Lost discs will harm online filing

Online filing involves different processes and systems compared to that in
which a junior member of staff fails to keep a proper check on data discs. But
advisers believe HM Revenue & Customs now faces a huge task in turning
around the public’s perception of HMRC’s IT systems and processes.

‘The data loss has wider ramifications for UK taxpayers and businesses ­ with
the advent of online tax filing the perceived security of such sensitive data
will be at the forefront of everybody’s mind,’ said Andrew Hubbard, national tax
technical director at Tenon.

‘There’s no reason to depart from online filing processes, as it’s safer than
putting it in the post. HMRC has to get its reassurances out that this does not
compromise online filing security,’ he added.

With the 31 January self-assessment deadline around the corner, the taxman
must dispel fears that information sent online will fail to be robustly
protected, or face the unusual situation of individuals going back to sending
returns by post, conversely a less protected means of delivery than over the
internet, or by hand. Hubbard believes the figure for uptake of online filing
might suffer ‘a blip’ this year.

Grant Thornton senior tax partner Mike Warburton said the public feared that
the disc loss was indicative of ‘a malaise’ at HMRC.

‘I hope it doesn’t affect online filing, but there are a lot of scared people
out there.’
Advisers’ support of online filing will be a welcome boost to HMRC, which is
pushing for all tax filing to be undertaken online, where advisers have driven
the public’s uptake in recent years.

Online filing has proved popular in recent years as HMRC’s systems have
proved to be robust.

Nearly three million self-assessment filings were made prior to the 31
January 2007 deadline, up 50% on a year earlier ­ advisers filed two million of
those on behalf of clients.

Smith & Williamson national tax director Richard Mannion said that those
planning to file online for the first time will think again ­ but, as far as
firms were concerned, those that have previously filed on behalf of clients
‘would have had a reasonable experience’.
‘It won’t stop firms from filing online,’ said Mannion.

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