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Government Gateway struggles with filing volume

April 15, 2014


HMRC has admitted technical problems with its RTI systems are causing problems for employers one week before the PAYE reporting period for the first year of RTI ends. The service issue affecting the Government Gateway from Friday 11 to Sunday 13 April caused delays for users attempting to send PAYE reports and created a backlog of submission acknowledgements.

AccountingWEB users flagged problems with submission times on Friday and over the weekend, noting that filing of RTI returns was taking a long time and that they were not receiving the usual submission receipts.  The first pay day of the 2014-15 tax year on Friday appears to have coincided with many people sending in 2013-14 year-end submissions, creating a logjam of returns.  It became evident over the weekend that the issue was also affecting VAT, Self Assessment, Student Loans, Corporation Tax and TPSS returns with users of these services unable to establish whether their submissions had been successfully received by HMRC.

HMRC stated on their service issues site that they were aware of service issues and apologised for the problems, but believed that they had identified and fixed the problem.  They went on to say that “there is a backlog of reply messages for submissions made between Friday and Sunday 13 April.  We are working to clear the backlog and expect to have done that within 24 hours.”  HMRC stated that the message will be updated again when the backlog is cleared.

HMRC identified the problem on Sunday, and users began to receive multiple submission receipts for those reports sent in over Friday and Saturday.  One user reported more than 1000 emails coming in to acknowledge uploads from the weekend.

In a post on AccountingWEB today its editor John Stokdyk shared the HMRC explanation given to software development teams that the cause of the issue was a problem in the link between HMRC’s computers and the Gateway.  HMRC said that “When we send our validation responses, our system expects the Government Gateway to confirm that the success message has been sent.  In this case, our systems did not receive these responses.”

This meant that HMRC’s system attempted to retrieve the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ notifications from the Gateway up to seven times, so multiple notifications were received by users once the issue was fixed.  Some software packages continue to poll HMRC systems and resubmit reports if they do not get an immediate response from HMRC, meaning that many more responses may have been received by some users.

AccountingWEB posters expressed their concern the delay caused by the backlog could result in unwarranted penalties being issued to employers. The filing deadline for the final FPS of the 2013/14 year represents the first RTI event to give rise to a penalty. Although it follows the penalty regime under old PAYE for late year end filing, the process is different under RTI and falls much sooner.

One frustrated user posted she had written to Ruth Owen personally to express her concerns about whether employers would be penalised and whether the filing deadline would be extended beyond the 19 April, receiving the reply “In answer to your question about the deadline, we will obviously not be applying penalties if customers have missed the deadline due to technical problems in our systems but hopefully we can resolve the problems well in advance of the deadline.”  According to the HMRC statement to software developer teams, provided employers have submitted a correct FPS by 19 April or an Earlier Year Update by 19 May, they will not incur a late filing penalty.



In the wake of these issues with the Government Gateway and the difficulties caused for users attempting to make their submissions, the Association of Taxation Technicians has asked that the deadline for year-end payroll submissions be pushed back to 19 May.  The ATT, which is the leading professional body for tax compliance professionals, is concerned by the change to the deadline to year-end reporting which has been brought about by the move to RTI.  The Association says that the new deadline has “significantly reduced the submission window, as the return requires answers to questions that often cannot be known until after the end of the tax year (April 6th)."

In a press release issued on their website, the body’s President Natalie Miller stated that “The new system was always going to be vulnerable to any issues arising with the Gateway in this short time period.  This has always been a concern of the Association.”

She said that the disruption caused by the delayed submissions and filing notifications had caused “considerable stress” for employers and agents attempting to file while the Gateway was affected by the service issue.  Miller said that the Association was requesting that HMRC permanently move the filing deadline back to the 19 May because “there is no guarantee that these problems will not happen again” and “such a tight deadline leaves absolutely no room for failure”.

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