Sorry doesn’t cut the mustard

This message, which appears on the Inland Revenue’s website, has been viewed by infuriated and perplexed accountants for over a week as they attempt to file PAYEs online.

It is such a shame that accountants have suffered again with online filing, because the reason that the system has stuttered ð for the umpteenth time ð is its inability to cope with a huge influx of submissions.

Rather than talking proudly about taking a step closer towards the grand target of ‘total’ online filing, the Revenue has been left with no choice but to leave an apologetic message on its website.

As online filing continues to increase in popularity, the system may consistently fall short of a smooth service.

And there is evidence of this. The Revenue hailed the self-assessment filing in January as a great success, with hundreds of thousands of forms filed online.

As the 31 Jan deadline approached, however, the system choked, and the online filing deadline was stretched out by a couple of weeks, to allow everyone access to the system.

As much as Steve Lamey, the combined departments’ CIO, would like to spend his time bringing together Revenue and Customs systems, he has freely admitted that his team has plenty of work to do beforehand.

And this is without doubt the right approach. Two imperfect systems do not make a bigger and better whole one, and his global IT project experience is invaluable for the onerous tasks ahead. Improvements are impatiently awaited.

But, going back to the point about the ‘huge influx’ of submissions, I’m impressed that so many accountants, bureaux and businesses are filing online.

It seems the ‘stick and carrot approach’ is working. Even though online filing is set to become compulsory in the far flung future, many firms are taking advantage of the £825 tax credit available to those filing PAYEs online ð pity the system is not yet up to scratch.

Let’s hope that, next time, accountants’ online communication with the Revenue amounts to more than an apology.

Kevin Reed edits Accountancy Age’s technology page

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