By Daniel Hunter

A quarter of UK small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have never heard of Real-Time Information (RTI), and a third are uncertain how it will impact their business, according to the latest research from leading business software and services provider Sage UK.

The lack of awareness and understanding of RTI is a significant concern because it represents one of the most fundamental changes to payroll reporting requirements in the past five decades, and is set to come into effect less than six months away.

The findings, which come from the October 2012 Sage Omnibus of over 1,000 UK SMBs, also revealed that more than 1 in 10 small firms (12%) expect RTI will negatively impact their company and make it more difficult and more time consuming to submit employee information to HMRC.

However, more concerning with the transition looming large on the horizon is the fact that 50 per cent of business owners don’t know when the RTI changes will come into effect for their business.

Introduced from April 2013, RTI will require employers to start providing employee PAYE, National Insurance and Student Loan information to HMRC at point of payment every month, rather than just at year end.

In order to help business owners, office managers and payroll professionals through the transition Sage has releasing a new version of its flagship payroll software for small and growing businesses.

Developed using feedback and insights from over 4,000 Sage customers that participated in the HMRC pilot, Sage 50 Payroll RTI Edition contains an unrivalled level of in product support that enables business owners to effectively navigate the move to RTI.

“RTI represents the biggest change to PAYE reporting for over half a century and it will affect the way every business does things. With Sage 50 Payroll RTI Edition, we’re one of the very first payroll providers to offer RTI compliance, and our support around the transition really sets us apart,” explained Lee Perkins. Managing Director, Small Business Division, Sage UK.

“HMRC is currently working hard to put it on the radar of everyone, but if you’ve not heard from your payroll software provider on RTI by now you need to be asking some serious questions about their readiness for it.”

The success of RTI for HMRC hinges primarily on the accuracy of the data that employers store about their employees.

In recognition of this Sage has developed a series of new features that help employers meet their responsibility to submit accurate and up-to-date information in the right format. New enhancements include:

- The RTI Centre —The RTI Centre provides users with a step-by-step guide on everything they need to do to prepare for, and move into, submitting RTI returns to HMRC. It also contains a series of tools that help businesses fast track key requirements for successful RTI, such as letter templates that enable staff to check existing employee details.

- Data Health Check — Enables users to check the accuracy of the data they hold at the single click of a button and easily identify any missing information. Ensuring data on the business and employees conforms to HMRC rules it gives user peace of mind.