Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) system improvements

The CIPP Policy Team represents members through the Construction Industry Scheme Operational Forum and has recently been provided with an update on the Generic Notification Service and improvements to online verifications.

The GNS messages are due to start on 30 May 2016. Those contractors who have registered an email address will get an email alert telling them that they have messages.

The information below gives guidance on how to access these messages for both HMRC software users and those who use 3rd party software. Also detailed are all the messages and scenarios for the system to issue them.

Although online verifications are not being mandated until April 2017, the improvements backend have already been made. Anybody using the online system now will still be using the existing screens, but the functionality behind these screens has been greatly improved. Screen changes to the HMRC online service are due to come in on 30 May 2016.

Generic Notification Service (GNS) Messages

Contractors will be able to view messages sent to them by HMRC by logging into Online Services and selecting the generic notification notices from within the Notice summary section.

Contractors can also view their notifications in their commercial payroll software, as long as it is compatible with viewing generic notifications. Contractors must contact their software provider to check if it is compatible.

The GNS message itself is not sent through email to an ‘Inbox’; instead, they are sent to an electronic ‘holding area’. The electronic message can then be viewed by the contractor and / or their agent either using their third-party software or their Online Services account. The Online Services application has functionality to allow the contractor or their agent to mark their electronic messages as ‘Complete’.

On receipt of a contractor’s monthly return, the following GNS messages may be generated for the contractors’ information.

  • CIS Return Inactivity Confirmation – Confirmation of the start and end dates for Periods of Inactivity.
  • Period of Inactivity about to end – Notification of when a Period of Inactivity will end.
  • Submission of a return reporting payment and deduction information for a Period of Inactivity – Notification that the Period of Inactivity has been ended following receipt of a return which reports payment and deduction information during a Period of Inactivity.
  • Submission of a ‘nil return’ in a Period of Inactivity - Notification that the Period of Inactivity will continue despite receipt of a ‘nil return’ during a Period of Inactivity.
  • Return amendment where the number of subcontractors has changed – We are seeking confirmation from the contractor that this is correct. If not, we are asking the contractor to amend the return to reflect the correct number of subcontractors.
  • Cost of Materials Enquiry – There is an entry on a return where the cost of materials is equal to, or exceeds, the total payments made to the subcontractor(s) shown. We are asking the contractor to confirm this is correct. If not, we are asking the contractor to amend the return or to call the CIS Helpline to tell us why this has happened.
  • Inactivity Request for a wrong period – A request for a Period of Inactivity has been made for an inappropriate period or we already hold a request for that same period. We are asking the contractor to confirm the position.
  • Return Not Filed Yet – Notification that the return for the current month has not been received and requesting that the return is submitted immediately, otherwise there may be late filing penalty charges.
  • Subcontractor Tax Treatment Enquiry – According to our records an incorrect deduction rate has been applied to one, or more, subcontractors’ payments on the return. We are asking the contractor to check their records and, if an error has been made, to amend the return. Alternatively, if the contractor believes they have given us the correct information, they will need to call the CIS Helpline for further advice.
  • Return Submission, Unmatched Subcontractor – A return has been received with payment and/or deduction information that we cannot assign to a subcontractor’s record. We are asking the contractor to check their records and, if they have given us incorrect information to make an amendment. If the contractor believes the information to be correct, they are asked to call the CIS Helpline for further advice.


  • From 6 April 2017, it will be mandatory to undertake all verifications online. Until that date, however, the CIS Helpline will still accept verification requests by telephone.
  • In the meantime, the online verification process has been improved to give contractors better results when they attempt to verify subcontractors online and the information they have used is not entirely correct. For example, where a contractor is trying to verify a subcontractor with a spelling error in the subcontractor’s name, CISR will be able to recognise this and return the correct subcontractor details.
  • New CISR verification functionality will include searches against the subcontractor’s UTR, Name, NINO or CRN in order to match the subcontractor’s record. Where the UTR, NINO or CRN are provided, this will return an exact match during the verification.
  • Users of the HMRC online filing application will now see a “Tax Treatment” column on their list of subcontractors, showing the subcontractor’s tax treatment from the most recent verification undertaken online. If a subcontractor’s tax treatment is changed internally by HMRC staff, using CISR, the “Tax Treatment” column in the HMRC online filing application will not be updated on the online record. In these circumstances, the contractor will be advised on the CIS316 ‘Change of Tax Treatment’ letter to re-verify the subcontractor to ensure their online records are up to date.
  • It will be possible for a contractor to submit a verification request and/or a monthly return without a particular subcontractor’s UTR but the contractor will be advised that, in such circumstances, the subcontractor’s verification will be ‘unmatched’.
  • It will now be possible to verify a subcontractor where their UTR matches a known subcontractor on CISR, as long as the NINO or CRN also matches what is on the subcontractor’s record, even if the subcontractor’s name has failed to match the CIS Record.
  • The facility within the HMRC online filing application that allows contractors to input directly a subcontractor’s tax treatment status have been withdrawn and only the tax treatment information generated by HMRC will be displayed.