HMRC online tax returns still a concern, says study

Online tax self-assessment forms are still causing concern to accountants, in spite of extensive investment by HM Revenue & Customs to rectify problems experienced by the systems, according to a new survey.

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Online tax self-assessment forms are still causing concern to accountants, in spite of extensive investment by HM Revenue & Customs to rectify problems experienced by the systems, according to a new survey.

The online system crashed on deadline day in January, preventing up to 15,000 people from being able to file their tax returns and leading HMRC to extend the deadline.

Since then, HMRC said it had replaced the faulty hardware in February, and introduced new online returns software as part of plans to put the returns onto a new, undisclosed platform. It also vowed it had improved load testing on its website.

In spite of the changes, some 85 percent of accountants interviewed for the survey said the system was either worse or no better than last year. Tina Riches of the Working Together E-Group, an industry body of accountants, and technical director at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, said: “At a time when HMRC are investing in improving the online system we were very disappointed to find that 85% of respondents said that the system was worse or no better than last year.

“Only 15 percent thought the system had improved, seemingly a marked deterioration since last year when a majority of CIOT members surveyed reported an improvement.”

Around 500 accountants were interviewed for the Working Together E-group ‘HMRC Online Filing Problems, Strategy and Priorities’ survey.

The survey said “the main reason for not e-filing a tax return is that agents are put off by submission problems”, rather than security worries after severe data breaches at HMRC. Nearly half of respondents said they were experiencing more problems filing tax returns than last year, and 87 percent want HMRC to fix existing faults with the system before adding new functionality.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation said “significant changes” had been introduced to the self assessment tax return this year, resulting in problems for those using HMRC’s free software or commercial software that feeds into it.

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