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HMRC appoints interim chief digital and information officer

Jacky Wright's replacement is a financial services veteran who brings expertise in tech-enabled change and payments infrastructure

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has appointed a new chief information and digital officer (CDIO), following the departure of previous incumbent Jacky Wright in October 2019.

The appointment of Mark Denney is intended to provide continuity for the department until a permanent replacement has been recruited. According to HMRC, the recruitment exercise for the role will start “in the near future”.

Denney starts in the role on 11 November 2019. He joins the civil service following a few months operating as a contractor. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade at Barclays, where he held several senior roles, including chief information officer.

The interim IT chief will build on the strategy set out by Wright, who returned in October to Microsoft after a two-year loan arrangement. Denney brings experience in digital transformation, payments infrastructure, technology and strategic change.

“[Denney] was an exceptional candidate and his appointment enables us to continue our transformation to a digitally enabled, world-class organisation,” said HMRC’s chief executive and first permanent secretary, Jim Harra.

“His experience in technological change and payments infrastructure is particularly relevant for us as we expand our online services to business and personal customers, and implement the digital strategy we’ve developed over the past 2 years,” he added.

Despite the progress made, HMRC has been at the centre of controversy around various topics related to technology.

In October, the department came under scrutiny of the National Audit Office for spending millions to enhance an old system to handle customs after Brexit, rather than prioritising its planned replacement.

In addition, there is a number of concerns regarding the IR35 tax avoidance reforms, which are due to come into effect in April 2020. Recent research released by recruitment firm Hays highlighted an apparent lack of awareness and preparation among enterprises.

Lack of preparedness in small businesses is also a theme when it comes to the agenda of tax digitisation led by HMRC. A recent report argued that accountancy professionals are struggling to keep up with the changes brought about by Making Tax Digital (MTD), a HMRC scheme to eventually eradicate paper from filing processes.

MTD is being introduced in stages, and registered businesses earning more than £85,000 per year are required to file their tax records for the VAT period that started on or after 1 April 2019 through a digital interface. A further roll-out will take place in 2021.

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