Taxman’s IT systems under fire

Taxman’s IT systems under fireThe accounting institutes have called for
closer ties between HM Revenue & Customs, accountants and taxpayers as the
department braces itself for a review of its electronic services.

The institutes’ requests for a closer relationship between HMRC and customers
came as Lord Carter takes responses before publishing a review to determine the
of HMRC’s e-services strategy, in late Autumn.

Donald Drysdale, assistant director of tax at ICAS, said that ‘it appeared’
HMRC had looked only at its own requirements regarding its systems, and had
‘failed to consider the needs of taxpayers and their agents’.

‘There is a need to restore faith in e-filing and to overcome HMRC’s loss of
credibility following the repeated collapse of its IT systems. A successful
e-services strategy will require HMRC and the tax profession to work together
towards the same ends.’

Paul Aplin, deputy chairman of the ICAEW tax faculty, said that
HMRC-to-stakeholder consultation veered between being ‘very inclusive’ or ‘look
what we’ve done’.

Aplin raised concerns about the short length of time given for interested
parties to pass responses onto the Treasury regarding the review, and the speed
at which the review will be published.

He also pointed to repeated online delivery failures at peak times as a key
problem faced by the department: ‘To not be able to anticipate demand is
HMRC’s IT systems must hold up at peak usage times. We don’t want to see time
and time again how these systems can be unreliable, especially at pinch points,’
said ACCA head of tax Chas Roy-Chowdhury.

Lord Carter is a member of the government’s public services productivity
panel, and led the review of payroll services in 2001. He has chaired other
reviews including Commonwealth Games 2002, national athletics review, English
national stadium, Criminal Records Bureau and the Court Estate.

His latest review will advise on measures to increase the use of key online
services, including self assessment, VAT and corporation tax, to benefit HMRC
customers and to ensure efficient delivery.

The review will include advice about a timetable for implementation and ways
of managing the changes. Responses to the consultation can be sent up to 30

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