Its introduction in 1996 was a vast and complex undertaking involving new legislation, the design and construction of a large computer system and a national education programme for agents and employers as well as a huge training programme for Inland Revenue staff.
It was introduced on time and to budget, and each year has seen high levels of filing and payment compliance. By any standards it has been a considerable achievement and one of which the Revenue is justifiably proud.
But it would be foolish to pretend there have been no problems.
Introducing a new system as large as this is bound to result in some errors; but we worked hard to ensure these were minimised and put right as soon as possible.
We are not complacent however and – as you would expect with something as complex as self assessment – we recognise there is always room for improvement.
We keep the self assessment system and forms, including the tax return and tax calculation guide, under constant review.
In fact, in 1998 we carried out a large-scale public consultation exercise, which helped us to identify the main areas to focus our attention on first, such as statements of account, which we recognised as being one of the first areas we needed to improve.
We have already made improvements to these and recent feedback has been much more positive.
We value the help and advice we get from representative bodies with an interest in self assessment and continue to consult with them regularly about how we can get the system and forms still better.
In April 2000 various representative bodies and the Revenue launched an important new initiative to strengthen local liaison between Practitioners and Inland Revenue Offices to improve the operation of the tax system as a whole.
Nor are we complacent about the levels of voluntary compliance we have achieved. Around 90% of self assessment taxpayers get their tax returns back to us on time.
This shows the system is working, but, we will continue to seek to improve and help taxpayers comply with their obligations to file returns and pay on time.
- Nick Montagu is chairman of the board of the Inland Revenue.
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