Background to electronic filing
Electronic filing of returns and documents to HMRC is governed by regulations made under FA 1999 (see below)1.
Individual returns are filed under the free Self Assessment Online (SAO) system, with the exception of a limited number of returns, particularly the trust and estate tax return (SA 900) and the partnership return (SA 800), which may not be filed under HMRC's Self Assessment Online service. For those returns, filers must use commercial software and any taxpayer has the option to use commercial software if they so wish.
The intention was to develop a range of electronic services that taxpayers could use as an alternative to paper. Following the Carter Report2 in 2006, the aim was, as Carter proposed, that by 2012, all businesses and all IT-literate individuals should be filing returns online. Major milestones towards this goal have been:
(a) the introduction of compulsory online filing of VAT returns for businesses with a turnover of £100,000 or more and newly registered businesses as from 1 April 2010 which was subsequently extended to all businesses, except for certain exempted business from 1 April 2012; and
(b) the introduction of compulsory online filing of corporation tax returns in iXBRL format as from 1 April 2011
Where online filing is compulsory, so is electronic payment. There has been no published intention to make electronic filing of self-assessment tax returns by individuals compulsory, but since 2015 these plans have been supplemented, and indeed largely overtaken, by HMRC's