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HMRC annual share plan returns – 10 top tips to ensure you are ready for 6 July 15

January 2015

As mentioned in our previous update, a new online registration and filing regime for share plans came into force on 6 April 2014; the first annual filing deadline under the new regime will be 6 July 2015.  We have set out below 10 top tips for companies to ensure a smooth transition to the new regime.

  1. Don’t leave it until the last minute

Although 6 July may seem a long time away, you should start the registration process as soon as possible.  There are quite a few steps to go through before you are in a position to make the filings, and you should build in time to deal with any technical difficulties.  Given the amount of lead-in time given to companies, it is unlikely that HMRC will accept an excuse on technical grounds if there is a delay in making the filing. 

  1. Consider which group company will make the filing

In order to make the online filings a company must first be registered for HMRC online services.  However, any group company can make the filing in respect of all group employees.  Therefore, if there is one group company that is already registered, you can make the filing under the PAYE reference of that company.

  1. Work out what share plans/arrangements need to be registered

You should register any share plan under which there are existing options or awards outstanding.  If employees acquire shares outside of a formal share plan, you will still need to register the arrangement.  It’s sensible to cross check against your previous paper Form 42s to see which plans/arrangements were previously included.

Even if there is no reportable event in the 2014/15 year, it will be necessary to submit a nil return for each plan registered.

  1. Start using the HMRC templates to record your data

HMRC have published template spreadsheets for each type of annual return on which the relevant data must be recorded and then uploaded as part of the filing.  There is very little scope for changing the format of the template spreadsheets, so it can save time later down the line if you start using the templates to record your data.

  1. Consider how to register your non-tax advantaged plans

It is possible to register your non-tax advantaged plans either separately or as one plan.  Which is the best approach will depend on the nature of your arrangements.  A separate return will be required for each registered plan, so registering all plans under one umbrella arrangement can have advantages.  However, for companies with a wide variety of different share incentives arrangements and a large number of participants, it may be simpler from an administrative perspective to register the different plans separately. 

  1. Ensure your adviser/administrator is authorised well in advance

Although companies need to register plans through HMRC online services themselves, the filings can be carried out by a third party agent.  Agent authorisation involves sending access codes through the post and can take some weeks to process, so you should make sure you start on the authorisation process now.

  1. Ensure you keep records of all information included in the filing

One of the quirks of the new online filing system is that companies and their agents will have no access to annual return information that has been submitted.  Therefore, it is very important that you take screenshots of the relevant pages of the online filing process and keep copies of all data schedules submitted.  

  1. You will still need to make an annual EMI return even if you have notified option grants

The new online notification regime for EMI options has been in place since 6 April 2014 so many companies will already have registered their EMI plans in order to make those notifications.  However, companies will still need to make their EMI annual return by 6 July 2015 through the online filing system.

  1. Ensure your tax advantaged plans are compliant

Although tax advantaged plans (CSOP, SIP and SAYE) will no longer require specific approval from HMRC, companies will need to declare as part of the online registration process that the plan meets the relevant legislative requirements. 

HMRC has confirmed that if a plan was previously approved by HMRC before 6th April 2014, it will not raise enquiries into whether the plan satisfies the legislative requirements.  However, if you have made any changes to a ‘key feature’ of a tax advantaged plan after that date, you will need to confirm compliance again as part of the next following annual return.

  1. Check the HMRC guidance

Don’t forget that there has been plenty of guidance published by HMRC over the last year, through its employment-related securities bulletins and other specific mailings to companies.  This includes step by step guides on the entire process, from registering for HMRC online services through to making the annual return.  HMRC has also introduced a checking service for data spreadsheets so that companies can ensure that all data is uploaded correctly.

How can we help?

We have a team dedicated to helping you with all aspects of the registration, self-certification and annual filing regime.  We have agent access to the HMRC employment-related securities service to enable us to carry out annual return filings and EMI option grant notifications on your behalf.  We also have a lot of experience guiding clients through the registration process to make it as simple as possible for you.  If you already operate a tax advantaged plan, we offer a compliance check service for the purposes of the self-certification declaration that you will need to make on registration.



For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please contact Guy Abbiss ( or Jonathan Fletcher Rogers ( on +44 20 3051 5711.



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