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Accountants in Practice

Changes to HMRC’s free filing software for company tax returns

By Toni Clark

HMRC

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) currently provides free filing software for small companies with simple tax affairs to submit their own annual company tax return and accounts to HMRC and Companies House.

We know that some agents also use this software to file on behalf of their clients.

Companies House and HMRC are developing a new, improved company tax return and company accounts filing service called Company Accounts and Tax online (CATO).  This new service will make it quicker and easier for small companies to file their own annual accounts to Companies House and company tax returns to HMRC - at the same time or separately.

Like the current HMRC free filing software, this new service is designed for unrepresented customers with straightforward affairs. CATO is an online service which companies will access using their own filing credentials, unlike the existing HMRC free filing software, which uses a form downloaded from the internet. Agents will not be able to use this service on behalf of their clients.

Most agents will be unaffected as they already use commercial software to file company tax returns and annual accounts on behalf of their clients. However, we are aware that some agents use the current HMRC free filing software as there is no restriction on who can download the form.

The current HMRC free filing software will continue to be available for accounting periods ending on or before 31 December 2015. It will remain available until 31 December 2016. This allows at least a year for affected agents to make alternative arrangements (as a return for the accounting period ending 31 December 2015 will not normally be due until 31 December 2016).

Affected agents filing returns on behalf of their clients for accounting periods ending after 31 December 2015 will need to use commercial software. A variety of such software is available at a range of prices to suit different filing needs. More information is available at GOV.UK [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/corporation-tax-commercial-software-suppliers].

We want to make agents aware of the changes to HMRC’s free filing software as soon as possible to ensure they have plenty of time to prepare. We will be using our usual agent channels to do this. Also, we would appreciate your help to cascade this message through your own networks.

Kind Regards

Toni Clark

Head of Digital Agent Engagement

Published August 2015