Tax and Compliance Hurdles for Small Companies


Friday, December 24th, 2010. 2:46am


After Days Battling with a Companies House Online Form I Resorted to the Royal Mail

After Days Battling With a Companies House Online Form I Resorted to the Royal Mail

Encouraging people to start and run companies is essential for the UK’s economy. There is huge potential for making small companies’ interactions with Government simpler and cheaper and to remove some of the hurdles those running smaller companies currently face.

Something to Aim For

For many companies and sole traders with straightforward affairs tax and legislative compliance could be almost entirely automated. One could run the company via a single bank account, information from which could be extracted and sent to HMRC via an automated web-system following the provision of some additional information to enable the classification of transactions. On the 27th of November I spoke to Cambridge’s MP Julian Huppert about opening up both the UK state owned banks and the HMRC to enable and encourage the public provision of this kind of system. I followed up with a tweet saying:

@JulianHuppert HMRC and banks working together via http://uk.xero.com like service could scrap small business tax forms and hassles.

While expensive software, and professional services are currently available they are largely exploiting the fact that dealing with the state is currently too difficult for small companies. Instead of seeking to render these services redundant by improving the way HMRC and Companies House work directly with companies it appears the Government is keen, by providing poor services themselves, to keep them in business.

Current Problems

There are a huge number of problems for those trying to work with HMRC and Companies House’s online systems. One of the basic errors has been the decision by both organisations to use complex PDF forms. These are simply the wrong technology for the job. Everything which is done by the forms embedded within the PDFs could be done with web-based forms. Whereas the PDF forms are very demanding in terms of the precise versions of Adobe Reader software they require to work and come with many pages of instructions on how the document’s security settings need to be adjusted to function it would be possible to make web-based forms work in effectively all web-browers.

Personally, over the last four days I have been trying to use the Company’s House accounts submission form. I used three different Adobe Reader versions, two different computers (one Mac and one PC), and tried a number of times to start again with new forms and re-type my information. I tried all-sorts of possible ways to try and remove any problems, for example getting rid of any unusual characters such as £ and & signs from my submission, but all to no avail.

The internal validation in the form was broken; sometimes changing between pages and not editing any content would make the difference between passing and failing the validation. At one point submission appeared to work, with a progress bar showing the form was communicating with Companies House, however at the end of the process the form did not become an uneditable PDF as promised and a yellow bar appeared at the top of the document – an alert stating some functions were disabled due to the document’s security settings. As I never obtained a confirmation email (Companies House says one ought be expected about three hours after submission!) it appeared I had not been successful.

Even with security settings adjusted about the best response achievable was: “failed to process submission [xdp2xml]“. Having exhausted all possible ways of trying to submit online I resorted to a walk through the snow to a post office to send in a paper copy.

failed to process submission [xdp2xml]

In November 2010 Companies House announced their vision to become a fully electronic registry by March 2013. This is subject to consultation and regulations being passed by Parliament. While I would like to see a fully electronic system there is a need for much more robust and easy to use systems before the paper option can be removed.

Combined HMRC and Companies House Joint Filing

Clearly the idea of being able to file accounts with Companies House at the same time as submitting a corporation tax return is a good one. However the implementation currently is terrible. The main problems are:

  • Companies House doesn’t trust HMRC to authenticate those logging in on behalf of companies; to use the joint filling system it is necessary to give the HMRC form login/authentication details obtained from Companies House.
  • Accounts information required by HMRC for small and medium sized businesses vastly exceeds what is required to be put on the public record at Companies House. The combined system does not provide any assurances about what information will be passed to Companies House.

A flaw in many HMRC systems is that it is impossible to find out what is required before actually coming to do something. I think it is important for those considering starting a business, or for those considering doing something in a new way (for example joint filing) to be able to see what would be required of them in advance.

Conceptual Problems

One of the conceptual problems the HMRC has is that it highly regulates the type of software which can be been used to submit information to them. This is required at the moment as there is no opportunity to check information once it has been submitted to HMRC. HMRC could allow any software to pass data to HMRC but deal with the final step of checking and approving the final “forms” directly on their website. I think this would be a desirable workflow to offer.

HMRC ought provide basic online web forms for corporation tax returns in the same way as they do for personal tax returns.

Other Problems

The internet is full of problems people have had tackling the HMRC’s online services. My own company has been asked to submit paper copies of documents after filing them electronically; something which it can be seen online happens quite regularly. Also tone of letters from HMRC (like letters written by TV Licensing) is generally accusative and slightly threatening whereas initial correspondence about problems ought be more positive and aimed at resolving any problem.

I know of companies which have been threatened with having their assets sold for an alleged failure to submit a “P35″ annual PAYE P35 return and a company threatened with being struck off the register of companies because HMRC had wrongly and inexplicably gained the impression the registered address was no longer valid. (Problems with P35 submissions and HMRC being trigger happy with penalties reported extensively online (from 2007 to 2008 and still happening this year, more); there are clearly problems with the HMRC’s systems, I cannot see why especially for those filing electronically any problems can’t be notified as soon as they arise by email; issuing penalties many months later without any warning is not a right and proper way to behave).

Company Taxation

While this article is not focused on compliance requirements or taxation levels themselves, but on the difficulties government creates for those trying to deal with government online it is probably the right place to note that I think the coalition’s decision to reduce Corporation Tax by 1% from 2011 is a good step. I think though that for smaller companies and especially entrepreneurs running a number of companies the savings in time and professional fees from shaking up government’s interactions with small companies has much greater potential to encourage economic activity.

Another key area which I think needs reform is VAT. So many sole traders and small businesses operate below the VAT threshold to avoid the step change in compliance requirements, and to avoid being subject to the immense powers of VAT inspectors. The Federation of Small businesses this month has been calling for an increase in the VAT threshold, I think this would be an easy way to give a boost to many small businesses and small traders.

I think also needs to be made much easier to employ people, when I spoke to Mr Huppert about this I mentioned the French system, I followed up with a tweet saying:

@JulianHuppert I also mentioned the French “Cheque Emploi” system http://bit.ly/fPEPy4 (inc. small biz version) Concept cld -> paperless.

I think that those working for small companies have different expectations, and different needs for protection than those working for larger organisations. Smaller companies need more exemptions from employment law.

39 comments/updates on “Tax and Compliance Hurdles for Small Companies

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I think like many public sector organisations there is great variability in the quality of their staff; I too have come across helpful individuals within both HMRC and Companies House.

    These people are not free to speak out about the problems within their organisations though.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    Coincidently today I have been sent a leaflet from HMRC warning that from the 1st of April 2011, for accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010 Company Tax Returns must be filed online using iXBRL format for accounts and computations.

    from the 1st of April 2011, for accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010 Company Tax Returns must be filed online using iXBRL format for accounts and computations. from the 1st of April 2011, for accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010 Company Tax Returns must be filed online using iXBRL format for accounts and computations.

    The problems with this leaflet include:

    • Stating that Company Tax Returns must be filed online using iXBRL format. There is no need for recipients of the leaflet to know the name of the underlying mark up format being used; the use of the term appears intended to scare people away from completing their own returns.
    • The back page contains the statement that “you don’t need to worry about iXRBL because your software will do the work for you”; this appears to contradict the scaremongering front page and brings the whole purpose of the leaflet into question. There is not enough emphasis on the fact that in theory the PDF form provided by Companies House will enable submissions to be made without those filling it in being concerned about the format used to transmit the data. ie. there ought be clear assurances that it will be possible to use the HMRC’s free software to enter and submit ‘accounts’ and ‘Computations’.
  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    The current HMRC downloadable PDF version of the Corporation Tax (CT600) form does not allow an ubloated, non-interactive, plain version to be “printed as a PDF” to keep as a record. This functionality is blocked. This has become important as HMRC are not keeping legacy support for the old PDF formats and making it hard for people to keep their own, electronic, records of exactly what has been submitted.

    Even printing has proved challenging for some:
    http://forums.contractoruk.com/accounting-legal/52425-electronic-ct600-pdf-not-printing.html

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve just been reading HMRC’s response to their consultation on Compulsory online filing of Company Tax Returns to which there were just 18 responses.

    It includes this gem:

    Following an undertaking given by Ministers the draft regulations included an exemption from online filing where all directors of a company or members of an unincorporated association are members of a religious society whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic communications.

    There is no mention in this, or any other consultation document I can find of the PDF based system.

  5. Darren Greaves

    Hi, I had the same xdp2xml problem as noted above.

    After talking to the helpdesk it turns out that the form “can’t handle paragraphs, commas or apostrophes” in the notes fields.

    I re-formatted my notes to be all one line with no commas or apostrophes and it submitted successfully.

    Shockingly bad excuse for an IT solution but at least it worked in the end.

  6. Paul Clark

    So glad someone is taking HMRC to task over this. I have just done two filings with the PDF and both have been utter disasters.

    In the first case, I started it before October 2010 and hence was using the old (non JOINT) version. It cannot accept Small Pool Allowance (validation fails at CP89) and hence I had to do the calculations manually.

    In the second case, using the new version, although it appears to have submitted OK I can’t print the CT600 – the appalling bodge of outputting HTML to TEMPDIR and opening IE on it isn’t even hot-linked.

    Among other issues:

    - Total insanity of PDF security settings
    - Random disabling of forward navigation meaning you have to scan forward page by page
    - Re-entering fundamentals like turnover 3 times
    - Re-entering previous year values
    - Can’t use computations until after creating accounts, so have to calculate CT yourself anyway!
    - Failure to output valid accounts (mine still have DRAFT on them)

    As you’ve said above, a lot of this comes from the utterly daft decision to do this in PDF. I can only imagine some consultant had a bee in his bonnet over this and forced this through. It should be all done Web-side, with stateful memory of previous years, payment history etc.

    Paul
    Cornwall

    P.S. I also noticed your FOI request – very nice!

  7. Nick Barnes

    Completely agree with your remarks on the nightmare of web-filing.

    I run a small software consultancy and we do all our own accounts with some home-grown software which essentially automates a simple paper double-entry system. Years ago we used to hire an accountant to do our annual accounts, and every year he would take away our meticulous and carefully filed paperwork and return with about ten pages of mysterious numbers, which I never properly understood but which we would have to sign and file with the Powers That Be. I disliked this system so much that I started filing our accounts myself. The first few years, this was fairly trivial: carefully hand-crafting a (plain ASCII) set of accounts, then filling in a CT600 and posting the very-abbreviated version to Cardiff. The CT600 was already too complex for the typical small-business operation, but could be successfully filled in by ignoring 95% of the boxes.

    Then webfiling arrived, and has been an unremitting nightmare. The fact that it starts with abusing the security system inside Adobe Reader is not a good sign, and it goes downhill sharply from there. My carefully hand-crafted accounts? First I have to turn them into a PDF, for no good reason at all. Then I have to round everything to whole pounds, because the brain-damaged Reader scripts won’t accept proper numbers. But of course the rounded values still have to add up correctly, so here and there the extra pound has to be added in just to compensate for web-filing stupidity. As I recall, these particular lies has to be done differently for the web CT600 and for the web CH form. Joy.

    I have come to dread December, because of this webfiling misery. I see that next year I will have to coax some magical mystery format called iXBRLSPONGWIBBLE out of my home-grown Python scripts, without any clear information on how to do that. Oh, but not to worry, because “your software will do this automatically.” How kind of HMRC to offer to send someone around to rewrite my scripts. I’ll provide coffee and biscuits.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    A year on and the Companies House system is still broken with the “failed to process submission [xdp2xml]” error; which is very annoying as it comes at the end of a long process.

    The HMRC corporation tax form, while still a bonkers downloadable PDF trying to do something a plain webpage would do many times better has improved.

    Despite the improvement it is still terrible.

    Security alerts follow the opening of the form, and digging through the pages of instructions on how to set the security settings, instructions which don’t quite match what’s on the screen, and with illegible screenshots is still the first thing users are directed to do. (When I got to the “Add to Trusted Identities” section button it was greyed out, with no indication of what that means – “already added” perhaps?)

    There is a huge amount of repetition in the form. Questions are asked to which the answer has already been given repeatedly. Some of the same information is asked for as many as four times; often questions are asking for information already held by HMRC.

    There are some basic broken form elements, such as drop-downs where it is compulsory to select the solitary item in the menu. Both companies house and HMRC still have date fields, with no clue given as to what date formats they accept, not even when the format attempted fails the validation.

    The order of doing things appears all wrong to me, surely step one ought be to calculate the tax, as the amount of tax owed is needed for the accounts.

    Apparently companies now need turnover policies and policies on disabled workers. This is additional bureaucracy.

    While the whole thing works (very slowly and annoyingly given the repetition) only a government body would reward you on submission with:

    Where else on the planet do you get messages like:

    HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are not yet able to confirm that your return has been successfully received. It may take up to 10 minutes to receive a response

    The whole thing is very broken. I wonder why anyone would have thought the approach of using Adobe PDF forms was a good idea.

    As a last point the copies of forms to save/print don’t even open in generic PDF readers, they too only appear to work with specific versions of Adobe software.

  9. Some reasons

    The reason for the approach was that PDF was the only remotely platform independent mechanism where such documents can be secured to the standards they are, and also shared between known identities with an audit trail.

    How much of this is “required” vs “desirable” vs “sold” is an open question that others can go into.

    One aim, which this system meets, is for you to be able to fill in part of the form, and your accountant to fill in other parts, and then for either of you to submit it, with full identify knowledge in case HMRC decide to take you to court.

    It is also a relatively old system. It may be that the identity and other process work being done by the GDS team mean that it could go away in the medium term. As usual, those who expressed interest in the system when it was being built were those who got to decide its characteristics. I doubt many accountants were pushing for it to be easier for individuals to submit returns.

    It may be that one of the reasons for the versioning is the horrendous security record of Adobe’s PDF reader, and the need to make sure that the version used is secure enough for the stated conditions to hold.

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    The issue described in comment 7, where characters like apostrophes are not permitted in accounts submitted to companies house via the Adobe PDF system is still present.

    As for if paper submission of accounts has actually been stopped, as the leaflets reproduced above, suggested, I can’t find any hard information either way on the Companies House website. If the system is still so broken I would suggest abolishing the paper form has been premature.

  11. Mark Margetts

    I just came across these posts whilst trying to find a solution to the problem of the ‘greyed out’ ‘Add to Trusted Identities’ issue with the CT600. I have been trying to resolve this problem for the past 5 days and if I dont find the solution within the next 24 hours will be facing late filing penalties – advice on HMRC site suggests calling their WebFiling Helpdesk which is ‘Busy’ no matter what time of the day or evening you call.

    If anyone has the answer to this please can they post here asap – then I can get onto the joys of trying to complete and submit the form which I am really looking forward to!!!

    Thanks & Happy New Year

  12. Simon

    I have just had the pleasure of a 2nd year ct600 the hmrc online submission is a nightmare, the form field do not calculate if you input account data as per a hard copy you have to basically frig the figures and make up some grey areas to get the calcs to work, surley not the way forward

  13. Mike Austin

    I chanced across this page after Googling the “HMRC not yet able to confirm” message. I have been using PCs every day since 1986 and have submitted 25-30 CT600s for 4 companies over the years. This online system is a nightmare! I cannot get a copy of what I have entered – even after following HMRC’s help. The system is intolerant to rounding errors. I still don’t know if I have submitted anything!
    What can be done to challenge such a system? Is there a forum or pressure group that would be listened to, or are HMRC a law unto themselves?

  14. Richard Taylor Article author

    Another mad element is the direction on the “how to pay corporation tax” page at:

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc/corporationtax.htm

    which says to phone up to obtain the required reference number. These are in-fact available via the Corporation Tax online system albeit it well hidden under the “accounting periods” link rather than as one might expect: “how to pay”.

    I have used the HMRC’s “Payment Feedback” form to make the suggestion that the guidance is improved to include details of where the reference numbers required to make payments can be found via the corporation tax online system. I have also suggested the reference number ought be shown (or linked to) where the current amount due is shown.

    Once one has the reference numbers the next step is determining if the payment ought be to the A/C number for “Shipley” or “Cumbernauld”, I don’t think there’s any clue on that one available via the online system!

  15. Dee

    I have been struggling with the CT600 for months now, the struggle has entailed getting a new machine(we’re on Macs and after first struggles advised by HMRC to use a PC), fines, paying a third party to convert to XBRL so for a small busines is costing a lot. Still struggling.

    A web based system like the self asssessment would be a lot easier to use.

    And if their system doesn’t work, they should allow attachments to a secure server or via post!!

  16. Lawrence Impey

    Tried to submit abbreviated accounts PDF to Companies House and I have repeatedly been getting the ‘Failed to process submission [xpd2xml]‘ error message. I phoned Companies House and they said their sever was busy, try some other time. Well I have and it still doesn’t work. However, yesterday I did submit a full set of accounts to HMRC and Companies House for another company using the HMRC PDF. I think maybe this is a better route than separate returns and it worked perfectly (of course I had to jump through all the mad PDF security stuff first).

    (London)

  17. Andrew Bower

    Hi Richard,
    I don’t know about HMRC – I assume they are working in tandem on this to some extent – but I received a reply from Companies House to the question of using WebFiling to file iXBRL accounts prepared offline. The response indicates that you may well get the pure online web form you advocate!

    We are continually looking at ways in which we can improve WebFiling and increase the electronic filing of Accounts. Uploading iXBRL accounts via WebFiling is something that is being considered as an option, and we are currently investigating the requirements.

    Although you construct Accounts in iXBRL, you may be interested in a WebFiling development which is scheduled for implementation early next year.  The WebFiling Audit Exempt Accounts PDF is to be re-designed so that customers will no longer have to download the Adobe PDF template,  but input figures into updated WebFiling screens. 

    I’ve written a script to create formatted iXBRL accounts from a relatively simple input XML format that might be useful for anyone who wants to do DIY accounts (particularly if they fall outside the narrow capabilities of the PDF form). It produces output that validates with Companies House and HMRC.

  18. Chris

    Whoever implemented the electronic CT600 PDF submission system needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. It’s over engineered and far too reliant on having correct versions of software and a very specific configuration to enable it to work. I work in the IT industry and I’ve never seen such stupidity.

    Added to that the support desk that is unhelpful, rude and dismissive makes for a very strressful experience.

    I’ve discovered one thing though, if HMRCs IT support cannot resolve the problems preventing you from submitting the form they will eventually give up and provide a reference number enabling you to submit manually. It took a lot of prodding to get them to admit to this alternative, I just hope that in my case they will give up and provide me with the number soon as I’ve had to fill out the form 5 times from scratch so far.

    Only a government run organisation could be so incompetent….

  19. Richard Taylor Article author

    Notes from this year’s experience:

    Again I’ve had to follow instructions on security settings which include, in section 8, giving the government access to all files on the computer being used.

    An early question on the CT600 is “Period of accounts dates for the period that is being reported”; yet this had to be selected before download of the PDF and the heading of the page on which this question is asked is “Accounting Period: 06 Apr 2011 – 05 Apr 2012″; other questions ask for information available from Companies House.

    It asks me to calculate the amount of Tax due; when it should know the tax rate and be able to apply it.

    The view and print option doesn’t work on the form.

    Characters such as “&” are not accepted in the free text fields. (Not the similar issue descibed on the HMRC site).

    A date is required in field AC198A of the CT600 – it is picky about the format, but gives no hint as to what the format ought be. “19/12/2012″ is accepted (There is also a very well hidden option to use a calendar to enter this date).

    The “computations” section requests information already submitted in the “accounts” section; information is then requested for a third time in the “CT600″ section.

    They take bank details just in case a re-payment is due – even if the tax hasn’t yet been paid – this looks like just collecting bank account details in a dodgy manner. (While not clear in advance this section can be left blank).

    Overall it took about six hours to complete the online forms – starting from a point of having all relevant information to-hand – an in-essence just reporting a handful of figures to the government.

    The final message is:

    Modem users may want to disconnect from the Internet now.

    Which gives some indication of what planet they’re on!

    Details of the reference numbers etc. needed to actually pay the tax are still under the “accounting periods” link rather than as one might expect: “how to pay” or one of the other more appropriate areas – other such as the new advice to use “Cumbernauld” if you are unsure of the office are given via the under the “how to pay” link.

  20. Jes Holmes

    I am so glad to have found decent, reasonably priced software, to take care of all this. We use VT Final Accounts (Excel add-on) to prepare annual accounts. You can enter direct into a Trial Balance. It produces abbreviated and/or full accounts. When it’s balanced, one button produces the iXBRL file. Then TaxCalc (using a simple-step menu system) creates the CT600, attaches the iXBRL file and submits the CT600 online to HMRC. We had to do an emergency assist for a friend recently rushed into hospital late afternoon right on a filing deadline. We were given a set of final accounts in rough form and all the official dates and references. It took us less than three hours to put all the figures into the TB, double check some anomolies in the analysis, produce printed and iXBRL accounts, compile the CT600 and submit it online successfully. The last few years have been virtually trouble free on the actual official online submissions. We would never have anything to do with using the ‘official’ data entry systems provided – for all the reasons mentioned above. Too clunky, illogical, and just plain confusing. I really don’t know if anyone ever ‘field tests’ the ‘enhancements’ and ‘improvements’ with real users before going live! Anyway, there are decent software packages out there, many at a very affordable price for single user rather then pro versions. Check out the Accounting Web forums.

  21. Richard Taylor Article author

    As a taxpayer I’m funding the “official” data entry systems; so I think they ought be fit for purpose. Seeking value for my taxes is one reason for lobbying on this and many other points. One of my reasons for investigating the “official” offerings is to be able to comment from an informed position on their functionality.

    I don’t think third party software ought be required to make it practical to carry out what is often a very simple transaction with government.

    There are ways to avoid using the government provided online systems; either by paying an accountant or using commercial software, and I agree these are not always expensive, but on a point of principle I don’t think they ought be necessary.

  22. Richard Lewis

    How I agree with Richard Taylor that we, as taxpayers, should not have to employ an accountant or use third party software. Why has the Government targeted concerns with few employees and make online filing compulsory for such businesses which, by definition will mostly be small and many not having money to spare for accountants or buying software, when HMRC software is found wanting. If we really want to encourage new, small businesses and start-ups, this kind of imposition will be a turn-off. I have a small company and have spent hours trying to file accounts and CT600 online. The accounts were accepted by Companies House, but the CT600 was rejected with an error message I could not overcome. After hours of fruitless telephone calls being pushed round from one office to another, I gave up and, in early March I wrote to HMRC in Glasgow which is supposed to be for online filing help. The letter was by Recorded, Signed for. Proof of delivery was soon available online, but despite this I have had no reply. What I have had though, is a reminder letter from HMRC telling me my Return filing deadline is near and that if I don’t do it on time, penalties will be imposed. (Despite using the first person singular throughout the letter, e.g. “I notice I have not yet received your Corporation Tax Return…” the letter is unsigned with not even a typed name at the end.) This whole situation is utterly disgraceful.

  23. Colin Carroll

    Yet again having problems with filing company accounts using HMRC CT600. Heading on each page of CT600 states it’s for the accounting year I want to file for, but when I get to the P&L page, although the heading still states the correct period, the P&L Heading is for the next year! HMRC at a loss to explain. Suggest I download the CT600 form again. If we could invoice HMRC for the inordinate amount of time we waste on their software, perhaps they’d have an incentive to make the thing work properly.

  24. Richard Taylor Article author

    My latest experience has involved receiving a bill from the HMRC for unspecified “tax” which I paid to avoid penalties despite not owing any tax.

    The HMRC have come up with a number of different reasons for generating the bill including that I told them that the tax was owed so they generated the bill (this wasn’t true) and latterly they have stated the bill was generated on the basis of their estimate of the amount of tax owed.

    Despite agreeing the money was not owed I’ve been waiting many months to get it back; I have been told there is a delay in the department responsible for issuing refunds. I was given a date for the refund to be processed but this has now been missed by over a month.

    Calls to the HMRC cost hours of time, and tens of pounds.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I tried calling HMRC today. I called the employer helpline and ended up with irrelevant recorded messages about income tax, and saying “have your national insurance number ready”; I then after waiting on hold for quite a few minutes just got cut off with a message saying: “I’m sorry calls to this number are not being connected”.

      I tried again, spent 26 minutes on the phone, (about 24 of them waiting); to be told that I will be contacted about the refund promised by the 29th of August by the 10th October and that it is “showing on the system as a credit”. I queried some other random and erroneous numbers (showing as money owed) on the online system only to be told the online system was months out of date, inaccurate, and not to worry.

    2. Richard Taylor Article author

      I today, the 29th of October 2014, finally received a cheque for the money I had been waiting to have returned for months. The letter was dated the 9th of October so it appears they have a very slow system for getting the letters into the post (or the dates are inaccurate).

      The description given was “repayment/advance of statutory payment”; it appears HMRC can’t bring themselves to write: “refund of money demanded in error”.

  25. Richard Taylor Article author

    Julian Todd has expressed support for simplifying the provision of information to the state for tax purposes writing:

    Why are we paying people to run expensive computer programs encoding all the rules written by the government to take the numbers from our accounts which mean something, before mixing it all up to print out on reams of paper? Why doesn’t the government just buy or build the computer system itself so we can enter our accounts into it directly — like a proper computerized service in the 21st century? Why aren’t filing taxes as easy as booking a plane flight? Why aren’t tax accountants as out of date as high street Travel Agents?

    That echos the views expressed in my original article.

  26. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve had some more experience with the CT600 Adobe form “document” thing (that HMRC call “software”) again today. All the issues reported above are still present. Security settings which appear to give the government access to files on the computer, and non-functional view/print options are two I met again today. I also met the issue of only round numbers (no pence) being accepted and validation failing unless those round numbers added up exactly which means you sometimes have to accept something which isn’t quite right, albeit only £1 out.

    Like the “modem” warnings; I noted today the warnings of very long download times eg. 40 minutes, for things which took a handful of seconds to download today. It is like using a system from another era.

    The more critical bug I discovered for the first time today was a validation failure when box AC45 was left blank but which was solved by putting a “0″ in the box. There was no hint that this was the issue; this kind of thing is really annoying. The form is inconsistent; other boxes can be left blank.

  27. Richard Taylor Article author

    So many boxes on the CT600 require information already submitted, or which could be calculated from information already submitted. Box CP253 even asks, “for statistical purposes” which have no effect on the tax due, for entries in various other boxes to be added up and reported. [I suspect there's some logic deep in there, and the issue probably is the vastly different organisations which have to complete this same form]

    And today yet more boxes where putting a “0″ isn’t allowed, even if true, and even if last time the same form requested the same information, it let you leave it blank.

    Why does a small company that doesn’t do anything related to “transfer pricing” have to state if it qualifies for a “SME exemption” in relation to “transfer pricing”. Answering this kind of question requires all companies to research an area of law and tax even if they have no relevance to the company.

    Printing to PDF (to take a copy of the submitted material) is disabled; in the “software” and in the file generated on selecting one of the options to “view and print”.

  28. Chris Turner

    I tried completing the CT600 joint template on 31 Dec 2014 and tried the new micro-entity type. This seemed to tax all turnover with no expenses allowed. Also it said that .
    Version 4.2.4

    Authentication service not available
    ?
    The Authentication request has failed to submit to Companies House.
    Please check your internet connection and then click the ‘Next’ button if you wish to try again.
    If you need to contact the Companies House Contact Centre please follow the link below.
    Companies House Contact Centre
    Have you remembered to save? Press ‘Ctrl’ + ‘S’ on your keyboard to save. Next

    My authentication code is fine and I have checked it with direct companied house fannual return processing. This must be an error in HMRC.

    I am now being fined and trying again a month later. But still same problem. I will have to try separate filing and not use micro-entity.
    Internet suggests a virusscanner problem but I have tried linux (no virus scanner) and windows with identical results.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      A number of problems appear to have been highlighted here. One maybe that Companies House issue an “online code” and a “security code” which are different and they usually use a third terminology which doesn’t match with either of those when requiring one of them to be submitted.

      I have suggested this issue be addressed:

  29. Paul Clark

    I usually save this nightmare for the Christmas holidays but I need to do accounts & CT600 early for dissolution of a dormant subsidiary this year… Oh God it’s still the same…

    Firstly I’m running Linux. My entire business runs on Linux. I have perfectly good PDF readers and writers, but the CT600 requires Adobe Reader (how can this even be legal?) which Adobe no longer support in Linux. However in a forgotten FTP site with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard” it can still be found:

    ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/unix/9.x/9.5.5/enu/

    So I do the ludicrous certificate permissions bodge but now it refuses to connect to Companies House to authenticate. I ‘strace’d it and actually it doesn’t even try. Must be some internal permissions problem but once you’ve done the bodge you can’t change the certificate rights again.

    If it wasn’t so early in the day I’d be weeping into my beer now…

    Paul
    (30 years in software industry)
    Cornwall

  30. Pete C

    Hi Richard,
    I found this page whilst googling the authentication problem -
    “Authentication service not available…….
    The Authentication request has failed to submit to Companies House.”
    In my case it has nothing to do with antivirus or a software firewall as there’s neither on the machine. Windows firewall was turned off at install, there’s never been a software one. Nor has antivirus ever been installed so there’s no lurking remnant putting a spanner in the works. However, I’m guessing that the ‘software’ has somehow given up trying as I think it used to work. If the ‘software’ had of let me know if it had been successful or not at authentication, instead of simply returning to the same page without any message then I might know. So I tried something I knew was definitely wrong. It did then actually display something like an error message, although vague. When I went back to what I know was correct it won’t play any more – I now have the above error.

    PDF? In this instance, wrong technology for the job. Why not a webform? Sounds like a government dept that can just about create a PDF file but not stretch to PHP programming. Why not a webform like the one I’ve just used to do self assessment? That seemed to work, apart from the usual business of having to reapply each year for a password that it seems to have forgotten. I have no need for ‘active’ PDFs on the system.
    Strange isn’t it that despite all the warnings of system that automatically enable things and run them, and the damage they can cause, still the organisations put them out in the name of functionality.
    The comment up above some where that the current system seems to be keeping people in business as the state system is hard to deal with resonates with me. Like others I’ve found companies house staff good to deal with, well, after a 30 minute wait on the phone at times. Having just been looking at one of the government websites that is supposed to publicise contracts that can be tendered for, and experienced its complexity, and the fact that Dun & Bradstreet who are supposed to ‘authenticate’ me are themselves using incorrect details scraped off the web, it does make me wonder what is going on.

    Sigh. Back to the accounts submission. So far it’s 2 falls, 1 submission, and maybe not far off a knock out.

    I shall write to both Companies house & D&B. Or maybe just put the stamp money in the Poppy collection. A cause much more worthy.

    P

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