Can we trust HMRC?

Can we trust HMRC?

It’s all a question of faith really. I’m not referring to whether England will win the World Cup, but whether HM Revenue & Customs’ online filing service can continue to grow exponentially, while keeping up a high level of service and not failing at peak filing times.

This is the big issue facing HMRC’s e-services during 2006. By the time this
column is published, we will know whether SA online filing went smoothly.

Even though HMRC has tried a bit of ‘expectation management’ by suggesting
the system will slow down if advisers don’t look to file clients’ returns during
more unusual hours, there is still the thorny issue of compulsory PAYE online
filing for medium and large businesses by the 19 May deadline.

Last year, PAYE online filing was a mess. Yet sometime before 19 May, Lord
Carter of Coles is expected to finally reveal the Carter Review of HMRC
e-services.

Concerned industry experts suggest that, if 31 January goes well, the
pressure will be on Carter to release his review, which is likely to contain a
raft of ‘carrots and sticks’ in terms of motivating businesses and the public to
file tax returns online.

But a poor showing by the taxman’s online systems in the run-up to 19 May
could scupper his plans. Or at worse, continue to push online HMRC usage on to
systems that need to be able to handle an ever-growing capacity.

Who knows if Carter’s faith in online filing will be a millstone around the
taxman’s neck ­ unfortunately it’s more likely than England winning the World
Cup.

Kevin Reed edits the tech page

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