MPs back campaign for openness at the Revenue

Computer Weekly's Making the Tax System Work campaign is gathering support from politicians, tax experts and IT industry leaders.


Computer Weekly's Making the Tax System Work campaign is gathering support from politicians, tax experts and IT industry leaders.

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable said, "It is a sad day when Computer Weekly and its readership believe that a full campaign is needed to make a Government department act with honesty and with clarity.

"The Liberal Democrats support this campaign and I will help whenever possible to hold the government to account."

Tory MP Richard Bacon, who has been a powerful voice on government spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee, said, "A more open approach with a higher level of accountability would be good for taxpayers and good for the Revenue and Customs itself. Instead of trying to minimise or hide problems there should be more emphasis on solving them."

Dennis Keeling, chief executive of the Business Application Software Developers Association, said he was keen to support the campaign. "We have never been able to speak to decision makers in the Revenue. We are never able to discuss our key concerns," he said.

John Whiting, tax partner at accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers said it was a general principle that the Revenue should be more open about system failures.

"Tax advisers and taxpayers are increasingly being told that we have to file online, but it has to be reciprocal in that the Revenue should tell us very quickly about problems so we do not waste time."

The Revenue was now improving its notification procedures, he added.

Revenue under pressure >>

Revenue attacked in three reports

Three damning reports on HM Revenue and Customs published in the last week have highlighted the importance of Computer Weekly's campaign for transparency at the tax department.

A report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman slammed the Revenue for not giving a complete picture of problems surrounding the introduction of the government's flagship tax credits scheme.

What the Revenue initially described as "teething problems", contributed to £1.9bn overpayments to poor families, according to a Citizens Advice Bureau report.

"The lack of sophistication of the computer systems has led to huge overpayments," it said. Efforts to claw back the money have plunged some families into poverty, the report added.

A report by public spending watchdog the National Audit Office highlighted the Revenue wrongly imposing penalty notices.

Paymaster general Dawn Primarolo said for most families the system was working well. But she admitted there had been "serious problems".

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