HMRC has now introduced an employee share schemes annual returns checking service.
From the 2014-15 tax year onwards all annual returns for employment related securities must be submitted online. HMRC has published ‘templates’ i.e. which contain field settings for all the relevant return data (which would be sent to HMRC using Excel or similar spreadsheet format). The template requirement for ‘Form 42’ returns (i.e. the returns for non tax-advantaged schemes) is also available here, as well as similar (but separate) templates for the various tax-advantaged schemes.
The new checking service in effect provides a validation check so that employers or agents can feel more confident that their proposed spreadsheet return data is accurate and won’t be rejected. Given HMRC’s tendency to apply fairly ‘prescriptive’ validation settings for online data requirements, this service should be worth taking advantage of.