UK government admits to online tax filing system failure

HM Revenue and Customs has admitted that its Pensions Scheme online filing service was hit recently by technical failures similar to those that had previously stopped large numbers of users from filing their tax returns.

An undisclosed number of Pensions Scheme Web users — in most cases administrators of personal and employer pension schemes — were unable to file their returns as required on deadline day. The problem mirrored those problems experienced by individuals who attempted to file their tax returns last week.

An HMRC spokesperson said the issue was still being investigated. The nature of the technical problems on the site, which is run by Capgemini under the 10-year Aspire contract, has not yet been disclosed, even though HMRC resolved the problem.

HMRC Web site users were greeted on February 1 with the message: “HMRC’s Pension Schemes Online filing service experienced technical difficulties on [Thursday] 31 January 2008, which has meant that some customers have encountered difficulties filing online. The system is now rapidly returning to normal levels of service.”

Both the tax and pensions scheme deadlines were extended by 24 hours as a result of the glitches, but as some people were still unable to file their pensions returns on time HMRC has said it would consider claims against automatic UK$100 fines for returns of both tax and pensions forms during the weekend, when it said the Web site was functioning properly.

On its Web site today, HMRC stated: “Our systems will issue automatic penalty notices but we will accept claims for reasonable excuse in the usual way. This means we will remove the late filing penalty and treat your return as filed on time where the problems with the HMRC service were the cause of the delay.”

In spite of the problems, HMRC said, ‘most’ attempts to file online pension returns on Friday, February 1 were successful, and 200,000 tax returns were filed successfully on that day.

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