28 April 2001

IACS: £50 incentive for web applications

MAFF is urging growers not to submit IACS applications in person. Many of the countrys regional service centres are closed to farmer visitors due to foot-and-mouth, so growers have been asked to make other arrangements.

One option is to post the forms, and MAFF advises applicants to obtain appropriate evidence of posting, such as recorded delivery, to ensure the application does not go astray. Growers should also be careful to leave plenty of time for the forms to be delivered and acknowledgement of receipt returned – the deadline is 15 May.

Another option advised by MAFF is to submit the forms electronically via its website. All growers who submitted an application last year can access their data on-line, amend it as necessary, and lodge the forms live over the internet. Theres also a £50 incentive to send in electronic VAT forms and reductions for e-PAYE.

To do this you need a digital signature, and it may now be too late to apply for one through your local Chamber of Commerce. But the Government has recently approved the use of Securemark signatures, which are supplied over the internet by Equifax Secure.

Certificates via this electronic route are much faster, involve less hassle and can be obtained without moving from your office, says Equifax. The process involves cross-checking data you supply on-line with data the company already holds on its vast database.

This development came too late for one Lincolnshire grower, Giles Halfhead. He obtained his Chambersign digital signature back in February, and finally lodged his forms earlier this month. These went through without a glitch, but when he tried to lodge his PAYE electronically, he found he had problems.

"It turned out the software was incompatible with my digital certificate and I was advised to re-register. I went to all the rigmarole of doing so, but the process failed because I had already registered. If it wasnt so laughable it would make you cry."