Excel users and agent filers welcome to join MTD for VAT pilot

We would like to thank the volunteers who came forward further to our recent newswire item requesting volunteers to take part in the HMRC pilot on MTD for VAT. If you are considering taking part, but worried that you may not be eligible, please note that agents, as well as businesses, are welcome.

We have also received further clarification regarding spreadsheet users. There was some concern that the wording of the original invitation suggested that spreadsheet users would not be included in the pilot, but this is not the case.

The Government and HMRC are on record saying that the use of spreadsheets is acceptable as a digital repository for maintaining business records. Nothing has changed here, and the pilot envisages, and hopes, spreadsheet users will join. The key here is that the journey from the spreadsheet to HMRC must be digital, so the volunteer must ensure the data taken from the spreadsheet and sent through the new secure Making Tax Digital for Business Application Programming Interface (API) requires no rekeying.

The scenario of “spreadsheet to agent for submission” is recognised. There is clearly more than one type of digital journey but, for example, the business (client) could save the spreadsheet (or associated digital file) to a memory stick and pass this to the agent, who could then load this into their own package for review and subsequent submission. This is compliant with the proposals and keeps within the spirit of a digital journey. HMRC anticipated recruiting businesses with that specific scenario through agents (as they would be doing the submitting), a business volunteering directly would mean then having to approach their agent to volunteer as well. Although not impossible, this seems less likely.

HMRC states that spreadsheet users are more than welcome to join the pilot, but obviously an ability to submit the return is needed. The requirement for a “submit only” package is recognised within the software industry and HMRC have come across a few proposed solutions. Developers have been focussing on ensuring their accounting software is ready for the pilot, with the intention of turning their attention to how they extract data from a spreadsheet their next “job”. Some have given assurance that they expect to be able to do both when the pilot starts.