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HMRC internal manual

Self Assessment Manual

Returns: filing paper returns: return scanning and auto logging process


Scanning procedure
Cherished items
Logging procedure
Exceptions to the Logging procedure
Log Failure List
Scanned images

Background {#}

From July 2015, a new process was introduced to scan incoming tax returns to convert them into digital images and to log them automatically. The digital image can then be accessed from the Digital Management System (DMS) in order to capture the relevant information into the SA system. The original paper return will be retained for 130 days and will then be disposed of.

All returns will be logged where possible, including Bankruptcy and returns for Deceased cases (unless in-year returns), and where the system identifies that a return has already been logged or a charge has been recorded for that year, an entry will appear on W024 – Duplicate return logged worklist but will not appear on the Log Failure List. 

Scanning procedure {#}

SA100 and SA800 returns by virtue of the return address will be delivered direct to the scanning facility but other returns redirected from within the department will be sent to Manchester and then batched and sent to the scanning facility where they are scanned This action creates a file which is then run against CESA to enter logging information such as the date received. Returns scanned on Day 1 populate a Data or Log File which is then sent over to HMRC by 6.00pm on the first working day after receipt and will be run into CESA overnight. However there may be cases where the return cannot be scanned automatically and requires an operators’ attention to complete that action so there may be a delay before the ‘Maintain Return Summary’ screen shows the date the return was logged in. However, where a return has been filed but filed late, the late filing penalty will be created when the return is captured. If the return has not been received when the first late filing penalty scan is run, the penalty will be charged immediately after the penalty scan.

After the log file has run, the ‘Maintain Return Summary’ screen will show

  • The Office OUID as 249999
  • The new field `Logged by 3rd party scan’ will show `Y’

Each envelope opened will be given a New Envelope Sticker (NES) with a unique reference number that is placed on the first page of the first return in each envelope. Any subsequent return within that envelope will receive a ‘Document sticker’ with a unique reference number which will be placed on the first page of that return.

The return and enclosures are sorted into a pre-set order consisting of

  • Tax year
  • Within that tax year, the return is brought to the front with additional paper schedules behind
  • Other correspondence
  • Any other information such as accounts

Exceptions {#}

All exceptions to this process will be sent to Central Mail Unit (CMU) to be dealt with.

Exceptions are classed as

  • Returns sent with cash or cheques – the whole return is sent to CMU and the cash or cheques are  removed and sent for banking before the return is sent back for scanning using the original date of receipt
  • Damaged items
  • Envelopes that contain items unrelated to that customer
  • Returns with cherished items which have no address for return
  • Other SA exceptions, such as damaged returns, or returns with unrelated items, will be sent to East Kilbride
  • Any returns received locally in HMRC offices should be sent to PT Ops Manchester (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • SA return forms SA200/SA700/SA900/SA970 will be forwarded to the appropriate address following MSG100850

Note: Where the return shows a change of address, the return will be scanned into DMS and the address will be amended as part of the DMS validation and pre-capture checks.

Cherished items {#}

Cherished items are photocopied and the copy is then placed with the return and sent for scanning. The original is then sent back to the customer. All cherished items sent back to the customer will show a Valuable Item (VI) sticker (excluding cash and cheques).

Cherished items include

  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Power of Attorney
  • Letters of Administration
  • Grant of Probate
  • P60
  • P45
  • Sub-Contractors vouchers
  • Bank Statements
  • Dividend certificate
  • Unit Trust certificate
  • Receipts
  • Chargeable Event Certificate
  • Interest certificates
  • Wills
  • EIS3/5 certificates

Logging procedure {#}

The return is then scanned and the process creates an image for the Digital Mail System, a Log file (known as a Data file) containing the logging information and a Log Failure List.

Note: If the return shows a handwritten Unique Taxpayer reference (UTR) number the details will be input manually after scanning, for inclusion in the Log File.

Exceptions to the Logging procedure {#}

All returns will be logged unless:-

  • No UTR is shown - Examples of these failures are unsolicited returns, the UTR is incorrect or the UTR is missing
  • The Return Type is not present. The default  ‘Return Type’ will be SA100 so if the UTR is for an individual the return will be logged using this process
  • In-year returns, or those where the return year has been manually altered. These returns will be identified because the year will be crossed through and the scanning system cannot recognise these
  • A return has already been logged
  • There is no existing a record
  • Amendments and Return charge cases. Note: These two items will not be included in the Log Failure list

Log Failure List {#}

The list will be sent daily using the Digital Mail Service and represents all returns which have been scanned but the automated process to create a log file has failed. The batch number used to manually log these returns will be the DMS image ID.

A list will be created for the first three categories above and will show

  • Scan reference
  • Envelope ID
  • UTR
  • Return Type - either present or no data
  • Return Year – Examples of these failures are Permanent cessation cases, such as deceased in-year returns or forms where the return year has been manually altered

Action to take

  No UTR
  #### Unsolicited returns
1. Follow business as usual guidance
2. #### If the UTR is wrong or missing
  Correct the UTR and manually log the return.
  Make sure the correct UTR is entered into the customer ID field on the DMS image
3. For any other query, refer for advice
  No Return Type
  Review the scanned image to determine the type of post
4. If it is a Return
  • Log into SA manually    
      5. If it is not a return
  • Using the Re-categorisation tool’ in DMS, consider what the correct type is and move it into the correct queue    
      6. For other items
  • Refer to the Redirection guide or refer for advice    
        In-year returns
      7. Review the scanned image to determine the correct tax year
  • Manually log the form(s)    
        If you are unable to determine the correct year
  • Refer to an AO    
        Note: You will not be able to log in-year returns for the current year. In these cases follow current guidance


Scanned images {#}

Every scanned return will have an image created on the Digital Mail System with a unique image ID, irrespective of whether it is logged or not, and will be placed initially in the return queue ‘PSA-SA Return 1’.

The first action by an operator is to establish that the return has been logged and identify what they are dealing with. For example, whether it is an original return, an amendment, an ‘Away’ case, Unsolicited, Bankruptcy case, Deceased return or a logged/charge recorded return.

The second action will be to alter the default retention period on the Digital mail System from 3 to 7 years and check for other returns that have been sent in for the same customer identified through the Related Items tab.

If the return is found to be unsatisfactory when capture commences, the image will need to be printed and sent back to the customer with a covering letter. When the re-signed and corrected return is received back, a new envelope sticker will be applied.

Under this process most returns will have been logged without any pre-logging checks therefore, where appropriate, the return must be unlogged if it has been logged previously. For example, Deceased cases that need to be dealt with using NPS, Bankruptcy returns logged to the wrong record and Unsolicited returns with no SA criteria.

If the return needs to be sent away for action, the image will need to be printed off first and then sent on to the appropriate place. For example, ‘Away’ returns, RIS cases or PD1 cases. In secure cases the image will also need to be deleted from the Digital Mail Service.