Online tax returns^Werrors

Having recently struggled through my personal tax return, it appears the situation for small business tax returns is worse.  John went through the business of submitting WebThing’s return (for 2007), only to receive email a day later.  Anyone else seen this or similar, or have a clue about it?

This message has been generated in response to the company details
submitted to the Companies House Web-Filing Service on 21/10/2008.

Company number: 03427454

The annual accounts for the above company was rejected for the following reason(s):

An attached XBRL account document contains pre-validation errors.
The accounts were originally received in Companies House within the period allowed.  The Registrar will not collect a civil penalty if the amended accounts arereceived in Companies House no later than 05/11/2008 and they are accepted for filing.

Examiner contact details – 029 2038 0929

The filing reference number is ******. Please quote this reference in any communication with Companies House concerning this transaction.

Thank you for visiting the Companies House Web site.

Service desk tel: 0870 333 3636 or e-mail:

Yeah, right.  I´m techie enough to know what an .XSD is likely to be, and guess that it means something is malformed.  And that the error is internal to their system.  But what could be triggering it, in the context of a PDF where all John did was to fill some numbers and very simple text fields, I have no idea.  Neither, I suspect, has your typical small business beancounter submitting accounts online (as the government strongly encourage us to do).

I can speculate over possible causes of an error.  For example:

  • Does their system rely on some Windows quirk or bug, and choke on something like non-Windows line-ends?  Can´t see how that would arise in PDF, though, even if they have something dumb like bogus homebrew preprocessing.
  • Maybe it´s an error introduced by VAT?  Since I joined Sun in February, it´s clear that WebThing´s turnover for 2008 and the forseeable future will fall far below the VAT threshold, so we deregistered to save red tape.  But of course we were registered in 2007, so the tax return included it.  Could it be triggering inclusion of inconsistent templates?
  • Nothing so subtle – the system is just plain broken.
  • …. ?

No matter what the problem is, there´s absolutely no excuse to expose end-users to this kind of development error message beyond, at the worst, a beta test programme.  I wonder what bunch of overpaid incompetents were responsible for this one?  The Usual Culprits for public sector fuckups (EDS,  Accenture, …)?  AN Other?  WebThing could of course have done a better job for them, if contracts were awarded on technical competence rather than sharp suits and bullshit.

Posted on October 22, 2008, in red tape, tax, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hmm, reading the message on the blog, it might be worth a look. That is, if I can find time/opportunity to sit down with John at his machine, which presupposes also that he isn´t too p***ed off with it all to let me take a look at it.

  2. Just on a point of factual clarification, I was submitting abbreviated annual accounts, nothing to do with tax.

    I can’t see how (from a financial compliance point of view) VAT would have anything to do with it. I’m firmly in the “system broken” camp on this one.

    The overall sentiment of the post is spot on. How am I (a non-techie type) supposed to react to a message like this? I await the Companies House response to my complaint about this useless message with interest. Also, I note that the three links provided in their message appear to be obsolete or broken too, so my confidence in their systems is somewhere around nil at present.

    Given that this is likely to be a failure at their end, it’s been most generous of them to allow a full five days grace on the legal filing deadline to enable me to comply without incurring a significant fine. I think I’ll file in the old fashioned way in future!

  3. Update: Here is the reply to my complaint to Companies House (I have omitted the name of the respondent to protect the innocent).

    “Dear John

    Thank you for your email of 22nd October, regarding the rejected annual accounts.

    There has been a technical problem at Companies House, all accounts submitted this week have been rejected. Our technicians are currently working on the problem, it is not a customer fault. The technicians will re-run all accounts submitted, when the problem has been resolved.

    You should shortly receive an email to confirm receipt of the annual accounts. If you do not receive an email by Monday, please contact Webfiling on 02920 380929.

    Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience you have been caused.

    Kind Regards”

    Readers of this blog will no doubt draw their own conclusions.

  4. I’ve done a bit of research and discovered that the Companies House website and web filing service were developed by an outfit called Orchid Telematics, then taken in-house in 2006. Orchid Telematics is now in liquidation.

  5. More emails from Companies House. Apparently the accounts were accepted for filing today. Eureka!

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