Tax return preparation –moving from 5 minutes to 2 hours – is this really progress?

We have a client with two small sources of employment, 12 monthly payments for grass cutting and another 12 for mole catching(!), and a small amount of interest. Trying to prepare this simple tax return that should take minutes can turn into hours!

The client, being polite about him, is not computer literate. However, one of the employers, Sainsburys, decided to implement a payroll portal during 2018/19 and stop issuing paper payslips or P60 forms. The client has a login id and password, but he was unable to get it to work or reset it. We could not get it to work either.

No problem we thought. Our tax software links to HMRC systems and pulls down the P60 information it holds, comparing it to the entries in our software. An issue here is that the link keeps dropping out and needs to be re-established. In theory, this only needs doing once every 18 months. We have ascertained with the software house that there was a bug in the software which should help sort this, and this will be in next update – date unknown. However, they said there was also an HMRC problem which was not scheduled to be fixed “any time soon”, which could still cause the link to break.

Having re-established the link to HMRC systems, the button was clicked to bring data down from HMRC to the tax software – but this did not work! Nothing to report for either employment. (When it does work it is great!).

Next step – phone HMRC to obtain the P60 details. The dedicated agent helpline does mean not having to hold for minutes (or even hours!) to get through, but there are all sorts of security steps needed to pass to prove you are the agent, and then it possible to request the information. However, this cannot be sent to the agent – it has to be posted out to the client and it could take 2 weeks. There has to be a better way surely…?

Will this be available in the individual’s tax account in due course? That assumes they are IT literate and can create it/access it.

The interest is not really relevant as far as the tax liability is concerned - it is a matter of a few pounds only and there is £1,000 exemption. At least, it was only a few pounds last year….but his passbook is not up to date so an estimate is used here.

Time taken if all the information was readily available – 5 minutes – and on the day the information is supplied?

Time taken to assist the client to login, re-establish HMRC links, phone HMRC etc – a guess – but 1 - 2 hours all told – and completed 3 weeks later. And this is progress…...?

Your thoughts?