Sage 50 online VAT Submissions
Perhaps not news that will dislodge Michael Jackson from the front pages this week, but online VAT submissions are on their way. Indeed they will be compulsory from April 2010 if your turnover is above £100 000.
HMRC are already accepting and actively encouraging online submissions, and Sage 50 2008 and 2009 are on their list of compatible software for doing so automatically. Sage 200 does not currently have an e-submissions feature, but can of course be used to generate the relevant figures, which can then be keyed in to an online submission form.
HMRC extol the virtues of online submission, promoting it as a quick, efficient, accurate and reliable way to make your return since there is no postal system in the way, there are built-in data validation routines. Somewhat oversold perhaps? At least with Sage 50 the submission is automatic so you should be able to grab all the modest time savings on offer.
However, the fact that only 14% of returns are currently being filed online suggests that either people are not aware of the option, don’t know how to go about achieving it, or are simply not comfortable in making the submissions that way. Articles such as the International Tax Review’s one in April this year contend that a key factor is concern about the reliability of the HMRC systems, though HMRC are keen to reassure users that they have been thoroughly tested and are very stable.
Sage technical support list a series of known issues or error reports relating to Sage 50 e-VAT submissions over the government gateway. In all the instances I’ve reviewed, however, the HMRC end is squeaky clean, as the errors can be traced back to the likes of the configuration of the e-VAT settings in Sage 50, issues with internet connectivity, or problems with the data itself (e.g. errors on the EC sales list, invalid VAT account numbers and so on). To take a positive view of things, using the e-Vat facility encourages good practice, as it requires a better level of housekeeping of your accounts data than manual returns do.
Whatever users’ feelings on the matter, though, the fact remains that online submissions are soon to become compulsory for many businesses, and arguably it is better to get to grips with this method sooner rather than later, whilst postal copies are still acceptable as a fall-back if any difficulties were encountered either at a user or system level. Of course, this still doesn’t have to involve use of the e-Vat facility even for Sage 50 users, but would at the very least involve completing the form online using figures taken from the system.
It is a notable condition of making online submissions that you must also pay electronically. Both the submission and payment can be handled through Sage 50’s e-VAT facility if you have also set up the e-banking facility. Alternatively, you can choose to pay by direct debit or BACS (amongst other electronic methods authorised by HMRC), as indeed you would if you were using the online form to key in figures from another source such as Sage 200.