Technology – Online filing fear surfaces.

Inland Revenue plans to allow companies to file tax returns online have sparked controversy, as the Confederation of British Industry believes the system is insecure.

The project will go live on 6 April. However, Nigel Hickson, head of ebusiness at the CBI, said: ‘It is a lost opportunity. Passwords are not secure. The technology for e-certificates and e-signatures does exist, with UK companies manufacturing and using the technology. For some time we have been saying businesses need to authenticate themselves. We need Public Key Infrastructure.

‘With a simple password integrity is at stake. Anyone can get to know it if they are determined enough,’ he added.

But a Revenue spokesman denied the system was insecure. ‘There will be stringent security measures. Data files containing all registered user information will be stored behind a multi-level array of firewalls,’ he insisted.

Companies will be able to use the net for their end of year returns for 2000-2001, and will receive a #50 discount for filing online.

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