Filing charity trading subsidiary tax returns and charity accounts

I recently tried to undertake the annual task of filing our charity trading subsidiary tax returns to HMRC.  It appears the system has changed.  I can no longer use the online service to file CT600 and iXBRL tagged accounts. It appears we need to use third party software to file very simple charity subsidiary accounts.

Following some further digging and consultation with CTG colleagues, I found that HMRC announced this time last year that they were withdrawing the free Adobe software they previously provided for filing corporation tax returns and company accounts at Companies House. The software was available for accounting periods ending on or before 31 December 2015 but was then withdrawn.

A “new and improved version” has been developed called Company Accounts and Tax Online (CATO) which, according to HMRC, makes it “quicker and easier for small companies to file their own annual accounts to Companies House and company tax returns to HMRC – at the same time or separately”.

Unfortunately, this is another example of HMRC imposing an electronic only filing system without providing the tools to do it. There also appears to be a lack of awareness about this change. HMRC has provided a list of commercial software and service suppliers that have provided evidence that they have developed software or manage a service (or both) that can produce one or more elements of a Company Tax Return.

We are weighing up the merits of different suppliers and I would welcome feedback in the comments section below from other charities on any experiences they have had with different providers.

I would encourage any charities intending to file tax returns to start looking at this as early as possible and to identify the necessary time and resources that will need to be allocated.

Another query that has been raised with me is whether PDFs can still be used to file accounts. HMRC guidance on the charity exemptions from filing state:

  • Unincorporated charities, clubs and societies can choose to file their accounts in either iXBRL or Portable Document Format (PDF) but they must still file their return online and submit any computations in iXBRL format.
  • We accept accounts from smaller charities in PDF format. This is because the accounting principles by which smaller charities prepare accounts mean that the accounts part of the HMRC free software may not be suitable for them. A ‘smaller charity’ for this purpose is one where, together with any wholly owned subsidiaries, that is companies owned by the charity, the combined income does not exceed £6.5 million for the accounting period.
  • Any computation forming part of a charity’s company tax return must be in iXBRL format. However, no computation is required at all where the CT600E (Charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs)) supplementary page of the return is completed and confirms that all income and gains of the charity are exempt from tax and have been or will be applied for charitable purposes.

Justin Bevan is Gift Aid and Tax Manager at Oxfam and a member of the Charity Tax Group Management Committee


  1. Tony Austin says:

    Most firms of accountants who deal with company tax returns use commercial software. If charities use accountants to produce their accounts they should not have a problem. They would be foolish anyway not to use someone with an accountancy or tax qualification to complete a company tax return. Commercial tax return software is much easier to use than the HMRC version and should not be prohibitively expensive. If charities pay for donor software why not tax software. Another alternative would be for charities to club together to use commercial software.

  2. Chris Lockhart says:

    The issue of having to use third party commercial software for CT600 returns seems to have been well publicised to the accountancy profession but not to any one else. You will need to weigh up the cost of getting your accountant to deal with your trading subsidiaries against the cost of purchasing the software yourself. Sadly, you will have to purchase an accounts production package to get the accounts into iXBRL format as well as the CT600 package. I use IRIS/PTP products for both and they are technically good, reasonably priced and come with good customer support. Have a look at what is around and I hope you get the right solution for you.

  3. Samantha Aarvold says:

    In Guide Dogs we get our tax advisors at an accountancy firm to file our accounts and make use of their commercial software.

  4. David Lind says:

    At the RSPCA we also use our tax advisors to file these, but the cost for doing very little seems a little OTT & with little or no alternative it seems a little unfair that there isn’t a cheaper option for charities.

  5. David Warrellow says:

    We use VT Accounts to prepare tagged versions of our accounts and now Andica CT600 software for the actual filing with HMRC. The total cost is less than £250 per year. We have not found it difficult to do in-house (once the time has been spent setting up the templates for the accounts).

  6. Chris Evans says:

    I have just had to submit a CT return for the first time for our new trading subsidiary, here at London Cycling Campaign. Many thanks to David Warrellow, above for putting me onto Andica CT 600 software to submit the return. This cost only £48 for this year’s use. I had hoped I would be able to use this software to generate iXBRL accounts and a CT computation. However, I found that the forms they provided were too simple to submit the information that I thought HMRC would require. I therefore had to get our CT tax computation and accounts tagged by an outside accountant, 123XBRL. This cost a further £120. I have finally now managed to successfully submit the whole package to HMRC using the Andica software, total cost £178. This is a lot less than the £1150 plus VAT I was quoted by our auditors. This first time round it has, however, taken quite a bit of time, and I don’t yet know if HMRC will accept our return and computation of nil liability.

  7. John Huke says:

    Here at the University of Oxford I’m also looking to file the subsidiary company CT returns using Andica software. From prior experience I recall this as a close replica of the HMRC forms.

    I’ve also heard that the free HMRC Online software does remain available to companies that are individually registered for HMRC Online services. The tools have been denied to the agent registrations, and that will mostly be used by professional firms. Refer to this extract below from an Online message;

    ‘HMRC is replacing its existing free filing PDF software with a new online service, designed for unrepresented companies and charities with straightforward tax affairs. The new online service is available now and you can use it if it suits your circumstances.’

    So it appears that the free software is still open to those charities with one subsidiary, or a few, provided that they are each registered individually for HMRC Online services.

  8. Mike B says:

    HMRC have written requesting my Rambling Club submit a Corporation Tax return, this is in spite of them previously writing to state that as CASC registered we are outwith the thresholds that would require us to pay any tax. We have 300 members of whom > 50% participate in walking and our turnover is small < £3000. We are looking for a least cost solution to submitting a CT return.

  9. Justin Bevan says:

    Hi Mike
    Have you tried using the interactive PDF offered by HMRC on their website? I think if your organisation has a simple legal structure e.g. no group, parent/subsidiary relationships, you may be able to use the historic form.

  10. Deborah Williams says:

    I would like to recommend checking out Ftax – I have used this tool to file Self Assessments and Corporation Tax for a few years without any stress. Customer service is great too! Price is good for the pocket. I can also recommend VT Accounts for simple final accounts – please review the policy sections which you can customise.

    Most of these software may have limitations for registered charities but the trading entity should be fine.

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