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Software suppliers not ready for HMRC online tax filing system

Sage and chums yet to fully implement iXBRL

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Updated The filing of corporate tax online is set to become mandatory in the UK in April this year, despite questions being raised about the implementation of the software underpinning the government's shift to the web.

The Inline Extensible Business Reporting Language (iXBRL) has been coded into products by over 30 commercial suppliers including Sage and Thomson Reuters.

However, some of those companies are not entirely geared up for the 1 April switch, Sage, for example, isn't completely ready for iXBRL.

Some have only recently got to grips with the new technology. Sage, which is the only British software company listed on the FTSE100, is yet to release a version of its product that fully supports iXBRL.

In the past five years businesses have been warned that iXBRL filings would eventually be implemented by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Under the new system, firms will be required to make tax returns and corporation tax payments using the iXBRL tagging method from April 2011.

Last week, Tory MP Mike Freer asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to comment on "what assessment" he had "made of the capacity of commercial software suppliers to provide the necessary software for businesses to comply with the April 2011 implementation deadline set by HM Revenue and Customs for iXBRL filing".

Treasury secretary David Gauke told Freer that more than 30 suppliers had "successfully tested with HMRC", despite some of those companies falling short of being fully on board with the tech.

"All have provided evidence that their software can produce documents compliant with the iXBRL requirements being brought in from 1 April 2011," he said.

Freer also questioned the likely biz costs associated with implementing the iXBRL filing and also whether HMRC penalties would hit small firms that are unable to immediately comply with the "iXBRL filing deadline".

Gauke said that HMRC would shortly update its "regulatory impact assessment" now that a range of iXRBL-enabled software was available.

"There are no new penalties associated with the introduction of iXBRL. As currently, people may be penalised if they file returns late. But HMRC has confirmed that if a deadline is missed because of implementation issues with iXBRL software their well-established reasonable excuse provisions will apply," he said.

"April 2011 is not a filing deadline. It is the implementation date for mandatory filing of Company Tax Returns using iXBRL. No assessment has been made of the effect on receipts of changing this date."

We asked Sage to comment on this story, but at time of writing it hadn't got back to us. ®

Update

A Sage spokeswoman told The Register that the company's products will fully support all aspects of iXBRL as of 31 March 2011. She gave us this statement:

"I can confirm that in addition to our other iXBRL software solutions, customers will now also be able to produce compliant iXBRL statutory accounts for UK GAAP Single Limited Companies directly from Sage accounts production software – with no manual tagging required. By this we mean Sage Accounts Production (SAP), Sage Accounts Production Advanced (SAPA) and Sage Instant Accounts Production (SIAP)," she said. "Since Sage’s previous statement (in January), feedback from customers was that they wanted the iXBRL functionality embedded within their existing accounts production software. Consequently, Sage has worked hard to incorporate this."

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