In a recent survey of payroll professionals, conducted by Albany Software, statistics indicate that over one third of UK businesses appear to be unprepared for HMRC’s Real Time Information (RTI) initiative, which comes into force early next year.

A staggering 33% of Payroll & Bureaux Managers admitted to having heard of the HMRC RTI concept but were “unsure of how it worked” or what they had to do to accommodate the change and a further 3% of those questioned claimed to have “never heard of it”. Of the remaining 64%, over a quarter of them (28%) said that they had “done nothing”, when questioned for the upcoming mandated scheme.

The survey makes for uncomfortable reading with roll out of the HMRC RTI pilot programme already underway. With positive reports and successful submissions from the first set of pilot customers, additional groups of employers are now set to go live earlier than anticipated, placing pressure on the remaining organisations to ensure that they are up to speed with the requirements of RTI sooner rather than later.

Most companies are expected to be submitting payroll information in real time by April 2013 with larger employers expected to be RTI compliant by September 2013, in time for the introduction of Universal Credits by October 2013.

Adrian Stafford-Jones, Managing Director at Albany Software, said: “Businesses need to ensure that the small yet vital elements of planning for the RTI transition have been done. Making sure your Bacs software is RTI compliant, your payroll software is up to date and your employee information is correct will go a long way in ensuring a swift and efficient move to the new RTI processes. Businesses must prepare now to minimise disruption as much as possible.”

The first 10 employers took part in the HMRC RTI pilot programme in April and initial submissions were made on-time with little issue. May and June saw a further 328 PAYE schemes begin submitting RTI information to HMRC. The controlled go-live of the RTI roll out aims at testing the infrastructure and support in order to optimise performance and flush out any issues that may arise. The initial launch included companies participating from a range of sizes and types, including HMRC, Albany Software and Leeds City Council.

Stafford-Jones said: “Albany Software was one of the pilot customers to go live, and is pleased to provide positive feedback on what was a quick, seamless and successful initial RTI submission. We are delighted to report that all went well and we anticipate the process to run smoothly now that we have sent our initial submissions.”

Albany Software customer, Leeds City Council, also went live with HMRC RTI as part of the pilot in June. In October 2011, the council was advised that they were to be involved in the first part of the pilot programme and needed to upgrade their existing payroll and Bacs software, in order to accommodate the new changes. Leeds City Council produced their payroll RTI file in May 2012, followed shortly by submission testing. Once testing was complete, the council was able to process a live submission of the RTI file in June.

Jackie Standring, Head of Payroll Services, Leeds City Council said: “To enable a painless migration, organisations need to plan accordingly. Doing the necessary groundwork, such as system updates, in advance will certainly smooth the process. From a payroll perspective, the transfer to the latest, RTI-compliant BACS software was a seamless process, with comprehensive and informative training provided.”

Whilst participation in the pilot programme ramps up over the next 9 months, businesses should get on board now to make sure that they are RTI ready. From July to September 2012, a 1,000+ more employers will join the pilot and, subject to its success, hundreds of thousands will begin to submit RTI data during the last quarter of 2012. By the time March 2013 rolls around, 250,000 employers are expected to have successfully submitted RTI data in a live environment.

Stafford-Jones concluded: “The key to making successful RTI submissions is to ensure your data is clean and correct, and most importantly that you’re running RTI-compliant payroll and BACS software. By doing this sooner rather than later, you will not only avoid the last minute rush, but will be secure in the knowledge that your organisation is well placed to process successful RTI submissions within the legislated timelines.”