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iXBRL: HMRC ‘will be reasonable’ about mistakes

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HMRC says it will be ‘reasonable about difficulties and mistakes’ made in submitting corporation tax computations and accounts using the Inline eXtensible Business Reporting Language (iXBRL) format, after a Treasury minister rejected claims that the imminent implementation of iXBRL is imposing ‘heavy and unnecessary administrative burdens’ on many UK businesses and their agents.

‘From 1 April 2011, all company tax returns for periods ending after 31 March 2010 must be filed online. For the vast majority of corporation tax customers, this means submitting the computations and accounts that are part of the return using iXBRL, which ‘tags’ information in the return,’ HMRC said.

The department has published guidance which addresses ‘some possible concerns and uncertainties you may have about the transition’.

Earlier this week David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, told the professional bodies that ‘there will never be a perfect time to mandate filing in iXBRL’.

In a joint letter to Gauke, the ICAEW, CIOT, ICAS, ACCA, AAT and ATT had recommended that the plans be revised to recognise ‘the adverse impact of delays in software availability and implementation problems’.

‘These issues will disadvantage a substantial proportion of UK businesses, with small to medium sized businesses and their agents being hit the hardest, running the risk that precious management time is diverted away from customers and growth towards red-tape and compliance,’ the professional bodies said.

‘The capacity to file accounts in iXBRL is an important long term investment for agents. They should be given the opportunity to implement software and systems in a measured and methodical manner but in the present combination of circumstances this aim is incompatible with the 1 April deadline.’

Gauke said many software developers have already delivered their products. ‘Whilst I understand that one developer has announced a delay in the full release of its iXBRL enabled software, I also understand that they are to deliver an interim solution to their customers very soon,’ he wrote on 8 February.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland observed that HMRC’s guidance ‘does not currently answer all the questions that ICAS members may have regarding the transition’.

It added: ‘However, it provides a measure of reassurance by stating that “HMRC will not reject any return where you have made a reasonable attempt to comply with the iXBRL requirement,” and this is echoed by the minister’s commitment that “no-one who has made a reasonable effort to comply will be penalised”.’

Some practitioners have criticised the professional bodies’ approach. One anonymous contributor to the ICAEW website claimed they were ‘lobbying on behalf of Sage’, adding that ‘every other software supplier – even the smaller ones – is prepared for iXBRL.’ Dennis Howlett, the accounting technology expert and blogger, said it seemed ‘crystal clear that the professional bodies were pressured into attempting a delay by Sage’.

‘There has been speculation recently regarding Sage's delivery of solutions that enable iXBRL compliant accounts … In February, Sage will be releasing software that enables accountants to produce iXBRL compliant accounts for minimum UK GAAP,’ said an announcement on the Sage website.