4. Online filing and registration of employee share schemes
In ERSS Bulletin no. 8 (May 2013), HMRC gave further details of how the new system of online registration and self-certification of share schemes will operate from April 2014. An important point to note is that the requirement to register existing and new employee share schemes is proposed to extend not simply to HMRC approved SAYE, SIPs and CSOPs, but also to all “non-tax advantaged arrangements currently recorded on Form 42, as well as EMI schemes [sic]”. According to HMRC, “registration is required to enable online filing of annual returns; it is expected to be no more than a one off provision of basic information through the PAYE Online service”. When an employer logs on to the registration process they will be presented with various options including both registration of an employee share scheme and subject to meeting certain conditions, the self-certification process. For SIPs, SAYE schemes and CSOPs to qualify for tax advantages, employers must have registered and certified the plan/scheme no later than 6 July following the end of the tax year during which the first award or grant is made (or the scheme must have been previously approved by HMRC). Registration and (if appropriate) self-certification, will be needed only once. Each scheme will be given a unique reference number. In the case of a group of companies, it is unclear whether multiple registrations will be required by each employer company (an additional burden!), as opposed to a single registration by the plan company.
Online filing will also be mandatory for all employee share schemes reportable under the annual share schemes process. From April 2014, employers will have the ability to submit form EMI1 (notification of grant of an EMI share option) online. Online notification will become mandatory when enabling legislation is enacted. Annual returns on forms 34, 35, 39, 40 and 42 must be submitted online from April 2015. Information currently required to be given on these forms is under review, along with the development of online intelligent forms which are expected to reduce the current burden faced by employers.
The existing requirement to report each year, on Form 42, the grant of an unapproved employment-related share option and the acquisition of (or of an interest in) employment-related securities relates to each individual option/award. It now appears that there will be an additional requirement to register each “scheme”. In practice, it may be difficult to identify what exactly is a ‘scheme’ (if indeed there be a scheme at all). Private companies are generally not now concerned to ensure the existence of a ‘scheme’ – particularly now that the financial assistance prohibition no longer applies to such companies.