This alert only applies to companies with UK resident employees or directors who have been granted options or share awards. The UK annual share plan returns for the 2014/2015 tax year must be filed with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by 6 July 2015. All share plans must also be registered by this date. Significant penalties and tax consequences can apply automatically if the returns are not filed in time.

Online filing

All UK annual share plan returns must now be filed online using HMRC's online employment related securities ("ERS") service. The old paper forms (Form 34, 35, 39, 40 and 42) are no longer accepted.

You must complete a share plan annual return for each type of plan you operate. HMRC have published templates and guidance which are available by clicking on the following links:

Registration requirements for tax advantaged and non-tax advantaged plans

All arrangements under which employment related securities have been awarded prior to 6 April 2015 (both tax advantaged and non-tax advantaged) must be registered by 6 July 2015 at the latest. Failure to meet this deadline means you risk either losing tax advantages (including for plans which have been operated for several years) or being unable to file your end of year return on time and then incurring penalties. You must register your share awards or arrangements and plans online by 6 July 2015 even if HMRC are already aware of the plan and have previously approved it.

Registration can take up to a week to complete, so if your plans are not already registered you should start this process immediately.

Accessing HMRC's Online ERS service

You will first need access to HMRC's PAYE Online for Employers service. You can register for this service (if you are not already) by following this link. Registration involves HMRC sending a "Government Gateway" Code through the post to your registered office which can take up to 10 days to arrive. You should factor this delay (as well as the possible one-week delay to register your share plans) into meeting the registration and annual reporting deadline of 6 July 2015.