[GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

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[GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Graham Leggett
Hi all,

I just learned with some shock that the UK wants to force SMEs to submit VAT returns “via external software packages” by 1 April 2019, and presents a list of some 150 packages to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to already be using one of those packages, great. If you’re not, you’re facing some disruption.

Gnucash is not on the list (that I could see).

We are not in a position to re-engineer our accounts, but we are in a position to submit patches to Gnucash.

This email is exploratory - is anyone on the gnucash dev list interested in the UK “Making Tax Digital” initiative, with the aim of getting Gnucash “on the list” of approved software? Has anyone done any work in this area?

I am still looking for concrete information on the protocols being used, if anyone has information on that it would be useful too.

Regards,
Graham


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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Geert Janssens-4
Op dinsdag 20 november 2018 00:30:55 CET schreef Graham Leggett:

> Hi all,
>
> I just learned with some shock that the UK wants to force SMEs to submit VAT
> returns “via external software packages” by 1 April 2019, and presents a
> list of some 150 packages to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to already
> be using one of those packages, great. If you’re not, you’re facing some
> disruption.
>
> Gnucash is not on the list (that I could see).
>
> We are not in a position to re-engineer our accounts, but we are in a
> position to submit patches to Gnucash.
>
> This email is exploratory - is anyone on the gnucash dev list interested in
> the UK “Making Tax Digital” initiative, with the aim of getting Gnucash “on
> the list” of approved software? Has anyone done any work in this area?
>
> I am still looking for concrete information on the protocols being used, if
> anyone has information on that it would be useful too.

Hi Graham,

The topic has come up a few times in the past. But as far as I know noone is
currently working on this.

You are certainly welcome to send in patches. However I seem to remember from
past discussions GnuCash stands a very small chance of getting accepted as
it's sources are freely available. That means everybody could build their own
version of gnucash with possibly important details altered. And it's not clear
how to handle this or whether the government will accept this.

So perhaps the first step is to figure out whether the effort is worth
pursuing by researching the restrictions.

If it turns out there is a practical way to support UK's digital VAT system
from within GnuCash I'll gladly accept good patches to implement them on
condition the author is also willing to support this feature long-term.

Best of luck,

Geert


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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

David Cousens
In reply to this post by Graham Leggett
Graham,

From some discussion on various online sources the HMRC appears to have backed down considerably on some of their
initially ridiculous requirements
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-70022-making-tax-digital-for-vat/vat-notice-70022-making-tax-digital-for-vat
. It would appear that at its simplest if you had a submission platform based on their API (
https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0) which meets the requiremnets for
identifying and authorisation of access and you could "digitally" transfer data from GnuCash to that software e.g. in
the form of a JSON and/or XML nd/or CSV file exported by GnuCash which could be imported directly to that software, with
the required VAT information then that would satisfy the legal requirements. You presumably would be required to keep a
copy of this data file as part of your records. From their website, if you were using a tax agent to submit your returns
and supplied data in such a form to the tax agent who then imported it into his submission software, then that would
meet the requirements. The access program would have to meet all the authorisation requirements. These are discussed
more fully on https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/using-the-hub. There are other API's for a
variety of other tax submissions e.g. income tax etc also documented and these will also have to be digitally submitted
in the future.  The target is clearly a moving one but appears to have become a bit better defined with time. The
information on the site is complex and not that easily navigable but does make some sense.

David Cousens

On Tue, 2018-11-20 at 01:30 +0200, Graham Leggett wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> I just learned with some shock that the UK wants to force SMEs to submit VAT returns “via external software packages”
> by 1 April 2019, and presents a list of some 150 packages to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to already be using
> one of those packages, great. If you’re not, you’re facing some disruption.
>
> Gnucash is not on the list (that I could see).
>
> We are not in a position to re-engineer our accounts, but we are in a position to submit patches to Gnucash.
>
> This email is exploratory - is anyone on the gnucash dev list interested in the UK “Making Tax Digital” initiative,
> with the aim of getting Gnucash “on the list” of approved software? Has anyone done any work in this area?
>
> I am still looking for concrete information on the protocols being used, if anyone has information on that it would be
> useful too.
>
> Regards,
> Graham
> —
>
> _______________________________________________
> gnucash-devel mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.gnucash.org/mailman/listinfo/gnucash-devel

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

chazzo
In reply to this post by Graham Leggett
I'm not an accountant, a developer or even a current GnuCash user, but I can
add a bit here. As I understand things, it would be trivial to make GnuCash
work with Making Tax Digital under the current plans. Harder, but really
worthwhile, would be to get HMRC to accept open-source software.

Geert Janssens-4 said open source is a barrier to acceptance. That was the
case in France until recently, but I believe the French tax authorities have
now bowed to pressure to allow open source software for VAT submissions. I
think what will happen is that if you get audited they will audit your
software too. If you're found to have forked it unofficially, I guess you
get busted for that as well as for whatever figures you might have fiddled.

HMRC previously said free solutions would be available, and the House of
Lords is leaning on them to make good on that promise. Well, technically
there are free solutions -- I'm looking at Wave plus VitalTax to do the
actual submission -- but there is no open source. With hundreds of thousands
of UK micro-businesses moaning that they will have to pay monthly
subscriptions for new software, there should be a big opportunity for
GnuCash if that's what you are after.

A Belfast company called  Flax & Teal <http://flaxandteal.co.uk>   uses
GnuCash and is shouting at HMRC. They might be a good starting point if
anyone here wants to take it further.

Really irritating is the fact that all the HMRC-approved software has to do
is put data into the same nine boxes that are on the existing VAT portal. I
heard that originally HMRC planned to ask for details of each VAT
transaction, which makes sense for fighting fraud (I guess you could follow
VAT payments along the chain from one company to the next). But they’ve
abandoned this, so the amount of data transmitted is really trivial.

I've spoken with developers of the database manager FileMaker Pro, and
although it's beyond my skills I am sure the necessary authentication is
really easy if you understand OAuth. You can sign up with HMRC for a
developer account and their documentation looks pretty good.



--
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Christopher Lam
In reply to this post by Geert Janssens-4
Hi All

I have reviewed one of pre-gnucash accounting software which I tried 10-15
years ago. VT Cashbook is free, uses double-entry internally, and is a good
solution for UK-based small traders who do not need accruals.

http://www.vtsoftware.co.uk/mtd/index.htm

A VAT return using sample data (sales = 300 + 20 VAT; purchases = 150+30
VAT) produces the following snippet.
[image: image.png]

So, gnucash may be used to store data, and the "Income&GST Statement"
report to produce numbers, which are then sent to tax office by the
bridging software. A small list of such software is maintained in the link
above. These numbers can be produced using "Income & GST Statement" as long
as the accounts are set up correctly. That's all it takes for the technical
aspects to work.

Chris

On Tue, 20 Nov 2018 at 16:52, Geert Janssens <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Op dinsdag 20 november 2018 00:30:55 CET schreef Graham Leggett:
> > Hi all,
> >
> > I just learned with some shock that the UK wants to force SMEs to submit
> VAT
> > returns “via external software packages” by 1 April 2019, and presents a
> > list of some 150 packages to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to
> already
> > be using one of those packages, great. If you’re not, you’re facing some
> > disruption.
> >
> > Gnucash is not on the list (that I could see).
> >
> > We are not in a position to re-engineer our accounts, but we are in a
> > position to submit patches to Gnucash.
> >
> > This email is exploratory - is anyone on the gnucash dev list interested
> in
> > the UK “Making Tax Digital” initiative, with the aim of getting Gnucash
> “on
> > the list” of approved software? Has anyone done any work in this area?
> >
> > I am still looking for concrete information on the protocols being used,
> if
> > anyone has information on that it would be useful too.
>
> Hi Graham,
>
> The topic has come up a few times in the past. But as far as I know noone
> is
> currently working on this.
>
> You are certainly welcome to send in patches. However I seem to remember
> from
> past discussions GnuCash stands a very small chance of getting accepted as
> it's sources are freely available. That means everybody could build their
> own
> version of gnucash with possibly important details altered. And it's not
> clear
> how to handle this or whether the government will accept this.
>
> So perhaps the first step is to figure out whether the effort is worth
> pursuing by researching the restrictions.
>
> If it turns out there is a practical way to support UK's digital VAT
> system
> from within GnuCash I'll gladly accept good patches to implement them on
> condition the author is also willing to support this feature long-term.
>
> Best of luck,
>
> Geert
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> gnucash-devel mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.gnucash.org/mailman/listinfo/gnucash-devel
>

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Mike Evans-3
Hello all.  

After a hiatus I have successfully interacted with the HMRC API for a test account to post earning & expenses using python.  None of it is joined up yet to: create|query a business, post and query data about that business but my "tests" appear to work as individual pieces.

I haven't yet queried GnuCash for the data either but I can confirm that the HMRC API works for submitting self employed account data.  I've not looked at the VAT part, because I'm not VAT registered, so...

A minimal json data set for a self-employed quarterly submission looks like:

 json_data = {
        "from": "2017-04-06",
        "to": "2017-07-04",
        "incomes": {
        "turnover": {
          "amount": 100.25
        },
        "other": {
          "amount": 100.25
        }
        },
        "consolidatedExpenses": 100.25
        }

and that's it.  That's the example data from: https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/self-assessment-api/2.0#selfemployment-business_create-a-selfemployment-periodic-update_post_accordion

Doing a query on the same period returns:

{u'to': u'2017-07-04', u'consolidatedExpenses': 100.25, u'from': u'2017-04-06', u'incomes': {u'other': {u'amount': 100.25}, u'turnover': {u'amount': 100.25}}}

You can of course provide detailed account data but I never have in past submissions.  These data should be easy to pull out of GnuCash with the (probably augmented) Python bindings to satisfy HMRC each quarter. I guess this could be incorporated into GnuCash as a C++ module at some point but I'll leave that that others more committed. Lest I be committed.

I'll stick the code on GitHub in a while.  It's very much just code to test the connection with a some test POSTs and GETs.  I have lots of cleaning up and comments to add before it's publicly viewable. Tomorrow maybe.

I'm still thinking how to keep the secret, even though HMRC have apparently relaxed that requirement. Ideas welcome on that, maybe a json request from gnucash.org, I know the request code will still be public however, that's the part that needs more_thought&more_input.

Python because it's easy to do quick tests, Sorry Derek. :)

Mike E

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Alain D D Williams
On Thu, Apr 04, 2019 at 09:31:22PM +0100, Mike Evans wrote:

> After a hiatus I have successfully interacted with the HMRC API for a test account to post earning & expenses using python.

Brilliant ... something that I got part way through but never completed.

This is something that I need to do for my, one man band, business. So I will
volunteer to help in some way.

> I've not looked at the VAT part, because I'm not VAT registered, so...

I am VAT registered, so I have motivation to do something.

> A minimal json data set for a self-employed quarterly submission looks like:

So your script reads & sends JSON to HMRC and, presumably generates a JSON file
with the HMRC reply. This is good and I can see it being useful to many others
who need to talk to HMRC - eg organisations that have written their own accounts
programs.


> I'm still thinking how to keep the secret, even though HMRC have apparently
> relaxed that requirement. Ideas welcome on that, maybe a json request from
> gnucash.org, I know the request code will still be public however, that's the
> part that needs more_thought&more_input.

With Open Source software it is hard to have a secret. Ideas:

* Everyone who uses it gets a secret from HMRC. Possible, but a nasty way of
doing it.

* Embedding the key in the code, possibly obscuring it (think: X-OR with
something, or even encrypting it [[ although the key will need to be somewhere
else that can be seen]] ).

* Putting the key in a file. Exactly the same considerations apply as embedding
the key in the code.

* Embedding the key in a small C executable:
+ Run the executable (maybe with magic arguments) and it prints the key to stdout.
+ The python talks to HMRC via this program, this program recognises the
startup dialogue and inserts the key at the appropriate point. Binaries would
need to be made for the supported platforms (Linux, OSx/MacOS, MS-Windows)
Universal binaries can be produced for Linux by statically linking.

It is all down to what HMRC will accept. Embedding the key in the code or file
is what I would prefer. The source code to the C binary could still be Open
Source, but the key would need to be provided with a compile time argument to
the C compiler.

The other question is: who knows the key. With a commercial closed source
supplier I would expect that most people in the development team would know the
key. Are we really any different - it is just that our dev team is a bit larger
than most ????

Thinking about it: how does closed source keep a secret ? The only way is to use
compiled code and embed the secret in there, possibly obscuring it in some way.
But something embedded can be obtained by running the code under a suitable
debugger - an expending some effort.

--
Alain Williams
Linux/GNU Consultant - Mail systems, Web sites, Networking, Programmer, IT Lecturer.
+44 (0) 787 668 0256  https://www.phcomp.co.uk/
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Mike Evans-3
On Fri, 5 Apr 2019 12:52:05 +0100
Alain D D Williams <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Thu, Apr 04, 2019 at 09:31:22PM +0100, Mike Evans wrote:
>
> > After a hiatus I have successfully interacted with the HMRC API for a test account to post earning & expenses using python.  
>
> Brilliant ... something that I got part way through but never completed.
>
> This is something that I need to do for my, one man band, business. So I will
> volunteer to help in some way.
>
> > I've not looked at the VAT part, because I'm not VAT registered, so...  
>
> I am VAT registered, so I have motivation to do something.
>
> > A minimal json data set for a self-employed quarterly submission looks like:  
>
> So your script reads & sends JSON to HMRC and, presumably generates a JSON file
> with the HMRC reply. This is good and I can see it being useful to many others
> who need to talk to HMRC - eg organisations that have written their own accounts
> programs.
>
Well at the moment it's just a collection of test cases so files aren't generated just data printed to the screen at present. These are just the building blocks at the moment.


>
> > I'm still thinking how to keep the secret, even though HMRC have apparently
> > relaxed that requirement. Ideas welcome on that, maybe a json request from
> > gnucash.org, I know the request code will still be public however, that's the
> > part that needs more_thought&more_input.  
>
> With Open Source software it is hard to have a secret. Ideas:
>
> * Everyone who uses it gets a secret from HMRC. Possible, but a nasty way of
> doing it.
The key is application specific and is obtained when registering the application.

> Thinking about it: how does closed source keep a secret ? The only way is to use
> compiled code and embed the secret in there, possibly obscuring it in some way.
> But something embedded can be obtained by running the code under a suitable
> debugger - an expending some effort.
>
Just run strings on any compiled code.  If you know the key format then use a regex to find candidate keys from the output.

Mike E

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Christopher Lam
In reply to this post by Mike Evans-3
I have it in my near todo.txt to add export-json from
income-gst-statement.scm which calculates net & VAT amounts.

I will *not* be writing bridging software.

If anyone can find the exact json format expected for HMRC I'll get it done.

On Fri, 5 Apr 2019 at 05:32, Mike Evans <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hello all.
>
> After a hiatus I have successfully interacted with the HMRC API for a test
> account to post earning & expenses using python.  None of it is joined up
> yet to: create|query a business, post and query data about that business
> but my "tests" appear to work as individual pieces.
>
> I haven't yet queried GnuCash for the data either but I can confirm that
> the HMRC API works for submitting self employed account data.  I've not
> looked at the VAT part, because I'm not VAT registered, so...
>
> A minimal json data set for a self-employed quarterly submission looks
> like:
>
>  json_data = {
>         "from": "2017-04-06",
>         "to": "2017-07-04",
>         "incomes": {
>         "turnover": {
>           "amount": 100.25
>         },
>         "other": {
>           "amount": 100.25
>         }
>         },
>         "consolidatedExpenses": 100.25
>         }
>
> and that's it.  That's the example data from:
> https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/self-assessment-api/2.0#selfemployment-business_create-a-selfemployment-periodic-update_post_accordion
>
> Doing a query on the same period returns:
>
> {u'to': u'2017-07-04', u'consolidatedExpenses': 100.25, u'from':
> u'2017-04-06', u'incomes': {u'other': {u'amount': 100.25}, u'turnover':
> {u'amount': 100.25}}}
>
> You can of course provide detailed account data but I never have in past
> submissions.  These data should be easy to pull out of GnuCash with the
> (probably augmented) Python bindings to satisfy HMRC each quarter. I guess
> this could be incorporated into GnuCash as a C++ module at some point but
> I'll leave that that others more committed. Lest I be committed.
>
> I'll stick the code on GitHub in a while.  It's very much just code to
> test the connection with a some test POSTs and GETs.  I have lots of
> cleaning up and comments to add before it's publicly viewable. Tomorrow
> maybe.
>
> I'm still thinking how to keep the secret, even though HMRC have
> apparently relaxed that requirement. Ideas welcome on that, maybe a json
> request from gnucash.org, I know the request code will still be public
> however, that's the part that needs more_thought&more_input.
>
> Python because it's easy to do quick tests, Sorry Derek. :)
>
> Mike E
>
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>
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> [hidden email]
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Mike Evans-3
On Sat, 6 Apr 2019 11:29:20 +0800
Christopher Lam <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I have it in my near todo.txt to add export-json from
> income-gst-statement.scm which calculates net & VAT amounts.
>
> I will *not* be writing bridging software.
Good, also interesting, in that I never considered exporting from the reports. I guess for self assessment the data could be exported from the same report ? But then I'm not good with scheme.

I was becoming concerned that by the time this becomes compulsory (which it already is for VAT. Although the gov. have allowed a further breaking in time) no one would have written this for GnuCash, hence the Python bridge. I really did not want to buy another computer running Windows 10, plus an accounting package to submit my small self employed earnings. I could employ an tax agent every quarter to submit for me I suppose.  I guess that applies to many GnuCash users.

>
> If anyone can find the exact json format expected for HMRC I'll get it done.

For VAT there are examples at https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0#_submit-vat-return-for-period_post_accordion although I've not tested anything there yet.  I've only tested the Self Assessment API at https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/self-assessment-api/2.0#selfemployment-business_get-a-selfemployment-periodic-update_get_accordion in the posted Python scripts.

For creating a test user for VAT this looks like the page https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/api-platform-test-user/1.0#_create-a-test-user-which-is-an-individual_post_accordion I'll try that with some python later.

Have you registered as a developer with HMRC? What's your solution to the client_secret problem?

Mike E
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Christopher Lam
On Sat, 6 Apr 2019 at 17:49, Mike Evans <[hidden email]> wrote:

> For VAT there are examples at
> https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0#_submit-vat-return-for-period_post_accordion
> although I've not tested anything there yet.  I've only tested the Self
> Assessment API at
> https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/self-assessment-api/2.0#selfemployment-business_get-a-selfemployment-periodic-update_get_accordion
> in the posted Python scripts.
>
> For creating a test user for VAT this looks like the page
> https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/api-platform-test-user/1.0#_create-a-test-user-which-is-an-individual_post_accordion
> I'll try that with some python later.
>
> Have you registered as a developer with HMRC? What's your solution to the
> client_secret problem?
>
>
All these are "bridging software" problems.
I'm prepared to export from income-gst-statement to period-summary.json or
period-summary.csv
Bridging software will take the above summaries, handle passwords/keys, and
authenticate/send to HMRC.
The VAT return examples are trivial to generate.

C
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Mike Evans-3
On Sat, 6 Apr 2019 23:29:30 +0800
Christopher Lam <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sat, 6 Apr 2019 at 17:49, Mike Evans <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > For VAT there are examples at
> > https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/vat-api/1.0#_submit-vat-return-for-period_post_accordion
> > although I've not tested anything there yet.  I've only tested the Self
> > Assessment API at
> > https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/self-assessment-api/2.0#selfemployment-business_get-a-selfemployment-periodic-update_get_accordion
> > in the posted Python scripts.
> >
> > For creating a test user for VAT this looks like the page
> > https://developer.service.hmrc.gov.uk/api-documentation/docs/api/service/api-platform-test-user/1.0#_create-a-test-user-which-is-an-individual_post_accordion
> > I'll try that with some python later.
> >
> > Have you registered as a developer with HMRC? What's your solution to the
> > client_secret problem?
> >
> >  
> All these are "bridging software" problems.
> I'm prepared to export from income-gst-statement to period-summary.json or
> period-summary.csv
> Bridging software will take the above summaries, handle passwords/keys, and
> authenticate/send to HMRC.
> The VAT return examples are trivial to generate.
>
> C

OK, I'm clear now. I misunderstood what you intended to do.

Mike E
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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Alain D D Williams
In reply to this post by Christopher Lam
On Sat, Apr 06, 2019 at 11:29:30PM +0800, Christopher Lam wrote:

> All these are "bridging software" problems.

I would feel happier working on a free standing bridging s/ware than digging
inside Gnu cash. It doesn't sound as if it is very hard, although I have not
done played with Oauth before. I assume that it is send one file to HMRC, get
one file by way of reply - do you know if it is more complicated than that ?

> I'm prepared to export from income-gst-statement to period-summary.json or
> period-summary.csv
> Bridging software will take the above summaries, handle passwords/keys, and
> authenticate/send to HMRC.
> The VAT return examples are trivial to generate.

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Mike Evans-3
On Sat, 6 Apr 2019 18:36:41 +0100
Alain D D Williams <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sat, Apr 06, 2019 at 11:29:30PM +0800, Christopher Lam wrote:
>
> > All these are "bridging software" problems.  
>
> I would feel happier working on a free standing bridging s/ware than digging
> inside Gnu cash. It doesn't sound as if it is very hard, although I have not
> done played with Oauth before. I assume that it is send one file to HMRC, get
> one file by way of reply - do you know if it is more complicated than that ?
>

Working python examples at https://github.com/EvansMike/hmrc_self_submit convert them into your favourite language.
 It's example code code using the sandbox-test API.

Mike E

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Re: [GNC-dev] Gnucash and the UK's "Making Tax Digital" initiative

Derek Atkins-3
In reply to this post by Mike Evans-3
Mike Evans <[hidden email]> writes:

[snip]
> Python because it's easy to do quick tests, Sorry Derek. :)

No worries; you're doing the work, not me  :)

> Mike E

-derek

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