back to article Poor take-up of e-tax system

A committee of MPs has found that take up of online services for filing company tax returns remains low, despite the incentive of cost savings to users and the government. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is planning to invest £340m in its online services between 2006 and 2015. As levels of online filing increase, it expects to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    No **** Sherlock

    I really am waiting for a story about how the government has become concerned that the country is experiencing repeated darkness between 4:30pm and 6:30 am, and needs to set up a public consultation to proposed the already-adopted solution.

    <puts leg up on imaginary stack of DVDs>

    hmmmm .... e-returns ... let me think ... now why don't we do them ? ....

    Does Paris Hilton file online tax returns ?

  2. Steve

    Why online?

    Couldn't we just burn them onto disc and post them?

    ba-dum, pssh!

  3. Theresa Jayne Forster
    Thumb Down

    The login details suck

    The main problem with the Online filing is they send you a ridiculous username and password on multiple letters, - which they will not resend easily and you cannot change your login easily or your password meaning that its easier to fill in the form and do it that way.

  4. Matt

    Come on

    Having posted a good artricle about falling standards of journalism you just repeat a press release:

    "Online filing can also save a typical business £20 on each company tax return and £5 on every VAT return, as well as reducing the rate of error"

    OK, the cash amounts are good, but I'm not sure you can argue that it reduces errors. My accountant uses an accountancy system that prints the forms for you. I believe this is pretty common practice. So there's no less chance of error with the same system submitting on-line. In fact there may be more chance of error as it probably won't be compatible so there'll be room for copy paste errors.

    Secondly, shouldn't we question the assumption that submitting on-line saves money. Espcially considering the government's track record on IT projects.

    OK, I feel better now!

  5. Dann

    paper sucks

    I think we should use the online filling

    My paper tax returns keep getting lost in the post!

    (OK its not as good as Steves joke)

    On a serious note, maybe people aren't using the online system because it is rubbish.

    The .gov system is hard to use, not intuitive and I had a laugh yesterday when a woman from the VAT office was trying to guide me to download a form and I realised that because I was using Firefox the layout completely was different.

  6. Andrew Bolton

    Impressive sums from HMRC

    So, 9m a year saved for 10 years = £90m saved (possibly, if take up is actually any good, presumably). Cost of online service improvement, £340m. Is it just me, or is that rather poor return on investment?

    Then again, I shouldn't be surprised, with this government's record of throwing huge sums of my money down the drain...


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heres why!!

    Having ordered the pin for SA returns, waited three weeks, no pin, reset for another pin, 5 days later, finally get online, thats progress!!.

    enter SA100 details, then told (via a phone call), nope you cannot submit another one, you will have to wait for the droid in the tax office to process it manually, thats progress!!

    So, now lets register for the pension return, cant find how to register using the id I now have, finally find out that I need another id, but cheered up when the droid said 'you can use the same password', great!!

    The french system by comparison, according to my gf, is a 'morceau de gâteau', so I looked, and it is, they send a digital certificate, no pin's to get mislaid (along with the discs!!), now that is progress, all taxes under one login.

  8. Christopher Estep

    Brits vs. the US

    Apparently, British e-filing procedures (at least for businesses) are more complicated than such procedures in the US. (In fact, over one-third of all U.S. businesses file electronically.) Or is the resistance coming more from the accountants that are thinking they will be out of business because of electronic filing?

  9. John Parker

    I tried it...

    ... and it was very bodgy, there was some kind of PDF template I had to download and fill in. Whenever I got it the end, it would not let me submit it due to "missing fields". After lengthy dialog with their "support" (a bored, non-technically literate lady, who didn't know what a PDF was)... we concluded it was best if I submitted it via the post as normal.


  10. Mike Stephens

    Already mainly Third Party Software.

    "In fact there may be more chance of error as it probably won't be compatible so there'll be room for copy paste errors."

    I think the majority of business returns are done directly by eg Sage. HMRC have a Third party Validation System for vendors to test their software for compatibility.

    They do make rods for their own backs, though. I just did a Corpororation Tax CT600 on-line which was accepted on-line, then I got a letter rejecting it because I'd sent paper accounts, not using the PDF thingy on-line - I'd not be warned there was going to be a fancy format. It's little things like this that need simple sorting out.

  11. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Well if it's anything like the personal tax site ...

    .... then I can understand.

    As has already been pointed out, you have to use username and password that you simply stand zero chance of remembering. So really good security by requiring people to keep their username and password written down somewhere handy.

    Then you have to enter all the details that they already have ! So they know who may last employer is, they should know what the tax due carried over from the previous year was, etc, etc. So do they automatically come filled in ? NO !

    And heaven help you if you should try doing it when anyone else is doing it - the system gets a bit busy. Well isn't it a surprise that if you have a deadline, the system is going to be busy leading up to that deadline.

  12. Sceptical Bastard

    No shit, Sherlock Part ll

    So the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) express surprise that under ten per cent of businesses file tax returns online.

    Wow, what a surprise! Does it not occur to these sleuthing MPs that businesses might not be wildly keen on having their commercially and personally sensitive information burned unencrypted onto CDs or DVDs by junior clerks then sent out unregistered in the hands of unvetted couriers and postal services?

    The PAC claims the technology does "not fully meet the needs of businesses for robust and secure online systems". No shit, Sherlock! Brilliant deduction!


  13. Mike Banahan

    Easy my arse

    Oh yeah, where do I save £5 on my VAT return?

    I file the blasted VAT every quarter and there is no promise of reducing my cost to them by doing so. I have demand for non-payment here as well because the morons lost my payment for the last quarter though the filing went in by electronic means and they can't find the money - at least if it went by post and they lost it, they would lose both the return AND the cheque.

    It's awkward, inconvenient and though it saves them money, costs me nothing but time.


  14. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Try logging in with this...

    I've registered for online VAT payments.

    My login ID (which won't auto store in Firefox) is LUZPKSQTF93N (BTW I've changed a couple of the characters :-P )

    Now which part of "User Friendly" don't they understand?

  15. John A Blackley

    No **** Sherlock Pt. IV

    "the technology does "not fully meet the needs of businesses for robust and secure online systems"."

    Given British government's inability to comprehend information security, effective and hygenic health services, teaching ABC's to kids, keeping criminals in jail, running an efficient transport infrastructure, obeying their own laws on fundraising, encouraging sufficient building of homes fit for humans to live in, managing immigration, having an actual foreign policy (instead of doggedly following the US') etc., etc., etc., it would be fair to now call the UK a banana republic - if the bloody weather were good enough to allow the growth of bananas. Tattie republic then?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I know we're all techy on here and all, but isn't it just a tiny bit conceited of HMRC to simply assume that everyone who files a VAT return has (or wants, or is able to) access the Internet?

    There is a world out there...

  17. Andrew Meredith

    Who shall remain nameless

    I helped out with some user experience testing a while ago on a certain government agency's online returns system. I know for a fact that they themselves commissioned the research and were present when I gave the feedback. I know for a fact that I was part of a unanimous call for the approach they had taken to be scrapped. And having tried to fill the form in for real a little while ago, I know for a fact that they changed absolutely NOTHING when they went live. I would count myself as a fairly sophisticated user of Internet services ... I've been writing active web sites since the days when if you wanted a web browser you had to compile mosaic for yourself .. but am still forced to send this one in on paper by the stunningly obtuse interface they came up with.

    So they spent a deal of money to find out what the general business public thought of their system and when we came back and told them it was completely pants they decided they knew best after all, binned the criticism and carried on regardless.

    It's this sort of arrogant disregard for their own "Customers" that has got them all to the point where we're all tapping out this vitriol about them.

    I have to say I have only just stopped laughing about the previous comment concerning having a single logon for all government dues ... Sorry .. That's so monumentally unlikely it's just funny.

    There's way more of us than there is of you, our convenience is more important than yours, because our inconvenience costs the economy more if nothing else.

    Andy M

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