back to article 6 days to go, no sweat, just more than a million UK firms still to sign up to Making Tax Digital

More than a million businesses have yet to register for the British government's new digital tax programme, with less than a week before the reform kicks in. Making Tax Digital (MTD), first announced by UK tax collector HMRC in 2015, will require companies to keep digital records and file quarterly reports with the taxman. It …

  1. JetSetJim Silver badge

    MTD is still a complete fluster-cuck. Having to buy in (*) something to fill in 7 numbers on a web-form seems pointless, particularly if you close off the alternative method of "just log in, click on 'submit return button', transcribe numbers from spreadsheet, check 'em, and then click 'submit return'".

    Why could they not just release a simple Excel plugin that adds a new sheet to your spreadsheet with a fixed format, asks you to select where the data comes from on your spreadsheet, specify your login credentials and then gives you a "submit" button in Excel, I don't know (and even this would be a pain in the arse as I bet it wouldn't remember the credentials for security reasons)

    (*) free stuff is out there, but I'm guessing the non-trivial businesses will just eat the slightly increased subscription to their accounting packages/people to have the API integrated

    1. overunder

      digital... not alphabetical?

      I don't understand the article as an American. In what aspect of tax is this? Making Tax Digital.... can you delete it? If there's a power outage, does tax no longer exist?

      Also, considering 'digital' means 0-9, is tax in the UK alphabetical... a.aB%? If I give you 1 US dollar, do you exchange it with "a d+o+l+l+a+r"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: digital... not alphabetical?

        > In what aspect of tax is this?

        It's one of those cynical Government schemes where the title is deliberately misleading. It's not "Making Tax Digital" it's actually "Making Taxpayers Digital" i.e. forcing the use of accounting software. And as others have alluded, presumably this is because they think that proving tax fraud will be easier. And as usual, it penalises small and medium-sized companies as Starbucks* don't pay tax anyway.

        [*] Other large corporate tax avoiders also available

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: digital... not alphabetical?

          > it's actually "Making Taxpayers Digital" i.e. forcing the use of accounting software.

          It's a bit more than that. Ultimately, they want full digital records - hence why so many of the small business accounting app's in their advertising campaigns have been focusing on the ability to take pictures of your receipts and maintain bank account details.

          Naturally, as there is no Standard (for only accounting records archiving) once you go with one accounting package/service provider, switching to another will be a right pain.

      2. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Headmaster

        For Americans...

        > I don't understand the article as an American

        In the UK, when businesses buy something for use in the business they still have to pay the VAT (a sales tax). Roll all the VAT charges of stuff bought, and call it amount A.

        That business then sells something (product/service) to someone or some other business - they then charge this tax to their customer. Roll all these taxes up and call it amount B.

        Some items are exempt from VAT charges (e.g. train tickets when you buy them, bank fees), it's not completely trivial to work it all out, but it's not rocket scientist and a lot of folks just build an Excel spreadsheet to do it for them

        At the end of every quarter (or possibly annually), the company then pays (receives) the amount (B-A) to the govmt (or receives a refund if it's negative).

        Currently, the online tax return form has at most 7 numbers to fill in (to also account for sales to/purchases from the EU), and it's a piece of piss to log in to the govmt website, go to the "Submit VAT return" area, fill those numbers in, and click Submit.

        Govmt, in its infinite wisdom, are "Making Tax Digital" by insisting on building a moderately simple API into this, not providing software that uses it, and trusting "free enterprise" to provide these tools to businesses to submit these returns - as part of this the manual entry method will be closed off to businesses. This is particularly painful for small businesses as it potentially adds further accounting charges to buy/maintain software that provides access to this API, when it's just a simple task anyway.

        Also, this is probably just the start of a "modernisation" of VAT reporting - currently it is only mandatory for companies with revenue over a particular threshold, but it will eventually get rolled out to every business, and I wouldn't be surprised if the reporting requirements eventually expand to actually submitting your individual business transactions to the govmt, rather than what is effectively summary data.

        All this in the name of "making it simpler for business, with lower likelihood of mistakes" (it isn't), and "making fraud investigations simpler" (I can see this if the auditing tools were developed well on the solution with all the transactions uploaded, but equally I can see them being completely fucked up and falsely identifying loads of folks as fraudsters).

        But you'll end up with a massive govmt database of every business transaction, which of course could never be abused...

    2. Giovani Tapini

      "Digital" projects have to cost more

      that's the way the money is made.

      There is no requirement for the changes to be sensible, because if they cost enough they must be good!

    3. Chloe Cresswell

      You also have to "love" how with 6 days to go, the sign up still says:

      "Terms of participation

      By taking part in this trial..."

      6 days and we're still a trial? This is MTD going live with beta software? Of course, it's a government IT project.... *shakes head sadly*

      1. 0laf Silver badge
        FAIL

        It's 'Agile'. I've heard Agile can be a good system if done properly but what is meant by 'Agile' in the public sector is best summed up on a Daily Mash mug - "Churn it out and fuck off early".

        1. The Original Steve

          Agile

          I thought "agile" was shorthand for: "We have no requirements, milestones, deliverables or a plan - but we need to get something out in 2 weeks time to submit the invoice to the customer; so get fucking coding!".

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "6 days and we're still a trial?"

        This is the new style HMG software - at least the public facing online stuff and, for all I know, behind the scenes stuff. It's all beta.

      3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

        6 days and we're still a trial?

        If it is being advertised as being still a trial, that would be a strong enough reason to not register.

      4. Terje

        I'm sure they treat it the same way some game companies treat online games, they are "officially" in beta until at least the third expansion!

    4. alain williams Silver badge

      MTD is still a complete fluster-cuck

      Having to buy in (*) something to fill in 7 numbers on a web-form seems pointless

      HMRC is pursuing the unicorn that by making everyone use an accounts package that tax fraud will be magically eliminated. They don't care a toss that it will cost all of us huge sums that bring us little benefit.

      This is especially onerous for small businesses who do not need costly accounts s/ware, eg private landlords. It is also a pain for those who have written their own accounting programs.

      From what I hear the amount of detail that will be required will increase over time, which means more time wasted entering, into accounts programs, information that is useless to the business, such as one purchases: supplier invoice numbers and VAT numbers.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: MTD is still a complete fluster-cuck

        Ah, but the time wasted is your own, not that of TPTB who want a detailed account of every transaction taking place in the UK and other economies where they overlap with the UK economy. Just as with the desire to collect every binary digit spanning and beyond the earth, this is about control. Amfm 1 could certainly put it better, we the People are the threat to those that wield true power over the world.*

        * - I wish it were tinfoil hat concern. It's not.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Excel plugin

      "Why could they not just release a simple Excel plugin"?

      HMRC haven't but these people have: https://vitaltax.uk/

      I'm not connected with it, other than using it successfully to submit our last VAT return. Free for first year then £1 a month.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excel plugin

        I'd use it, but I'm running Office 2007.

        There's too much spyware in later versions of Office. Office 2016 now even requires a permanently running background service spying on your system or refuses to run.

        Make it work with Excel 2007.

  2. Dwarf Silver badge

    Is it out of beta yet ?

    Last time I looked, it was still in beta, yet we were expected to sign up nonetheless.

    I'm waiting until its at stable release 1.0, since I've got more important things to do - like run a business !

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Is it out of beta yet ?

      "I'm waiting until its at stable release 1.0"

      You'll wait a long time. All HMG S/W is beta. Permanently.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital

    I have a digital message for HMRC.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Digital

      is that one or eleven?

  4. AMBxx Silver badge

    Still a non-story

    My VAT quarter ends 31st March. I'd be a fool to sign up to MTD before I absolutley have to. One this Q is filed, I'll register then get one of the free spreadsheet integrations that are kicking around ready for June.

    I'm damned if I'm going to start paying £30 per month just to file my VAT return.

  5. Christoph Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "Many businesses are using MTD as an opportunity to finally move from legacy software or spreadsheets to a fully fledged cloud accounting solution, and this can take time,"

    Or to put it another way:

    Many businesses who have been running on out-of-date software and so have no current technical expertise will be putting all their critical business accounting information in the cloud where it can get nicked if they haven't set it up properly.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Worse than that - miss one payment to QuickBooks online and your data disappears.

      I plan to retire in 10 years. I'd need to continue paying for online accounts for years afterwards in case of tax inspection.

  6. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Two phases to the roll-out

    The first phase allows submission of spreadsheet data using an API.

    The second phase involves a "Digital Link". Effectively being able to prove the calculations behind the figures. HMRC refer to a "Digital Journey" where keying figures into a spreadsheet would be insufficient. This requirement could be quite onerous, particularly if the entity submitting the figures is not the same as the VAT Registered entity.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    perhaps HMRC are the issue

    Applied over a month ago, should have got my code within 3 working days, still waiting, logged an online request with them today to chase it up. I'm sure won't be the only one.

    1. $till$kint

      Re: perhaps HMRC are the issue

      You're not. Similar story here.

  8. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    For years, whenever HMRC have asked businesses “Why have you reported sales of only £1,103 when it looks like it should have been £11,003 ?”, the businesses have replied “oh terribly sorry Mr Taxman I must have made a mistake when I retyped the number from the accounts program that I do use honestly I do into your web form, my keyboard is a bit wonky, spilled to much coffee in it, definitely not a deliberate attempt to under-report and pay less tax oh no that idea would never have entered my head.”

    So now they propose to fix this problem of people “mis-typing” the four numbers once each quarter by requiring that you use software that does it automagically.

    I do hope someone does an FOI in a year or so to ask how much more accurate the numbers have become.

  9. Terje

    "Many businesses are using MTD as an opportunity to finally move from legacy software or spreadsheets to a fully fledged cloud accounting solution, and this can take time,"

    Who in there right mind would think that the cloud i.e. things that may disappear or be unavailable with nothing you can do about it, should be trusted with your accounting? Will the excuse, sorry the cloud ate my accounting now be a valid excuse for not filing on time?

  10. Milton Silver badge

    Just imagine ...

    Just imagine ... if they put this level of misdirected effort, half-informed technical blundering, carelessness, lack of forethought and outright incompetence into pursuing the really big companies to pay their fair share of tax.

    I really must remember to save up a few thousand so that I can wine and dine my tax officials properly, and ensure that, because my affairs are huge, complex and international, we can have a Gentlemen's Agreement about what I should pay: on a handshake over a glass of wine.

  11. Aqua Marina

    Accountant says otherwise.

    Just forwarded this article to my accountant, who has told me it's wrong. Information coming from HMRC to Accountants is to not register until 7 days after the next return is made following the 31st March. Only then will the web-portal be deactivated.

    This would line up with the statement in the article that returns made by the 7th August onwards must be digital.

  12. The Onymous Coward

    Developer of a cheap Web based VAT filer for Excel fans here.

    The MTD go live has been a total clusterf*ck. HMRC's API returning false data, returning payloads that don't meet their own spec, blaming everything on us software vendors but refusing to deal directly with us to rectify their issues because GDPR.

    The support model is a mess. Their technical team can't access the data they need to troubleshoot, but the data team don't have the technical knowledge to investigate issues properly. On top of all that, there's a 30+ minute wait on the user helpdesk line, and those users who are lucky enough to get through just get told it's the software vendors' fault.

    Amateurs is too kind a word.

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