Organisation: The Inland Revenue
Issue: Lost tax records
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
Various reports quoted a revenue spokesman who confirmed that the
details could not be located but insisted that they were only
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.