Completing forms electronically – sometimes problematical

At this time of year, I could have done without some of the issues that have surfaced this week.

I had to fill in a couple of forms this week. These had to be completed electronically before being emailed. Easy you might think – download them, open them and type in the data. Downloading them was easy….but then the problems started.

On opening it in our default PDF viewer, a message appeared that it needed a particular version of Adobe reader to fill in the forms. We did not have this on our servers. I tried an internet search and the version they suggested using is no longer available, having been replaced by a later version.

The later version was therefore downloaded (to a laptop) and installed. Fortunately, this worked, and the file opened ready for completion.

Lots of information had to be located to complete the form, one of the fields being an email address. Each character had to be entered in its own box. In trying to enter the email address….the @ sign could not be entered! It was not an acceptable character. I typed it in another different field where it was accepted and then tried copying and pasting into the email field – once again not accepted!

It was necessary to enter postal addresses then – again each character in its own box. It was possible to tab to the next box each time but is surprising quite how laborious this is. The reason this was designed this way was unclear; the majority of the other form fields were just text boxes where all the required data could be typed into it.

When it was emailed to the company mention was made of the @ problem – no one else had reported the issue apparently!

It is not just forms though – systems behind it can cause issues too. Twice recently, I have completed and filed tax returns, clearly showing the date of cessation of a self-employment business e.g. 31.12.2016. The Class 2 NI calculation by the software correctly calculates 39 weeks of liability. All the data validation is passed, and the return is filed online. A couple of weeks later, a revised tax calculation is issued by HMRC stating that the NI is incorrect and charges 52 weeks. It was then necessary to go online and complete the form Stopping self-employment. Surely this is obvious from the tax return data? What a waste of time on all sides!

Have you tried to register a new business partner for self- assessment online (from SA401)? The HMRC website takes you round in circles – no way for agents to do it online apparently! Fill it in online, then print and post it. Progress……?

A client was asking why he had not had a payslip for his tax. We checked online on 10 January and there was nothing shown as due online. On 25th January a tax calculation turned up, correcting the self assessment one that was sent in on 25 July last year! The Marriage allowance had not been transfered which would have reduced the tax by £220. On phoning HMRC, they said it had not been claimed to be transferred. We pointed out the letter submitted in July 2016 claiming the transfer for 2015/16 AND all subsequent years. This had not been picked up by them. I asked why it took from July to now to produce a tax calculation.Apparently the original data was not captured correctly so they had been manually processing returns and it had taken this length of time to catch up!

Vaguely form related – a client needed to prove to PayPal that a partnership exists before PayPal will release funds that have been collected through that means. We sent them a screenshot of the partnership tax Return heading (albeit produced by software), the header sections of the partners’ share of profits (without the figures!) and a screenshot of the HMRC acceptance of filing. That was not sufficient. We then sent them a copy of the VAT2 application that was sent to HMRC and the acknowledgment from HMRC – not sufficient proof! They are at the moment insisting on something signed by HMRC or VAT – which does not exist! So the funds are still awaiting release!

Finally – don’t get me started on MTD and VAT and the latest consultation document – transferring information digitally; that’s for another day!

Any other gripes -  especially with HMRC forms?

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  • I have experience many of the issues you outline above and am equally frustrated by them - my address includes a hyphen and thus regularly includes a 'prohibited character'.  Having to tab from box to box instead of going automatically is a real time-waster. Not being able to move forward in forms eg NRL forms to next page without completing and passing validation on first page.  This means I have to keep stopping, get information from clients and go back and start again.  Not being able to save forms temporarily when some information is missing (slightly different because you can  at least move forward in the forms to see what is ahead which helps) - IHT400 being a case in point.  Finally, and importantly, I and clients have found to our cost that saving down a completed online pdf using the link provided may well have nothing in it when opened up months later.  One has instead to print to pdf.  I now always check content of file saved locally before exiting the online form. How about error messages that are wrong? Another cause of frustration and time wasting because they put me off the scent of the real cause of the problem eg being told password is wrong when actually the server is down.  I wonder how much time collectively is lost in UK as a result of poorly designed and tested online forms? The @ issue mentioned above is just so bad.

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