A group of professional bodies has welcomed today’s recommendation by Lord Carter of Coles that the filing dates for personal self assessment tax returns should be 31 January for returns filed electronically and 31 October for paper returns. In his Review of HM Revenue & Customs online services published on 22 March 2006, Lord Carter recommended that the filing dates for income tax self assessment returns should be changed from 31 January to 30 November for e-filed returns and to 30 September for paper returns. The Government accepted these proposals but offered a period of consultation on the implementation of Lord Carter’s recommendations generally.
The Association of Accounting Technicians, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Association of Taxation Technicians, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners held a number of meetings with H M Revenue & Customs and H M Treasury over the past three months and conducted a survey of members to obtain statistical evidence to demonstrate the likely effect that the change of filing dates would have. Lord Carter asked to see the new evidence and having done so met with representatives of the eight bodies to discuss it in detail.
We welcome today’s announcement that on the basis of this new evidence Lord Carter has revised his recommendation to ministers. We believe that this announcement demonstrates clearly the effectiveness of the process of discussion and dialogue in which we, H M Revenue & Customs, H M Treasury and Lord Carter have engaged on this issue.
We fully support the Government’s stated policy objective of increasing the take up of HMRC’s e-services and we endorse Lord Carter’s statement that countries with a high take up of on line services attribute a large degree of their success to working with agent and software developers. We are ready to participate actively in the pursuit of this objective.
We believe that Lord Carter’s recommendation that HMRC should build in more rigorous testing and if necessary delay the implementation date for a particular service is critical to successful delivery of the Government’s policy objective. We welcome the statement in the Regulatory Impact Assessment issued on 22 March 2006 that “the success of the proposals will be constantly monitored and evaluated” and believe that this process should be achieved by close cooperation with key stakeholder groups. We hope that Lord Carter will wish to maintain a close involvement in monitoring the delivery of his proposals.
The bodies have a public interest obligation and we believe that unrepresented and non IT literate taxpayers and small firms of tax agents who may need to file paper returns and who find themselves without the necessary information at 31 October will face difficulties in meeting the new deadline. We wish to continue our discussions with HMRC to explore ways in which such people can be helped to meet their filing obligations.
We look forward now to engaging in discussions with HMRC on the many issues necessary to achieve the policy objective.
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