WEEKLY WEB WATCH: Taxing times as IR loses it

Organisation: The Inland Revenue

Organisation: The Inland Revenue

Issue: Lost tax records

At: www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk

For many self-employed people, now is the time to finally get round to

sending in their self-assessment tax forms with the happy realisation

that at least the bulk of that onerous task is over until next year.

However, alarm bells may have started ringing for self-employed workers

when on 20 July, newspapers and broadcast media, starting with Computer

Weekly, reported that the Inland Revenue had ’lost’ up to 5.2 million

tax records.

Various reports quoted a revenue spokesman who confirmed that the

details could not be located but insisted that they were only

temporarily missing.

The Association of Chartered Accountants called for a Parliamentary

investigation into the IR.

Any concerned tax payers visiting the Inland Revenue’s web site for some

crumbs of reassurance, however, will have been left in little doubt that

they were dealing with the office of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes

rather than the friendly cartoon character in the organisation’s


The text-rich home page bears the Inland Revenue logo that fills every

freelancer’s heart with dread when it appears on an envelope. The

ensuing dialogue opens with a breezy ’Good afternoon! Welcome to the

Inland Revenue web site, featuring news and information on tax and

national insurance matters in the United Kingdom’.

The site is broken down into five sections: The Inland Revenue,

Information and Publications, Featured Areas, Help and The Site. Each

with their own sub-sections, such as What’s New and Frequently Asked


A visit to the What’s New section offers a response to the original

article in Computer Weekly, which opens with the line: ’The suggestion

that millions of tax records have gone missing is wrong.’ Yes, along

with the certainty of paying taxes, there is the certainty that the

Inland Revenue is never wrong. This is the taxman’s ’nobody likes us,

but we don’t care’ attitude brought to the internet.

This is followed by a verbose explanation of what had happened, which

does little to inspire confidence. If it is satisfied that the right

amount of tax has been paid the Revenue clears information on a certain

computer system, in this case the PAYE (this is known as the ’Z-ing’


The site explanation claims that this does not mean that the information

for an individual tax payer is ’lost’ and that ’the record will always

be reopened if any new information subsequently emerges which may affect

tax liability for the year in question’.

Hands-up who believes that it will be Inland Revenue staff and not the

poor taxpayer who will be having to chase up complications that arise as

a result of this computer blip.

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