HMRC opens volunteer testing of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax

Almost two years before the digitisation programme expands to cover income tax payments, the department has begun a trial initiative and wants to work with tax agents to test processes

HM Revenue and Customs has this week opened a near-two-year testing programme for the UK’s new digital income tax regime and is inviting volunteers to sign up and take the opportunity “to influence what the service is like in future”.

The department’s flagship Making Tax Digital (MTD) programme has already been rolled out across all VAT returns, with implementation taking place in two stages: first in 2019 for firms with taxable annual turnover in excess of £85,000; and then in 2022 for all other companies.

After a postponement of two years, on 6 April 2026 the scheme is scheduled to extend to income tax payments made by the self-employed, landlords, microbusinesses, and tax agents working on clients’ behalf. Initially, those earning more than £50,000 a year will be required to switch to the digital system, followed – in April 2027 – by those with earnings above £30,000.

As of the start of this week, MTD for income tax has begun a 21-month period of testing, for which HMRC is seeking individuals and businesses – including software firms creating compatible products for users – to volunteer to take part.

In newly published guidance, the tax agency said: “Throughout the 2024 to 2025 tax year, HMRC wants to work with a wide range of businesses, agents and software developers. This is help us test and develop the new way of reporting income and expenses if you’re a sole trader or landlord.”

The department indicated that is particularly keen to work with tax agents, whose “role… is essential to developing the service”.

The guidance said: “HMRC has listened to feedback from agents who want to: be involved in testing the service across a full financial cycle [of] 21 months; [and] understand and support HMRC’s activities and plans.”

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The document added: “By volunteering to test Making Tax Digital for Income Tax, you’ll: be able to influence what the service is like in future; be ready to support clients when the service becomes mandatory; become familiar with the software you’ll use with your clients; get dedicated support to help you when you begin using the service; [and] stay up-to-date with competitors using the service, or begin using the service before them.”

As well as tax agents, during the first three months of the trials, HMRC said that it will enable “new sole traders and landlords [to] sign up” to take part.

Over the coming months, the department will gradually add more functionality to the digital income tax offering. During the summer, users will be able to test the ability to make quarterly updates, set up and make and receive payments, and accrue interest liabilities.

Later in the year, HMRC hopes users will be able to view annual payments and balances – both via the department’s own online services and compatible third-party software tools.

In the early months of 2025, the trial will include testing of the submission of annual tax returns – for which the filing deadline falls on 31 January. At this point HMRC will also test its ability to make internal manual changes to users’ accounts.

Moving into the 2025/26 year, “most sole traders and landlords” will become eligible to take part in the testing.

“This will allow them to get familiar with using software and keeping digital records, before it becomes mandatory from April 2026,” the guidance said.

There are currently only five software firms whose products have been certified as compatible for filing income tax returns via MTD. Another 21 have tools currently in development, according to details published in GOV.UK.

Sam Trendall

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