Paymaster general Dawn Primarolo told MPs on the Treasury sub-committee that incorrect data held on the databases is causing delays or incorrect decisions to be made.
‘We need to continue to clear that database. It is really a question of the database now being expected to do more than was originally intended and, therefore, needing to be improved,’ she told MPs.
Primarolo said the ‘crucial’ PAYE database was built the mid-1980s on a regional basis: ‘We needed at that point in time a national database but it was not possible – technology did not enable the Revenue to develop that.’
She said the regional structure sometimes causes problems: For example, when people have jobs in different places, the way the regional databases collect this does not always give the Revenue a complete picture. Another problem occurs when people move home without telling the taxman, and then send in a self assessment return from the new address, because the database may not recognise it and will issue a penalty to the old address.
‘Each time the Revenue has developed databases they were the best that could be done at that time and, as we move on in terms of the demands from our customers, they do not always provide the information our customers want – or, indeed, that we might want to give our customers the best service,’ she admitted.
According to its Expenditure Plans 2002-2004, part of the Revenues medium term strategy is to expand its electronic services and clean up of our current databases.
As part of its plans for 2002/03 the revenue said: ‘The successful introduction of the new Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit is the department’s top priority for 2002/2003. As part of the preparations, we will be taking the opportunity to clean up our computer databases – which will also provide substantial benefits for other processes – and ensure that they remain clean.’
The Revenue is also working on the development of an ‘Integrated Citizen Tracing Facility’, which will be used to create a single view of the citizen across the Revenue and Department for Work and Pensions.
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