Taxing time for e-government

Trouble is, it can be. While more than 100,000 people have struggled through the online form to make their filings electronically, the Revenue has suddenly had to warn people that between 7 and 11pm it will be ‘difficult’ to use its website.

The point is of course that if you’ve had a hard day at work, this is the time that you are most likely to want to get online and do your tax return. It’s either get home early, wait until the early hours of the morning or risk ruining your weekend to do the form.

Revenue head Nick Montagu will not be pleased with this. The site should be able to cope with many more users than at present so advising taxpayers to stay away at certain times of the day looks like an admission that the technology is not up to the job. That said, Montagu and his team are committed. They want the system to work and you can be sure they are putting in as many hours as they can to make sure that it does.

The problem here though is that self-assessment is supposed to be a flagship site for the multiplicity of government services to be offered online by 2005.

It is crucial that the lessons are identified and learnt. The great fear is that future services might suffer the same problems as self-assessment.

It would surely be criminal if the troubles afflicting self-assessment were prophetic as well as irritating for taxpayers.

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