back to article Reg readers bring down HMRC website

Today is the last day for filing UK self-assessment tax returns, and believe it or not Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs website is struggling to keep up with demand. Many people are getting 404 errors rather than the log-in page. A spokeswoman for HMRC told the Reg: "The self-assessment website is temporarily unavailable for …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Your own fault

    Which idiot leaves it until the last possible minute and then complains about it. Show some common sense and get it in before the deadline. After all you have had 9 or 10 months to do it!

    I guess they could do something to cope with the huge load but isn't it just simpler to get it done before the last day?

  2. PJH

    Once more...

    Once more, like Christmas, the tax deadline creeps up on 1/2 the country by surprise, who then try to do what's needed in the last 24 hours.

    I mean, it's not as if it's the same day every year, or they advertise it...

  3. Martin Lee

    £100 fine

    You just get a letter saying you've got a fine if you don't submit in time. If you give a valid reason, they'll scrap it. Don't ignore it, but don't always assume that late filing = fine.

  4. Andrew Fraser

    Cause of the issue... surely that they can't burn the incoming data quick enough to CD? HMRC are obivously not employing insufficient PFYs to burn the data to CD and post it off (unencrypted) to someone else (can't lick the stamps fast enough?) ;-)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Teaches you right

    That teaches you right to wait until January 31 to do your SATR!

    When will people ever learn? Those who tried because they only got their paperwork (whatever it may be) this week are pretty much the only ones who have an excuse. Everyone else who twiddled their thumbs for the better part of a year don't.

    I turn mine in at least a month before because it is madness to try and do it a day before deadline.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Amazingly I haven't seen a single tax self-assessment advert this year....maybe because I've stopped watching TV....

    Oh, and I got notified by them that I needed to fill in my first ever tax-self assessment form this year on....24th January!

    Still they were nice enough to give me an extension when I actually SPOKE to them on the phone so I cant really complain. GIve em a bell and let em know you're having problems with the site and I wont be surprised if they let the fine slide. Although the website is typical GBGoVSoft the people are still surprisingly British.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Your own fault

    It's a shitty task that I'll leave to the very last minute every time.

    HMRC can't set a deadline and then say "Show some common sense and get it in before the deadline". Fortunately, they're not stupid enough to do so.

  8. David Roberts
    Paris Hilton

    Roller blind?

    A nice Scottish lady told me about half an hour ago that they had received an email telling them it would be back up in an hour.

    She couldn't say what would happen if it didn't stay up and I couldn't file on time because she hadn't received any email guidance on that question.

    Does Paris Hilton have a Scottish accent?

  9. Mark Fenton

    @Your own fault what you are saying is that we should submit before the deadline?

    Isn't this bringing the deadline ahead?

    It isn't their fault at all - if a deadline is given, then you should be able to submit right upto that deadline and not have some "fake hidden" deadline imposed on us by an anonymous coward.

  10. Chad H.

    @ AC

    Arent there laws about accepting personal responsibility now? It seems like it. Fully agree with you. Same stuff happens all the time, but people refuse to learn.

  11. Paul Buxton

    @Anonymous Coward

    "Which idiot leaves it until the last possible minute and then complains about it. Show some common sense and get it in before the deadline. After all you have had 9 or 10 months to do it!"

    I can turn this around on its head and say that the Goverment know that thousands of people leave it until the last minute. People who cannot access the site before the deadline have an absolute right to complain, after all, the Government are aware that it will be busy in the last few days so why haven't they provided the infrastructure to deal with it? They've had a lot longer than 9 or 10 months to do it. Next year we will have the same problem: who's fault will that be? So who were you calling an idiot?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Thank god for nagging wifes!

    Luckily I got in last night, it hung on submission and I kept retrying and miraculously got a confirmation at 4am. The only reason I did it last night and not this morning was the nagging wife. So for once - THANK YOU NAGGING WIFE!

    P.S. can't blame people for leaving it until the deadline - a deadline is a deadline, do it anytime before that date!

  13. James Smith
    Paris Hilton

    Don't leave it until the last minute!

    Its simple, don't leave it until the last minute - It only takes 15 minutes and then its done.

  14. Steve Browne

    I did mine in July

    And got my refund in September. Then again, I cant use their web site, I screwed up my registration and it tells me to call them. So, paper and ink are the order of the day for me. Is a Luddite programmer an oxymoron ?

    You would think with all the extra cash they are shafting out of contractors (IR35 et al) they would at least have a system capable of receiving returns. Perhaps it is a deliberate ploy to cause people to overrun the deadline and collect all those loverly extra £100s.

  15. David Roberts

    It's back up! It's back up!.....Oh....

    Well, the front page is back.

    Not much accessible from there so far, though.

    Why am I filing at the last minute?

    I could call it Just In Time workflow; however as the IR charge me money when I file my tax return, why should I give it to them before I have to?

    Now been logged out again and I can't even get to the front page for self assesment.

    I suspect that the system is so poorly sized that from now on every time it starts up it will be overwhelmed by the people trying to access it and go down again.

    I forsee an enjoyable evening swearing at the computer, the government, and probably the cats if they get too close....

    I wish to logo could be GO but currently it isn't.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Just tell them...

    ...Peter Hain said it was OK to forget to complete the forms!!

  17. Anonymous Coward

    It's back up....

    ... and now it's gone again...

  18. Neural9

    At the muppets that say "your own fault/serves you right" ...

    I pay tens of thousands of pounds in personal tax at this point in the year. Sending the dough now is the best way of retaining my interest instead of giving it away.


    / Mines the gold lined, real kitten fur coat with uranium gems.

  19. david gomm

    it's not like this hasn't happened before

    Having experienced this problem in previous years, this time I did my return on the 26th, it was a little slow even then but it worked.

    Come on guys, as experienced IT contractors I'd expect most of you to be a little more cynical of a system proven to have capacity problems.

    I'd suggest as a workaround that next year HMRC operate a staged deadline based upon where the first letter of surname falls in the alphabet.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my mum

    my mother often leaves it to the last minute becouse she's disnumerate and terrified of the numbers involved.

    It seems not everyone in the world is perfect like Anon number one or its supporters.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Its up and working...

    Just submitted mine, woohooo

  22. Tom C

    @Neural9 and others

    If you really did pay such sums directly, rather than by PAYE, you (or your tax advisor) would be well aware that payments are demanded in installments on 31 January and 31 July irrespective of when you send in the tax return. Indeed, if you have not submitted a return, you are still obliged to make a payment on account on these dates.

    So who is the "muppet"?

  23. Charles Parker

    New HRMC Strategy for next year

    Since so many people managed to forget about the deadline, perhaps HRMC should have a chat with Ryanair on how to get the word out... maybe a young girl in a school uniform rolling around on a tax return or something...

  24. Maurice Shakeshaft

    @ Your own Fault...

    The HMRC could get round some of the problems they create by having inadequate systems, approaches and infrastructure by offering an incentive to those who file early - like a proportion of £100 off your tax bill for each month before the deadline you file. Equally, they could have a graduated penalty for unjustified late filing. £10 for the first day, £20 for the second £30 for the 3rd and £40 for the fourth and greater (making it a £100 disincentive)

    Just a thought....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Your mum

    Well, yes, numbers can terrify you, but that still doesn't mean you should leave it to the last minute. Plenty of therapists will tell you that being well-prepared helps. Start getting the required pieces of paper, like the tax certificates from the banks, the P60 and other items, together as you get them - Put them in a folder or something marked "SATR". Then going through a SATR with someone like you (who obviously appears to not be disnumerate and calm), can pull this thing through together.

    It amazes me that people tell one AC how dare he suggest to send it in earlier; being well-prepared and well-organised means you get to put it out of your mind sooner. I have to admit that I wait until after December (so I can get my company returns dealt with first), but I should preferably do it before September so PAYE can pick up the slack for me.

    It is not that difficult, people, really. That said, HMRC have ramped up capacity in recent years, I don't know about you, but a few years ago you could consider yourself lucky to even get it done online 5 or 6 days before the deadline because the system was completely inadequate.

    Paris because she is probably smart and has her tax advisor do it waaaay before deadline. :-)

  26. Writebaby

    Deadline, Smedline

    I submitted mine at the end of April 2007 with no problems registering, submitting etc whatsoever. In fact, it was eerily fast, a bit like the Internet equivalent of being in an empty street after midnight when there is absolutely no one there !!!

    What is the problem with you guys? can't count? still doing your accounting by quill pen instead of .ods spreadsheet? Maybe your online banking system is down so you can't do bank recs

  27. Risky

    Post it

    That way they have to key it in and hopefully when my personal data is burned to CD and left in pub it will ahve enough errors to be useless.

  28. Anonymous Coward


    Tom C is correct. You can submit your return in July this year and still only have to pay what you are due to pay on January 31. The payment system is separate from the SATR system, you can pay through BillPay, via cheque, at the bank or, *gasp* *shock* *horror* by EFT!

  29. tim

    @ all

    i used the weird coloured papyrus like stuff with boxes on it that they sent me, a hand-held tube with an ink release mechanism and then handed it in to a tax-bot.sitting in a building. No 404's from her, just a come hither look and a chirpy thank you.

    Gave up on the *online* thing when it first came out due to its utter shitness. Agree with Neural9, i'd rather leave the cash in the bank getting interest than pay them and let them have it.

    Better still use an accountant, costs about 300-400 squid, is tax deductible (everyones a winner) and you dont have to do anything, but then again thats proper organised ! (must get my shit together this year.....)

  30. David Roberts
    Gates Horns

    Now deader than a very dead dead thing.

    Can't help feeling that there should be some kind of front end that limits the number of sesssions and either puts you in a queue or at least gives you statistics on how many sessions have been ditched in the last minute, to give you a measure of demand against capacity.

    Then once you get connected there should be the capacity to support you all the way through to submission.

    Perhaps this is happening and is not well presented by the system.

    Or perhaps there is no provision for graceful degradation on system overload.

    Either way, IMHO, the system could be designed better.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    *MAX* fine = £100

    If you owe nothing, then the fine is nothing.

    I'm leaving it until I get the letter informing me of the fine, then I'll fill out the paperwork in black ink and post it by hand through the letterbox of the local outpost of Mr. Darling's empire, wait for the letter to inform me the fine has been cancelled and then sit back and wait 365 days to rinse and repeat.

    This must cost them 87 bazillion pounds per year, but I don't really care.

    Hence anon.

  32. Anonymous John

    Re At the muppets that say "your own fault/serves you right" ...

    Payment doesn't have to be made with the return. Send in the return early and pay in late January.

  33. Neural9

    @ Tom C

    I think your point would have been better explained by simply saying "you can post your tax return before you owe any money, neural you muppet" rather than give information that people don't need and is basically wrong.

    I think you're getting confused with 31st July which is the second payment from the previous tax year if you 'pay on account'. If you've got enough dough sitting in high rate return account to worry about you'll phone up HMRC and arrange this so that you get another 6 months of interest. it's not automatic.

    Paying tens of thousands is no big deal, even your average contractor pays in that boundary given a decent accounting configuration. Even if you earn 35k (which is our industry average) you'll still owe a max of around 10k in tax at this point.

    Take your point about the form being seperate from the money. However, you get a fine (in percentage) at this point if you don't pay on 31st Jan, mirroring the tax return. I tend to put both in at the same point and hence tied up together in my head which I'm assuming most people do. Thanks to the screw up on the HMRC webby, I get an extra day's interest.

    My concept still stands but a bit more explained than most people could be arsed to read.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clear evidence of a disturbing trend in Britain...

    ...we are facing a celebrity gap.

    Not nearly enough tax-paying Brits are sufficiently famous to be exempt from filing online. It's a shocking inditement of 11 years of New Labour that Britain is still lagging America in the growth of trivial celebriosity.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Ok then lets spend all those tax pounds

    Ok, If the answer is the system must cope with the maximum possibility as many of propose then they will have to build a system and the infrastructure to cope with every single tax return being submitted at exactly the same second, anything else has the possibility of not being able to cope.

    Would you rather they spent all those taxes on something useful or invest it in a huge computer system just on the off chance every one in the country wants to submit their return at 23:59 on the 31st Jan which judging by your comments you think should be possible.

    I think you need to take a reality pill.

    Before online filling there where issues with the post because people posted them too late (and the posties went on strike or the revenue did) and then there was the saga of the revenue having to employ people to come in specially to empty their huge letter boxes because every posted them by hand at 23:59 and they overflowed leading to them being nicked for all the nice information contained within them.

    Nothing has changed and they clearly some people don't learn by their mistakes and think to not leave it until the last second.

    If you run the deadline you should expect problems. The only real answer is to allocate an even distribution of tax return dates through every day of the year, this would be much easier for accountants and the revenue.

    Only problem is then people would moan it wasn't a memorable date, they hadn't been reminded by press and tv etc. etc.

    I hate to take the revenues side on anything but I think you need to take some responsibility for your own actions. its no wonder we have a nanny state and are quickly heading for a 'super' nanny state.

  36. Anonymous Coward


    The fine is only relevant if you have not PAID your outstanding bill by January 31. If you submit your tax return on August 1 the previous year, you can keep all your tax dosh in your high-interest account until January 28, and then do your EFT to HMRC in time for it to show on your account on January 31.

    There. Problem solved. You earn more interest (on which you have to pay tax the next year), but your return is in before the deadline and you don't have to slog through a slow system.

    HMRC publish the sortcode and account number into which you can EFT your taxes due, and they are even so nice to provide you with a reference once your return has been looked at and processed, so it's not like you HAVE to log into the SATR system to make your payment.

    It really is not difficult.

  37. Steve
    Thumb Down

    You're not alone...

    I used the French equivalent system a couple of years ago (they offer a whopping 20 euros rebate if you do it online) . To set up initial security it downloaded a certificate into C:\<somewhere>. So my first attempt to do this from a non-Windows system failed miserably.

    Following their hackaround instructions, it put the security certificate in my home directory. World-readable. On a shared system. I fixed that, and eventually got the submisison done.

    The following year I tried again, to be met with similar issues to the ones in this thread, systems unavailable, please come back later, etc.

    Since this I've filled in the form on paper. The online hassle isn't worth it for a miserable 20 euros. Don't hold your breath for HMRC to get better.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The banks have massive redundancy to cope with the day before mothers day rush, HMRC can do the same, or change their deadlines. We're customers, not serfs, the govt can damn well make themselves user friendly.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Now if Alastair scrapped IR35....

    ..he might get an online SA system that holds for up to 200,000 people per day...


    Maurice had it right, carrots to get people filing earlier along with the sticks for when they file late. Nada but grief if they file on the 31st. Probably cheaper to reduce the peaks than engineer to cope with the growing demand...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well HMRC will not be able to blame EDS for this disaster

    since they got rid of them over three years ago. Perhaps is time for the blame game to shift to Capgemini and Fujitsu who now run the Revenue's IT estate. Who knows maybe even the dim wits in the press might notice that the shift in contractors does not seem to have made much difference to the number of IT failures.

  41. Larry Adams

    Reg readers bring down HMRC website’

    Well... speaking from the other side of the puddle, seems that our Infernal Revenue Service has a better handle on it... millions of people were able to file their returns on-line on the last day to file in 2007 with no problems. Even so, more millions simply could not or would not efile, and waited until the last day to put everything on paper forms and send them through the mail, creating huge lines at all the large post offices, with some staying opening until 23:59:59 to handle the crowd. I was late (for me) in filing my returns (state and federal) and didn't get them efiled until March, with the deadline being April 15.

    Before I retired from the post office, I can remember walking out into the lobby of my office long after closing (10:00 or later, and we closed at 5:00) and seeing people actually filling out their returns standing in the lobby. And I can remember a few people every year on the day after the deadline asking me to "backdate" their returns to the previous day's date. Since that is illegal, I just asked them if they were ready to pay me the equivalent of my annual salary every year after we both got out of prison... That usually shut them up...

    /the postie's jacket please. I'm going home to efile my tax return so I can get my refund.

    Late Night Larry

    Wine Country, CA

  42. Sir_Bobalot
    Thumb Up

    Online, schmonline...

    I tried to file online too. This was after requesting paper forms from the nice woman on the phone. She was capable of sending me my UTR but apparently the forms were one leap too far for her. So I tried to file online...

    On 20th January it was 'too late' to register for online filing because they need to snail mail you a password! Is it just me or does that not quite add up? As a result I had to print off the forms from the site using my inkjet and then pray that my completed form did not get wet!

    What a fantastic use of IT! I have never seen such comprehensive service and ease of use! All online services should take a leaf from HMRC.

    I'll get my coat (after I've had a little lie down).

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE all the tax return vs payment of tax questions

    It is quite easy, I submitted my tax return around June last year. They sent me a bill around the end of July. I put the tax money in a savings account, filed the letter away and last week paid them over the phone.

    Really, leaving a tax return to the last minute is absurd.

    About as absurd as paying your tax anytime before the deadline.


  44. James Pickett

    Old fashioned

    "It only takes 15 minutes"

    My paper form takes me about 5 minutes* and I can drop it into my tax office when I'm passing (always on the 31st for some reason). That way, I know they've got it!

    *Longer to enter the figures on my spreadsheet, I grant you, but that's the same however you file the results.

  45. Mark

    Problems Ongoing

    I'm still trying to submit my return, and have been since 10:00am this morning. I have now just started getting the following message:

    "Online Services

    Online Service temporarily unavailable

    We are sorry but the service is currently unavailable.

    Further information is provided.

    We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause."

    Will HMRC be extending the deadline further one wonders....? HMRC appears to be pretending that all is now well with the service - looks a bit like a cover up to me...

  46. Simon Raymont

    They should have spent more money on their Website, not the ad campaign.

    They should have spent more money on their Website than on the adverts reminding us of something we already knew - the 31st deadline. WE DON'T NEED REMINDING. We are perfectly ABLE to get ourselves together to file before the deadline. They (IR) are not able to cope with the demands of the deadline.

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