back to article HMRC bigs up success of online tax returns

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has hailed a record response from the number of taxpayers filing their self-assessment tax returns online this year, even though some people have claimed they were unable to access the system. An HMRC spokesman told The Register that the Inland Revenue had seen record numbers of people …


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  1. bobbles31

    Used it for 6 years now.

    Never had a problem. But then I don't leave it until January.

  2. Mark

    Of course it is nothing to do with......

    Of course the popularity is nothing to do with the fact you get a rebate of a couple of hundred quid if you file online.

    They are effectivly paying people to use the service then shouting about how popular it is, I bet I could get people interested in using my website if I paid then £200 a pop as well.....

    Sounds like the usual Nu Lie cretin out to spin a tale of how wonderful they are with thier amazing new system that it really good value for money because it's soo popular, honest.....


  3. Dave
    Thumb Down


    "HMRC's SA online and other internet services enable people to do business with government in the way we know they want to,"

    Really? So they have cracked the method for transferring blunt instruments over the internet, and having them automatically turned sideways on receipt?

    No, I didn't think so. Don't suppose that is the greatest inaccuracy in their statement, either.

  4. Kevin Dyas

    Not Problem Here Either!

    Completed my return in early January, not had any problems!

    It would seem HMRC did have an issue with the system not disabling the PAYE option after the 31st December deadline for that option of coding out.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Credit to HMRC

    I filed mine back last *JULY* - worked a treat then :-P

    I have to say I found the whole system really excellent, and a credit to the people who put it together and run it!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many people...

    ...will be paying the £100 fine because they didn't have a PIN? One week to get an activation number to file a return online - only HMG could come up with that one. Where was the advertising for that?

    However, if you want to pay, no problem, give us your money! No PIN required! Cynical? Me?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get it done quick

    (6 April) then you can reinvest the money you get back, better than letting it be held by them for months and months, losing you interest you cant recover.

    Compared to the French system its complicated, in france, you register, get an on line certficate, cest tres simple.

    No waiting for passwords, ids etc in the post.

    Lose the certificate, or every two years, you get a new one, for securite.

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    I'm gobsmacked!

    You mean that there are people who don't have a man who does this sort of thing for them?

    How terribly infra dig.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Worked for me

    Filed mine online mid-January this year. No problems. Filed it right at the end of January last year. No problems either.

    Much as I hate to say it, this one might be a rare success story for online government type stuff. I admit that the interface could use some work, but I found it a million times easier than the cumbersome paper forms.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks, I helped support a bit of it

    Our bit stayed up :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Authentication and busy problem

    Their system did indeed have issues on Saturday evening. Between 7pm and 8pm the system went down and tax payers were unable to login as it kept reporting the wrong credentials had been used. Got the error page during this time to really crank up the nerves as the deadline approached.

    Does this mean I'll do it earlier next year... not a chance!

    Black helicopter and anonymous for the obvious reasons....

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Yeh and the cheque is in the post

    B*ll*cks the site was operational at all times. I was trying to do my VAT return during the day on Saturday and was continually told that my (valid) password was not valid. On supplying all the (correct) information to request a new password on-line the system kept telling me the information was not correct. When I tried at 11.00pm all worked smoothly - funny that.

    There seems to be a universal law at play

    Computers + Software + Government = F**k up

    and the tossers are not even big enough to admit it!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Still unable to generate PDF copy

    For those folk struggling to get the PDF copy generated, go into Tools -> Advanced and tick the box "Do not save encrypted pages to disk".

    The Contact Us page also seems to be broken today! Must be snow on the web server or something.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With two hours to go...

    it worked just fine for those of us who leave everything to the last minute,

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Credit where it's due

    An article directing people to the URL of a static 'busy page' and using this as an example of how the service may not be functioning correctly? Give these guys a break. Suggest you lookup 'REST'. You can bookmark their pages - even their 'busy page' which I expect is always available if you know its URL.

  16. Anonymous John

    @ Of course it is nothing to do with......

    No it isn't. The discount for filing SA returns on line was only £10 and was given for the first year only.

    There was a larger discount for employers filing PAYE returns online, but I don't know if it is still given.

  17. Greg

    It's an appallingly stupid system and I despise it

    It all works perfectly well, until it doesn't.

    1. We all have a UTR - that is Unique Tax Reference. Note the word "Unique."

    2. Despite having a *unique* reference, it is still necessary to register for a User ID. During the registration of this rather pointless ID, the system asks for your UTR. If you're reading off the paper tax return, this isn't a problem - it says "Tax Reference" followed by your UTR. If you're reading off anything else, it says "Tax Reference" followed by your National Insurance number. Wait, what?

    3. Your user ID is a line of numbers (like your other unique identifier), and they are *not* e-mailed to you. You have to write them down or save them when they're on the screen. If you write them down wrong, or forget to, you're stuffed. You have to go through the recovery process.

    4. If you go through the recovery process and ask for a new user ID, they send it to you through the post. Except when you get the letter a week later, you find out it's actually the activation code they've sent instead, not the user ID. (Oh, did I not mention the activation code? Yeah, that gets sent through the post and you can't use the service 'til it arrives.) Ring them up, tell them they're idiots, get the user ID sent out again.

    5. If you want your password reset, as happened to a friend, they send it to you in two halves. One is e-mailed to you, the other appears on the screen and if you don't write it down, it's lost. Admittedly, this isn't such a problem, as you can simply re-reset the password.

    6. The big one: if you are a partnership, you are invited to go through the long-winded registration process. Once you've retrieved your user ID (that you can't remember ever having registered in the first place), had your password reset, waited 6 hours for an e-mail to arrive, and finally logged in, the system gives you a list of commercial software you need to use to file your return. ........What? What the f**king hell is the point of going through all that crap if the system's just going to make me go out and buy expensive software to file the company return?? Why not give me the list of software in the first place so I can fold it up, shove it up your arse and go file a paper return instead??

    As you can probably tell, I've had fun with the online system this year...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should HMRC really be telling lies like this ?

    "the website remained fully functional at all times." is absolute twaddle. It was down for A WHOLE WEEKEND about a month ago, in an outage described as "scheduled maintenance".

    It begs the question why an outfit performing a public service doesn't have the commonsense to bring up its back up system while it performs maintenance on its normal hardware.

    Backup system? What backup system? If there isn't a backup system, then somebody isn't doing their job properly.

    But more to the point, why is HMRC making a statement which is blatantly untruthful ? Anyone would think it was part of the government.

    OH, I forgot, it *IS* part of the government. So I suppose that means it is perfectly acceptable for it to tell lies occasionally, or even all of the time, just like its MPs and ministers.

  19. The Cube

    Given the track record how long before

    The entire set of online tax returns for this year end up on some CDs that get lost in the post?

  20. Rob Aley
    Thumb Up

    Worked on 31st

    Filed my on Saturday, i.e. the last possible moment (er, to test the availability, you know, not as I'm disorganised...!) and it worked fine, the website was quite "snappy" actually!

    The error page pointed too in the article is just their default "we're snowed under page" that you get directed to if there is a problem, it's there all the time and doesn't mean that there is a problem happening then and there.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data inconsistency ...

    @Mark - There is no "rebate" for filing online....

    The system worked OK for me - although it is still a few days behind (Current status is "Information as at 30th January"), and took about 4 days to actually show my payment against my account.

    This general data inconsistency issue seems to lurk all around the site, with different bits of the system disagreeing about plenty of things, including it currently telling me that I have "2 new messages", as well as simultaneously saying I have "0 messages", and giving me 1 message I can actually view.....

  22. Alex Gollner
    Thumb Up

    Better than previous years

    I did mine on Thursday - my 4th year of doing it online. The new design this year was a bit of a shock, but once I got the hang of it, I thought it was even better than before.

    I might even do 2008-09 this year instead of next!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    And then what happens....

    SInce filing my SA, I've had two pieces of correspondence from them, both with different figures of how much I owe them.

    Something tells me it still isn't right.

    Mine's the one with HMRC officer looking though the pockets for my wallet!

  24. Stuart


    I did get mine in on time. But only just as I was expecting issues.

    Logged in 10 days before to find my view of my password did not agree with theirs. No problem, click on the reset password. Oh it said it couldn't recognise me. After enriching BT & HMRC's coffers on the 0845 number the very kind lady tried in vain to find a way around the problem. About 30 minutes of wasted time each.

    "Oh well we do have this problem sometimes and we don't understand the cause ... ". I should add that I also observed a number of raw server error messages. So is this a development beta application - or something that has been signed off as 'fit for purpose' with legal penalties if you can't avoid its issues?

    I think we should know the name of the hand that signed. Severing it may prevent it happening it again.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Filed mine...

    ... late on the 30th of Janurary, no problem. (Though always a possibility that everyone else was done by then, hence the low load on the site)

    Plus they're going to give me a nice chunk of money back.

    Which is nice.

  26. Mick

    An Engineered Success?

    I had to pay my dad's tax returns last week. He's pushing 70, and considers computers the same way as he consider's everything else thats new and alien to him - he doesn't trust them. The only way he got "convinced" to pay for his tax return online was because HMRC never sent him a paying slip. So he couldn't pay it using the Post Office like he usually would, he had to go online. Well anyway, I done it online for him, and it took close to half an hour. The site was sooooooooooooooooooooo slooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww, I had YouTube videos and Facebook pages loading up quicker than the tax site was. I think they forced people to pay online.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Don't trust HMRC

    I don't, and I don't think anyne else should.

    Back in the old days, when Customs and Excise were a different organisation, my experience of the VAT syetm was generally good. Better than Inland Revenue, for which my acountant earned his fees.

    The current HMRC organisation is a mess. One name,and severaldifferent parts which seem unableto comminicate with each other. Ring the contact number on the paperwork, and,if anyone answers, all they can fo is give you another telephone number to try.

    Stick with paper, and keep copies.

  28. Benedict Addis
    Thumb Up

    Good job

    They did good. I started at 9pm and finished at around 10, two hours before the deadline. A clever interface in good English that checked your inputs and only asked you to fill in the necessary bits. What's not to like?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I had no problems...

    Don't leave it to the end of the month folks... you'd be stupid to. I was tardy this year and left it to the 26th, but even then there was no problem.

    There were times where the response was slightly slower, but not much. The fact that it completed the upload of the tax return and gave me a reference was good enough for me.

  30. Justin Case
    Paris Hilton


    Me too, to some extent. I was gobsmacked to have to hand over a great big wad of cash to a commercial firm and reboot into windows juust to submit my return...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It certainly wasn't "operational at all times"

    As other posters have commented, between around 5pm and 7pm on 31 January their online service simply gave the error message that (valid) IDs were not valid. After a while that then changed to a redirection to the "busy" page which is linked to in the article - which certainly did appear for some while that evening. As they said though, the system mysteriously started working again at around 7.30pm - just in time!

    I suppose it's a salutary lesson to not leave it until the last minute to file a return, but then as another poster points out they shouldn't be telling lies about their uptime either...

  32. Jan Martin

    Worked fine for me

    I filed my return on Saturday - it worked fine; I was a bit surprised as I'd left it to the last day.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    +1 on PIN problem

    Can't comment on the site's design because they failed to send me an Activation PIN. Twice.

    If I had any money I'd be annoyed.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Limited problems

    While the site was responsive at all times, it was a bit confusing at first. It was telling me it had no details on my return; possibly because there is a small delay after signing up. After five hours of this (on the 30th) I tried to call the technical support line (not the tax support line!) and it was answered by a recorded message saying that they were too busy and couldn't take my call. I tried this numerous times on the 30th.

    Luckily. on the 31st, after navigating through a few menus I found I could submit my return anyway, so I didn't need to call the tech support line again. I did have to call the tax advice line and they were very quick to answer (good work for a Saturday).

    The link that brought up the 'contact support' page was definitely having issues. I wish I had screenshotted them now. This looked like it was hosted on a different server. The error that I saw frequently was 'not enough storage to satisfy request'.

    However, consider the number of last minute charlies it would have been processing, I think it was a pretty good result.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One nice feature for last minuters

    Ability to pay outstanding taxes with debit card or credit card!

    This means that you can pay it on the last day and not accrue any interest!

  36. James Pickett


    A record number filed because they changed the rules! (Paper forms had to be in by October). Duh!

  37. MnM
    Thumb Up

    almost spot on

    I did mine early this year - 1pm on the 31st Jan - and was pleasantly surprised to see the whole thing work smoothly. Gave up trying to save the pdf though.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Rubbish claim

    because just issued password rejected as invalid, six hour wait for replacement, foreign income helpscreens blank, foreign income .pdf linked to assumes that a paper return is in the process of being completed and, when you've done all that, it tells you that it can't work out for you the tax relief on foreign income sources. And, having checked with HMRC on Monday 2nd, I'm told those submitting returns on the 31st will have late submission penalty notices issued since, taking 48 hrs (sic) for the information to come through, those of the 31st hadn't, so you have to appeal against them! And where the ____ was the online payment option at the end? I couldn't spot it. Doesn't do what it says on the tin. Call in Trading Standards!

  39. Phil

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't

    Cannot fathom why people are moaning about having an activation pin sent out in the post...these are the same people who would moan if it wasn't as it wouldn't be secure to send via email.

    Once again, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Down Time

    I don't know what the service was like in January, because I did my return much earlier. I had several attempts to get started - usually the system was down or producing lots of error m,essages or so slow it wasn't possible to use it. Then one day it started working (this was after several weeks when it hadn't worked at weekends), the new on-line form was better than the old one, and I didn't have any more trouble. So my experience this tax year 10 attempts to file a return failed because teh website was unserviceable and 1 succeeded. I make that less than 10% working, not the 100% they claimed.

    Despite that, I prefer it to messing around with paper forms. I've been using the on-line system for a few years now, and until this year found it quite reliable - I'm just hoping that nex year it will be back to being reliable again.

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