HMRC has announced an 11th-hour change to its Real Time Information (RTI) system with the scheme just two weeks away from going live.

Recognising that some small employers who pay weekly or more frequently may need longer to adapt to reporting PAYE information in realtime, HMRC has agreed a relaxation of arrangements for small businesses for the first six months.

Forum spokesman Robert Downes said: “Nobody likes last-minute changes, and this development perhaps hints at something of a panic at HMRC that many, many small firms still aren’t fully prepared for RTI.

“However, this does seem the sensible course of action, because a tax system in meltdown come April is in nobody’s best interest, and no doubt many firms will now be breathing a sigh of relief. It will though now add another layer of confusion around a subject which is already as clear as mud to many SMEs.

“HMRC doesn’t have a great track record for communicating well with business – is this yet another example? The suggestion certainly is that awareness levels among SMEs in relation to RTI are nowhere near where they need to be.

“Any business still unsure of what’s expected of them must seek help immediately from HMRC. They aren’t the enemy, and they are there to help firms become compliant.”