TaxPersonal TaxOnline self-assessment needs accountants

Online self-assessment needs accountants

If the Inland Revenue is to improve its online self-assessment service accountants must take a central role, according to technology partner EDS, one of the world's largest IT outsourcers.

Link: Revenue’s online site clogs up

Craig Wilson, client executive for EDS at the Revenue, told Accountancy Age, it is extremely important for the project to get the confidence of accountants and that ‘collectively we [EDS and the Revenue] could do a better job of engaging them’.

He described the SA service as a direct channel to the taxpayer, but for it to be truly successful it must act as a portal for accountants. ‘The Revenue’s strategy is to get more intermediaries – be they accountants or whatever – to do more of the upfront work where there is value to be added for the end user,’ he said.

So far the service has struggled for a variety of reasons and Wilson admitted the blame could lie with his company on some points.

‘There were a couple of absolutely critical incidences, and mistakes were made,’ he said. ‘But we are learning as we go and at the moment, touch wood, it seems to be very stable.’

When asked whether the multitude of red tape synonymous with government was a hindrance, Wilson said it was absolutely necessary in some cases, but not in others.

In some instances, he said, a system change would affect dozens of other applications and the red tape was necessary. But in as many as a third of decisions red tape could be cut with an improvement in performance as a result.

‘[The project] is now getting super serious,’ said Wilson. ‘This is not experimental anymore. It’s getting to the point when it’s going to be the principle channel.’

When asked whether he felt the Revenue had been foolhardy to rush into a project based on relatively new technology, he said most commentators, including those within the Revenue, would want to do more faster. ‘In a lot of places the Revenue used this system, if I can use this phrase, to get some runs on the board.’

EDS’s contract with the Revenue expires in 2004 and renewal of the contract – worth between £300m and £400m a year – is now out to tender. EDS/Accenture, BT, and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young complete the bidders.

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