HMRC officially launches digital Personal Tax Accounts online, with more than a million users to have access by mid-December 2015

 
Hayley Kirton
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Will tax be less taxing now it's turned digital? (Source: Getty)

The taxman is coming to a computer screen near you, after HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officially launched its online Personal Tax Accounts (PTA) today.

The digital PTAs aim to provide people with a clearer and more real-time picture of their tax situation.

More than a million self-assessment taxpayers will have access to their account by mid-December. A corporate report, Making Tax Digital, which was also published today, states that every individual and small business should have access to a digital account by April 2016.

Read more: PAC: HMRC letting down UK taxpayers

Users will also be able to discuss their tax affairs through a web chat or virtual assistant.

The system is currently undergoing upgrades, with components such as integrating the Tax Credits online service and a new online payment and repayment feature, being added between now and next May.

"Giving customers the ability to manage their tax affairs online is our latest step towards a fully digital tax system," said David Gauke, the financial secretary to the Treasury.

"This government is determined to revolutionise how we deliver public services and the tax system is no exception."

Read more: HMRC plans to close local tax offices

Ruth Owen, director general of Personal Tax, added: "The launch of PTAs is a ground breaking development for HMRC and our customers. Remember when you started banking online? Well, this is the equivalent shift in service for the majority of our customers wanting to do business with us online."

The PTAs are part of a slew of initiatives intended to digitise the tax system by 2020. One of the more notable plans is the requirement most businesses, self-employed and landlords to keep track of their tax affairs digitally and update HMRC of their position at least quarterly, which will be rolled out from April 2018.

Roy Maugham, tax partner at UHY Hacker Young, has warned that the quarterly reporting requirement could ultimately increase the UK tax authority's workload as it could lead to a greater number of inaccuracies in returns being filed.

Maugham explained: "It’s common for accountants to work from estimates throughout the year and then to iron out any uncertainties at the year end. However, this will not be possible with quarterly reporting and will lead to HMRC receiving a high degree of variation from tax returns."

Meanwhile, speaking to City A.M., Tina Riches, national tax partner at Smith & Williamson, said that the announcements were an "exciting development", but added that what HMRC "really do need to be careful of is making sure that they do consult properly and that this proceeds in a measured way and isn’t rushed".

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