Our company has never needed a bailout. It has never been overdrawn. Its annual return and accounts have always been filed with Companies House well before the deadlines. The P14 and P35 returns have always gone in on time. Those are the ones that cover tax and NI due and paid for the year. Admittedly the first time I did the P14s and P35s online took a wee bit longer than doing them on paper but the Revenue were offering a tax free bonus, so online was a no-brainer.
The corporation tax return is, or rather was, simplicity itself. Perhaps five minutes to fill it in, then photocopy it and take to the post office. Nae problem.
And so we come to this year.
The company's year-end was on Thursday 31st March. On the Saturday morning I reconciled the bank statement, which included the last client cheque for the financial year. That enabled me to work out my gross salary and employer's NI for the month. We've never bothered with dividends, what with all of the IR35 nonsense. I just want a quiet life and if that means paying a wee bit more tax, so be it.
Next, I prepared the profit and loss account and balance sheet for 2010/11. I also filed the P14s and P35 online. So, only five minutes to go for the corporation tax return which incidentally would show a £2 loss and consequently no tax actually due. I don't suppose that ukuncut would understand... One year I made a £2 profit and the Revenue wanted a cheque for 38p. I like to think that they framed a copy of that cheque on the office wall. The cheque did go through the bank. Fair enough, I'd have done the same.
But everything's changed this year. You aren't allowed to file the corporation tax return on paper any more. It must be filed online. But here's the catch: whereas the P14s and P35s are filed directly onto the Revenue's website, the corporation tax return has to be filed using iXBRL format. As you can see from the HMRC link, this requires a bit of thinking. Do I need to buy special software for the former five-minute job? Not necessarily:
HMRC provides a free product, 'Online Tax Return - CT'. This lets you file Company Tax Returns and supplementary pages A, E and J online with Accounts and Computations templates that ensures your return is submitted in the correct manner. HMRC have tested all the features of this service, and will provide support to users through the Online Services Helpdesk. This will be one of the available filing options once you have logged on to our Online Services."Tested"? Not quite. Although the Revenue assures me that their software works on an Apple, first one needs to download Adobe Reader. (Apple has its own equivalent). But the current version of the Reader only goes up to OSX 10.6.6 and the latest Apple operating system is 10.6.7. Do I risk a download? By the way, the Revenue's helpdesk was out of order during the busiest week of the tax year! It gets better. Before you download the HMRC software into your Adobe Reader you must first adopt the Revenue's Twelve Step Programme:
Changing settings in Adobe ReaderI've used Adobe Reader on other machines before and didn't even know (or need to know) that it had "settings".
You’ll be able to enter data into the service but you won’t be able to view, print, add attachments, or submit the return until you have changed settings in your Adobe form. This change will ensure the Company Tax Return and accounts service operates securely.
There are twelve steps you need to take to change the settings in Adobe Reader to make the service secure.
So I guess that I've spent around two hours researching the whole damned thing. I may try to use the Adobe Reader on my notebook but the company's accounts are on the Apple. And the accounts have to be filed online along with the tax return.
I used to wonder about those claims that ever increasing red tape was introduced at the request of large established companies so as to do down small potential competitors. To some extent yes, but not always surely. Now I'm not so sure. I see zero evidence that the coalition government likes or understands small business. They probably are trying to kill us off. Time to shrug?
(UPDATE: I spoke about this to a partner in a firm of Chartered Accountants on Monday evening. It's not just me. The whole iXBRL change is chaotic.)