Issues with online forms and systems-so much time wasted

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

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 I tried an internet search and this version is no longer available, having been replaced by a later version.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 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 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!

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?