer good enough for HMRC, who want per-transaction-line auditing available through the API. I.e. you say you made £20,000 of sales, HMRC want the ability to scan all the transactions to verify you actually did make £20,000 of sales. Hold on a minute, your stock purchases don't tally up with your sales for the last 6 months, and the amount of income you are making doesn't match your personal tax returns, something must be fishy here, inspection time!.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: From Window Tax to Windows Tax

      Could it be a LibreOffice macro?

      At the moment, if you need to file a MOSS return, one of the options is to put the details in a spreadsheet template and upload it to them. The templates are available in Excel and Libreoffice formats, which between them, cover most operating systems.

      What will happen to MOSS after Brexit? Right now, nobody knows. Will UK traders have to register in another EU country to report sales after 29th March? I expect most will chose Ireland so that they can communicate with the tax office in English. Are they ready to handle loads of applications?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm working on implementing a MTD solution for the company I work for.

    I have to say most of our customers know nothing and are completely unprepared.

    Since the go live is next year, they should already be making sure they hold all of figures needed to make submissions digitally.

    I should also say that the HMRC test servers aren't great either. All of the documentation for MTD VAT is 'beta', meaning they can change it whenever they want, yet we are trying to create a piece of software that is supposed to go live next year. The test data/scenarios do not work flawlessly either. Because of the way the scenarios are implemented it's impossible to do a full walkthrough of the process using the test data. You have to stop and change the scenario half way through. Their test data/scenarios never work the way you want them to.

    I'm also quite annoyed that they have implemented MTD via the HMRC API instead of using the Government Gateway (Transaction Engine) that is used for making year end payroll submissions and CIS submissions. The old system works fine for two way communications using XML. Now we have to suddenly start learning an API that uses JSON instead, for no apparent reason.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Because JSON is the current hotness.

      If my recent experience is anything to go by, if it was local government they'd be looking for csv and not providing a schema so you have to guess what each field represents.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Beta, eh ?? Think yourself lucky.

      As I incessantly bang on about, because it's shooting fish in a barrel, people paying for their use of the Dartford Crossing remain subjected to an "alpha" site, which is apparently a "new" service. Four years after it went live. In what universe is going live with an alpha project a good idea, let alone still running it like that after four years??? Though maybe they're just being more honest than the rest of the govt. "digital" estate.

      Apparently the gov.uk "brand owner" has no influence or control over this. You so couldn't make it up.

      So good luck with MTD. You'll sure need it.

  4. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Nope

    First I've heard of this to be honest, although I am registered on the Flat Rate scheme (which I assume it doesn't affect*).

    Perhaps the figures relating to #businesses meeting the turnover threshold that are not on the flat rate scheme is a bit lower than the headline figures here (unless that's already been taken in to account).

    *I'm trying to break the habit of assuming anyone/anything makes sense anymore, but it's a struggle.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Nope

      The Flat Rate Scheme still requires a VAT return to be submitted - so yes, you will be affected. All that's different is that the value you send for Box 1 is your flat rate percentage times your revenue, rather than the VAT you've charges, and the box for VAT on purchases is zero (*)

      The s/w you use will still need to send the values for the 9 boxes (some may be calculated from the others), it's just that your calculations on what to put in the boxes are different to those not on the FRS.

      (*) - something like that, anyway, I've jumped off the FRS as it was no longer worth doing for me (and I think there was some new regulation that made it a pain, but I can't remember what. Anyway, IANAAccountant

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        Ah, in that case it might be the same for me then, since the s/w I use to create the values in the VAT return boxes is my brain :)

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Nope

          since the s/w I use to create the values in the VAT return boxes is my brain :)

          Bah, that will never catch on...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nope

            And it's almost certainly not HMRC approved.

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Nope

          > the s/w I use to create the values in the VAT return boxes is my brain :)

          As long as your brain can issue JSON with the correct formatting, after correctly passing an OAUTH authentication transaction, correctly setting the flags in the subsequent REST queries, you're good to go, then.

        3. katrinab Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Nope

          Sorry, you brain is not MTD compliant. You will need to get a new system.

    2. Herring`

      Re: Nope

      I'm assuming that my accountant has this in hand. I've been submitting VAT quarterly anyway - well, my accountant has. I'm on flat-rate too.

  5. Chloe Cresswell

    Yeah, to upgrade my version of sage to the one that can do MTD means having to move to a subscription: £850 a year to file VAT returns :(

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Not necessarily. You can still buy Sage on a perpetual licence, and if you want to make MTD submissions directly from the software you'll just have to subscribe to the MTD module. Still an annoying cost, but nowhere near £850/annum.

      And if you do go down the route of updating Sage and using it to submit, try SJ Software as a supplier instead of Sage. They're cheaper. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The cheapest sage subscription is £240 per year (or £480 with telephone support. I guess you must be on the 2 user version.

      https://www.sage.com/en-gb/products/sage-50c-accounting/

      Still a 48% (or 185% with telephone support) increase over last year.

  6. JimboSmith Silver badge

    I was contacted by my accountants a few years ago to tell me that MTD was coming. They said they couldn't tell me much more because there wasn't any more information from the HMRC at that time. So I ignored it as I only rent out a flat and have some investments which could theoretically come under this. Then I heard more, that there were dates for introducing this to the wider populace so I made enquiries with the HMRC. The lady on the enquiries line basically said that if I wasn't party of the exercise that was being conducted then they couldn't talk to me about MTD. I asked if they could at least tell me what records I would have to keep? No not if you're not part of the trial then we can't tell you anything. I said it sounded like I was going to be paying my accountants for four pieces of work a year as opposed to just one. HMRC lady said that I could just do it myself and that it would be easy to do online. I said great what details will I need to enter? I can't tell you that unless you're part of the trial sir. She said I would be able to submit my digital records online to which I said you mean the PDF account statement that the managing agents send me each month? I think you're trying to get information out of me that I'm not supposed to give to anyone outside the trial participants. I asked if I only received an annual statement for my flat accounts could I just submit things annually like now? That information is only available for participants in the yada yada yada same response etc.

    I asked if she could tell me what the fine would be for missing an information submission would be. I find it hard enough to get everything together once a year let alone every three months. Nope she couldn't do that either so I said it sounded like a shambles I would put money on the introduction deadlines slipping and wished her a pleasant afternoon. As it turned out the deadlines did get moved and I'm still waiting for more information. The HMRC website doesn't tell you anything about what you'll need to keep.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      "I can't tell you that.."

      ..because it has come to light that if you ask 15 HMRC staff the same question you would get 15 different answers, revealing that we have no idea what's going on. This way we get to give everyone the same answer and just look awkward, rather than incompetent.

      TFTFY :)

  7. H in The Hague Silver badge
    Pint

    How they do it in NL

    "This will mean – among other things – companies will have to update or buy in new, compatible software."

    VAT returns have been digital for yonks here in the Netherlands. If you use an accounting package you can use that. If not, or if you use a homebrewed system you just go to a web form and enter the numbers in a few boxes. Takes about 5 mins (if you're a slow typist) every quarter. Can't fathom why HMRC can't copy that approach. But UK bureaucrats always seem to find ways to make life unneccessarily complicated. (Don't get me started on jobsworth-pseudo-health & safety stuff (in contrast with real health & safety stuff which I'm all in favour of).) Time for a beer to soothy my nerves!

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: How they do it in NL

      I don't even have to fill in a VAT return and they're saying I'll still need to do this. I could cope with putting numbers into boxes on a webpage every quarter. I'm not going to be buying an app/software to do it although that's got me thinking. If the accountants do it they'll charge me and it's not reclaimable against tax. If I buy the software then that may be tax deductable and I can do it myself. The problem with that is I am then liable if I get it wrong which is less appealing. I'll just end up paying the accountants more thanks to this. I'll wait till HMRC tell me I have to do this before doing anything.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: How they do it in NL

        "The problem with that is I am then liable if I get it wrong which is less appealing"

        You're probably liable if they get it wrong as well. Just sayin'.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: How they do it in NL

      HMRC do it that way in the UK too.

      I've been submitting my VAT returns (flat rate) online for over 10 years now.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: How they do it in NL

      " If not, or if you use a homebrewed system you just go to a web form and enter the numbers in a few boxes. Takes about 5 mins (if you're a slow typist) every quarter."

      That's what we do at the moment, but the government wants to "modernise" it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, I’m really quite shocked that I hadn’t heard about this.

    I’ve only been VAT registered for a few months. Why didn’t everything that I signed up for back in the Summer say in big letters “This is only temporary, you’re going to have to do it all differently from next year”? I might efen have postposed registering to avoid the re-learning. (I’m voluntarily registered.)

    Currently I type about 4 numbers into a web page each quarter. I would have thought that that web page is a front end to some HMRC back-end system. Now they want me to talk directly to that back-end system, right?

    What a total pain. If it was something involving more data (e.g. PAYE for a medium-sized business) then I could see the possible benefit - but for just a handful of numbers every few months... why?

  9. OssianScotland

    As I understand it (from a brief conversation with my accountant) you are having to submit a lot more than boxes 1-9. He said all transactions involving a VAT element will need submission so presumably they can match the claimed refunds for one business against the sales for the other.

    I said it sounded like a complete clusterfork and he basically agreed. I have used an excel workbook for 15 years - never had any issues or complaints, but now I am going to have to completely revamp it into an HMRC compatible format (I am told Excel is an acceptable method as long as the layout matches what they want). I reckon one day chargeable time used per quarter (at the moment I am 10 mins a week updating the workbook, then 15 mins a quarter pulling out the numbers for the return).

    AAAARRRRGGGHHH!

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      "As I understand it (from a brief conversation with my accountant) you are having to submit a lot more than boxes 1-9. He said all transactions involving a VAT element will need submission so presumably they can match the claimed refunds for one business against the sales for the other."

      I suspect that was sort of what they were originally thinking - and when it was still at the planning stages some time back, I read stuff (on HMRC's site, I think) that suggested that during the submission process, the server could request more background data from the submission client. i.e. they could interrogate your software for the full data.

      However, even that's been scaled right back - to the extent some people have told me I was imagining it; I'm sure I wasn't. If you look at the API (I've linked to it in comments on El Reg before, and someone else has done so further upthread) it does indicate only the main VAT return boxes.

      There is supposedly a requirement that the figures be built up digitally (because that was supposed to be the point) - but AFAICS you could still keep manual records, and just key the VAT return figures into something that will then submit them, and they would be none the wiser at this stage*. It's all a big exercise in wasting lots of money.

      * Things might change in future, of course.

      1. Domino
        Unhappy

        "I suspect that was sort of what they were originally thinking - and when it was still at the planning stages some time back, I read stuff (on HMRC's site, I think) that suggested that during the submission process, the server could request more background data from the submission client. i.e. they could interrogate your software for the full data."

        Then someone mentioned GDPR and they realised having a normal set of accounts and an anonymised one for tax purposes might not be the best idea.

        I sometimes think big business has been lobbying for rules that force all small businesses to use their services. How many small businesses can comply with GDPR without handing off their IT infrastructure to a 3rd party?

        This just looks like another step down that road to me.

    2. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      > all transactions involving a VAT element will need submission

      That’s not how I understand it, based on https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Reading the REST API for the "submit vat return" (plenty of folk linking the docs), it is literally a JSON formatted 9 box vat return, so complete overkill for a small business which will in no way make your records more accurate as it's the same data you're submitting anyway

  10. DaveEdi

    Isn't that why I pay my accountant

    I don't see what the problem is. I already pay my VAT bill quarterly whenever my accountant (Inniaccounts) tells me too. Well, in reality, the VAT man just grabs it via DD.

    Not sure how this would change for me, but, I'm just a scumbag contractor.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Isn't that why I pay my accountant

      Do you think that contractors are ok with the 'scumbag' moniker because we know that we aren't ;)

  11. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    what a mess...

    This is only the second time I have heard of this. The first was last week when casually chatting to another small business owner....

    I think It will affect me/us (3 of us in company, VAT registered, c. 200k p/a turnover), but in what way I have no idea.

    If we need to run mandated software (rather than the existing relatively friendly webpage), then I would hope HMRC will supply suitable software free-of-charge to us, but from above comments, it seems not. I assume HMRC will also supply a suitable computer to us to run this software on - or is that wishful thinking? Why should I have to provide a machine to do HMRC's job?

    Spreadsheets have to be in a form they deem acceptable? Well, after 10 years doing this job, I have developed a nice spreadsheet which produces VAT figures, and produces all the other figures which are useful to me. Do I need to abandon this because a bunch of civil servant beancounters deem it non compliant? Are they going to pay me (sorry, I don't have the time as I'm too busy running the business) or pay someone else to rebuild the spreadsheet?

    As I say, I have had absolutely no correspondence from HMRC about this - maybe it doesn't affect me..... Or there again, maybe they are a bunch of clueless feckwits who think small businesses sit around with their fingers up their @sses all day long and have all the time and resources in the world to do their job for them,,,,,,

    Actually, I feel a letter to my MP coming on.... This could be fun...

    1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

      Re: what a mess...

      And I should have mentioned in the above that the spreadsheet is most definitely not in Excel... HMRC obviously realise that there are other spreadsheet packages available, which process data in openly defined and supported formats.... don't they?

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: what a mess...

        As far as I can tell, the API offers exactly what the current VAT submission web page does, but without the ease and simplicity. There are free offerings out there, mainly as an Excel bridge where you just fill in the 9 boxes and probably supply your credentials to submit it.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: what a mess...

      "Actually, I feel a letter to my MP coming on.... This could be fun."

      I once sent a letter to my MP written on toilet paper. I recall mentioning that that's what I suspected all letters were used for anyway.

      On that *one* occasion I got a response from the actual MP, handwritten, rather than the usual boilerplate stuff you usually get back.

      Not sure it would work these days, someone would probably be offended and I'd be carted off to prison to learn to become an actual criminal and thereafter get an easier ride from the system.

    3. Steve Gill

      Re: what a mess...

      I'm guessing it's the usual HMRC game of wanting more detailed information while simultaneously wanting to reduce their costs and effort. Obviously every small business has spare cash to invest in a compatible commercial system and the time to learn to use it or they have an IT department sitting around with nothing better to do.

    4. Gonzo wizard

      Re: what a mess...

      I've heard nothing from HMRC. Silence. Nada. Not a thing. Are they even ready?

  12. d3vy Silver badge

    I'm.currently in the process of moving to xero from excel because of this... I hope they do postpone it... It's been a pain in the arse so far and at £22 a month is an extra annual expense I don't really need

  13. Seven_Spades

    Does anyone know what additional information they will collect over and above what they collect now?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you haven't heard then you need to be asking your accountant why they haven't informed you.

    I believe the plan is to eventually go to monthly returns as they do for PAYE.

  15. JimC Silver badge

    A HMRC spokesman got in touch to defend the department and its approach to the programme –

    because everyone who said that this is an upcoming pile of pain and totally impractical got sidelined from the project for not having a "can do" attitude, so the whole thing is being run by a bunch of incurable optimists and posterior lickers with their hands over their ears saying "la la, can't hear any problems"...

    At least that would be my guess...

  16. Glennda37

    It isn't that hard

    As somebody that runs a small business, it really isn't that had to make tax digital, I used to use a spreadsheet and moved to software. The cost of the software/time invested in doing it really does save so much time in the long run.

    I use FreeAgent and it costs me £261/year ex vat, it automatically calculates

    VAT

    Corporation Tax

    Self Assessment (with a few additional inputs)

    VAT it calculates itself from the transactions you record, submitting is pressing a button and entering credentials.

    It also does:

    Payroll

    Day to day Accounting, with feeds from the Bank.

    I spend probably 1 to 2 hours a month doing the accounts, things like Payroll unless changing staff details is just login and press submit, enter the HMRC credentials and away you go.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: FreeAgent

      <googles, follows link>

      Run your business from anywhere

      So that'll be cloud then meaning all my confidential data is held on a server god knows where with god knows who having access to it and I have zero backup on systems I control. Shall I look to see if FreeAgent will compensate me for the fines I'll incur when it goes TITSUP on the last weekend before the submission deadline?

      And all for the bargain sum of £261 per year. That works out as £65.25 per VAT return to fill out 7 boxes for me.

      Errrrr, no thanks.

    2. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: It isn't that hard

      > I use FreeAgent and it costs me £261/year ex vat

      > I spend probably 1 to 2 hours a month doing the accounts

      Well that is £261 more than I spend - and you still have to spend hours each month?

    3. fitzpat

      Re: It isn't that hard

      I worked directly in the MTD team defining/implementing the API - against the HMRC Policy Team's requirements. They really are incapable of thinking about data, only about the paper form with 9 boxes. We did our best to protect you/us all from them and the 1000 year old organisation around them.

      Re: spreadsheets - absolutely acceptable, but there must be an automated i.e. code process that sends data to the API. No copy paste into handcrafted JSON and scripted REST requests, sorry.

      What must be sent via API every 3 months is pretty much what you enter on the website now, but only for that 3 months, and to be sent within 1 month of the end of that period else PENALTIES.

      You need to maintain but do not have to provide the raw transactions i.e. the spready unless they ask, for example in an investigation.

      In the case of VAT, completely trucking pointless with such a low error/compliance rate in the existing web submission system. But it will prep people nicely for the real prize - MTD for self assessment income tax . Yep you're going to have to do your income tax return every 3 months too.

  17. Andrew Dancy

    Gap in the market?

    I'm seriously considering knocking up a simple app to do this, especially now it looks like they've backtracked and only require you to enter the nine box numbers from the VAT return. Although there are lots of spreadsheet bridges there seems to be a gap in the market for a simple standalone app for people who keep their records separately (spreadsheet, old-school desktop accounting software, etc) and don't mind just typing nine numbers into boxes once every three months and pressing a button.

    As mentioned the main obstacle seems to be getting approved by HMRC to actually be able to access the API. That and coming up with a suitably snazzy name. I'm tempted by something like Hector - bonus points if anyone can remember him, and the word sums up HMRC's approach to MTD quite appropriately!

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Gap in the market?

      > That and coming up with a suitably snazzy name. I'm tempted by something like Hector

      That's the single user version. The networked version will be called LANable Hector.

      <that's my coat, the one with the mouth guard built-in to the hood>

    2. ehup

      Re: Gap in the market?

      Harvey Keitel's brain in a tin can, wandering around trying to bugger Farah Fawcett?

      1. Andrew Dancy

        Re: Gap in the market?

        Sadly not, although that does give a wonderful mental vision!

        I meant more Alec Guinness...

  18. HxBro

    No changes for me...

    1. Already have invoices and receipts in online accounting system.

    2. Already push a button to generate vat return

    3. ??? (something accountant system does)

    4. Vat return filed, HMRC take money from bank by DD

    Changes required by me, none.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VAT? Huh! What is it good for?

    When (if?) we leave the EU, would it be crazy to just abolish VAT? It seems unnecessarily complex; I mean the only people who actually pay it are us consumers, but it has to be accounted for all the way through the supply chain. If you got rid of it then VAT fraud would be a thing of the past, you could sack off a lot of accountants, and HMRC could have saved however much they've spaffed on this fiasco. Make up the revenue by increasing income tax: we'll have less money in our pockets but the things we want to buy will be cheaper.

    No doubt there are reasons for VAT, but are they good ones?

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: VAT? Huh! What is it good for?

      The theory behind Vat is that it is a simplification. Every transaction has VAT on, so there are no exemptions, and no problems with alleged business to business transactions that are retail in disguise, thus fraudulent. Of course it didn't stay as simple as that...

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: VAT? Huh! What is it good for?

      £125 billion. That's what it's good for. I think axing that shortly after we've told 6m or so tax paying European workers to fuck off home might be a bridge too far myself

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: VAT? Huh! What is it good for?

        @JimC: VAT is a simplification compared to a sales tax. I'm suggesting simply doing away with it, not replacing it with a sales tax.

        @Androgynous Cupboard: the £125bn comes out of UK residents' pockets, the same place income tax comes from (more or less). Moving tax take from VAT to income tax doesn't appear to change the amount received by the government, or the amount paid by the population.

        The most fundamental argument I've seen for taxing spending instead of income is to encourage saving over spending; but that hasn't really been a policy goal since 2008. The main kind of individual saving that's economically important is pension saving, and that's already encouraged by income tax relief. So moving tax from spending to income shouldn't change the net incentive to save in a pension.

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Higher

    The line should be at £1,000,000 of revenue per year to start. There are going to be massive bugs in the system. By only working with a much smaller number of business initially, it will be easier to sort out discrepancies in the system. The larger businesses will also be in a much better position to be able to afford the extra accounting. If you are just trading part time for holiday money outside of a full time job, you may not have the time, money or expertise to sort through all of the non-documented "features" of the system and possibly wind up being liable for penalties in excess of what you earned in the first place.

    I'm with a couple of the other commenters in that I don't care to use "cloud" accounting services. I want vital company records on-site where I can access them whether the internet is up or not. Some software is fine as a subscription, but company accounting has to be maintained for years and that's a long stretch to continue paying a software vendor for something you don't active use anymore just in case. My accounting software gets updated when it stops working with the OS on my new computer. I'm happy with it already and all of the new features don't interest me or apply to my business.

  21. Stuart Moore

    Radio 4 moneybox

    There was a Radio 4 Moneybox episode about this a few weeks ago, should be still there in the podcast. Most accurate thing was when this was all described as making tax difficult.

    It sounds like the original plans might have been useful with extra detail, but now they're watered down to uselessness someone is insisting on going on to save face... Bloody politicans

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost/benefit

    So far I am actively resisting my Accountants' recommendation that I pay £14pcm for cloud software that pretty much does their job for them (with no drop in fees, 'natch), just to fulfil HMRC's desire that we all use software that does their job for them. I will start paying it when it is mandated by law and not before.

    I told my Accountants that £14pcm for a bit of software that gives me no more benefit than my existing spreadsheet (other than fulfilling HMRC's demands, I mean) was ridiculous, given that a subscription to Office365 Premium, for example, is around £9pcm. Their response was "but Office365 doesn't submit your VAT Return". Which kind of missed the point I was trying to make - that the cost/benefit is awful.

  23. WhiteDragon43
    Boffin

    One screw up to rule them all

    For any software developer the following is the entry to loss of sanity:-

    https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0

    None of it is finalised and will change regularly as and when HMRC sees fit to revise what ever it wants - of course end users will have to pay for those updates.

    Anything that is computer related and especially under HMRC control has the kiss-of-death attached, just increase the VAT rate to cover the loss and increase the fines for non-compliance.

    Mandatory to be using whatever is designated as MTD from April 2019

  24. Chard

    Limited competition

    Given the simple requirements I had, spread-sheets were perfectly adequate. However, I have found that using one of the (online) accounting systems has been a nice time saver. More for general account balancing that the simple VAT submission, mind.

    What is galling is that the provider is raising prices; twice now since I started using them.

    There isn't a lot of choice/competition in this field, and it would be difficult for new entries to gain a foothold, so this is setting a worrying future trend. It would be a pain migrating once you're tied in.

  25. jms222 Bronze badge

    Visicalc

    > spreadsheet is most definitely not in Excel

    Visicalc it is.

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