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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Process payments in DMB Banking: Processing through MARS

MARS processes

MARS processes:

  • Cheque payments
  • Clerical bank giro payments
  • Dishonoured cheques and payments
  • Nil declarations

Cheque payments

Cheques are accepted for the following HoDs.

  • Self Assessment (CESA)
  • Company Tax (COTAX)
  • VAT
  • National Insurance payments
  • SDLT
  • Tax Credits
  • Schedule D, E, IT-CP, Capital Gains Tax etc (IRIS)
  • OAS (Overpayments)
  • RFOC (Received for Other Collection – through OAS and IRIS)
  • SAFE (and old Network Unit Payments)

Transports - Pass 1

MARS consists of several processing machines (transports) through which payslips and cheques are fed in batches. The transports capture the information on these paper documents and feed this to a computer system (pass 1). The transports are equipped with:

  • OCR reader (optical character recognition to read the code line on the payslip)
  • MICR reader (magnetic ink recognition to read the code line on the cheque)
  • cameras (to take an image of the cheque and payslip)

If the transports are unable to capture all the information from the cheques and payslips, an image is passed to an intelligent character recognition (ICR) engine to try to work this out. If the ICR software cannot confidently read the data, the image is passed to a workstation for an operator for keying. The images are passed to operators in a series of worksteps, one for each different kind of validation.

Work is grouped into batches of about 300 payslips and cheques. Control documents are placed at the front and back of the batch. A batch consists of:

  • batch header (showing the batch number)
  • batch identifier (showing the characteristics of the batch)
  • documents (payslip) – up to 300
  • cheque (optional) – up to 300
  • batch trailer

Batch Combination Table

The typical batch combinations are as follows.

Document type

SD = single document (payslip)

MD = multi document (payslip)

SC = single cheque

MC = multi cheque EDPs Signals (receipt requested etc)  
  SD/SC No No
  SD/MC No No
  MC/SD No No
  SD No No
  SD/SC Yes No
  SD/MC Yes No
  MC/SD Yes No
  SD Yes No
  SD/SC No Yes
  SD/MC No Yes
  MC/SD No Yes
  SD No Yes
  SD/SC Yes Yes
  SD/MC Yes Yes
  MC/SD Yes Yes
  SD Yes Yes
  SD/SC Common No
  SD/MC Common No
  MC/SD Common No
  SD Common No
  SD/SC Common Yes
  SD/MC Common Yes
  MC/SD Common Yes
  SD Common Yes

Transports -Pass 2

When all the information has been captured and balanced, the batches are run through the transports a second time (pass 2) for:

  • encoding (the value of the cheque is printed in magnetic ink in the bottom right corner).
  • audit trail spraying
  • crossing stamp (so the bank knows where to return any dishonoured cheques)
  • out sorting (end pointing) – the cheques are separated from the payslips and into pockets at the end of the transport. They are grouped by sort code into batches for lodgement with the bank (English, Scottish and Irish). A docket control voucher (DCV) is automatically inserted at set intervals to help the bank process the batches at the clearing house.

The images taken during pass 1 are stored in an electronic image archive controlled by Shipley Central Records.

At the end of the day:

  • cheques (and DCVs) are bundled together with a cheque listing report (generated by MARS), put into bankers boxes and taken by courier to the banks clearing centre
  • payment data (text) is sent to the image archive
  • output files are generated and sent to RCS to update customer records
  • MARS sends an ‘end of day’ (EOD) flag to RCS (so that RCS can start its overnight processing)