Does RTI go-slow have implications for Universal Credit?

By Tony Collins

HM Revenue and Customs’ “Real Time Information” project appears to work fairly well much of the time but delays and problems over the last few days have created extra work and angered some payroll specialists.

One payroll specialist said the problems have been “a nightmare” and another said: “I could cry”.

Submissions under RTI are generating, on occasions, hundreds of unexpected emails, clogging corporate inboxes. Payroll specialists have been left unsure if PAYE submissions have been validated or not.

In February HMRC stood accused of acting on inaccurate information in harassing some employers, and issuing misleading guidance on RTI.

Employers and their payroll specialists have until the 22nd of each month to submit their end of month PAYE submissions and cleared electronic payments. This month’s submissions may put an extra burden on HMRC’s systems because they will usually include end-of-year declarations for the 2013/14 year.

One angry payroll specialist emailed Ruth Owen, Director General Personal Tax at HM Revenue and Customs. Owen replied:

“As you say, this is being worked on by the IT team. And let me apologise again for the frustration caused by our delays. We are trying to get it sorted as quickly as we can.

“In answer to your question about the deadline, we will obviously not be applying penalties if customers have missed the deadline due to technical problems in our systems but hopefully we can resolve the problems well in advance of the deadline.”

A separate HMRC statement to software developers said: “

“We are aware that some customers making submissions to the live Government Gateway are experiencing delays before receiving a validation response advising whether or not the submission passed full validation. This is currently being investigated by our IT partners and your customers should not attempt to re-submit their returns until the result of the original submission is known.”


RTI generally works well but the year-end is always a big test for HMRC’s systems. If RTI is already struggling to cope – while there is only a trickle of Universal Credit claims – will it cope when millions are claiming UC?

It’s yet another uncertainty for UC, and another good reason for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish its UC risk and progress reports. Some chance.


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