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HMRC IT systems crash as customers attempt to file tax returns

Several HMRC IT systems crashed on Saturday, leaving customers attempting to file their tax returns frustrated as the deadline approaches

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) suffered IT problems with several of its online systems on Saturday, affecting customers attempting to file their tax returns by the 31 January deadline.

The IT issues affected several of the department’s online services, including self-assessment, PAYE, VAT and tax-free childcare.

HMRC customers have until the end of January to file their tax returns, and with the department pushing its Making tax digital plan in a bid to eradicate paper forms, more and more people are using online services to do so.

An HMRC spokesperson told Computer Weekly that the issues on Saturday were resolved by 7pm, and that the department appreciated the inconvenience to customers.

“Our IT experts worked very hard to get services back to normal as quickly as possible, and services resumed later that day,” the spokesperson said. But the department refused to shed more light on what went wrong.  

At the time, HMRC told customers it was working to resolve the problems, but several customers took to Twitter to express their frustration at several online services crashing as thousands tried to file their tax returns.

One Twitter user wrote: “Anyone else having issues submitting Tax Return on HMRC site? Seems to have crashed again. Extension of submission deadline?”

While another Twitter user seemed to blame the controversial IR35 reforms for the outage: “HMRC website’s down again..... this is what happens when public bodies roll out IR35 rules and all the best IT contractors then run for the hills. How many hours am I going to waste ‘trying’ to work today...”

This weekend was not the first time HMRC has had problems with its online tax services. On Thursday 4 January, the Evening Standard reported that part of the self-assessment service had crashed.

HMRC launched personal digital tax accounts in 2015, letting UK taxpayers manage their tax affairs online, and the online personal tax account (PTA) aims to provide a “joined-up view” of taxes and benefits.

Digital tax accounts for businesses are still a few years away, however. Originally, HMRC planned to mandate the use of digital tax records for businesses by April 2018, but concerns were raised that the deadline did not provide enough time for “such a fundamental change”. The deadline has been pushed back until at least 2020.

HMRC said services were now back to normal and that, despite the issue, the department received more than 60,000 tax returns over the weekend, adding that “more customers have filed so far this year than at the same point last year”. 

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