Advisers yet to be convinced of the benefits of online filing

HM Revenue & Customs has been told that it needs to improve the
reliability of its online filing infrastructure and market the benefits of
online filing more aggressively if it is to increase the number of advisers who
choose electronic filing over paper-based returns.

In a special report conducted for
HMRC, research house
Opinion Leader Research found that there were still a number of advisers who
refused to file tax returns electronically or were very reluctant to do so.

Concerns abound despite HMRC expecting another huge increase in
self-assessment online filing up to 31 January 2007, with as many as three
million electronic returns filed ahead of to the deadline.

The report found that many non-users were disinclined to switch to online
filing because they were unconvinced about the benefits of doing so, while
others believed that HMRC’s technology was not robust enough to handle returns
accurately, especially during busy times.

‘You hear so many stories. The main story is that come January when you want
to file online you try and do it over the weekend and you can’t do it, so that
doesn’t really instil a great deal of confidence in the system,’ according to
one adviser interviewed.

Another said it was not obvious that it would be any ‘quicker doing it online
or any better’ than doing a paper-based return.

The report said that if HMRC was to increase the number of advisers filing
online it would have to make a significant effort to raise awareness of the
benefits of electronic filing and keep technical problems to a minimum.

‘HMRC needs to ensure its online filing systems are both customer friendly
and effective (i.e. they work) to ensure more widespread adoption. The better
the system is, the greater use [advisers] will make of it,’ the report said.

‘The reputation of the system is paramount to the success of online uptake.
One major system fault could be taken as cast iron evidence by non-users that
they were right to distrust online filing.’

The report said there were also a number of advisers who were very supportive
of electronic filing and eager to file corporation tax returns, self-assessments
and VAT returns online. It also found that many of the advisers opposed to
electronic returns were from an older age group.

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