Thursday, February 02, 2006

More on Self Assessment online

San Francisco has London weather today, so all the locals are telling me. It's grey, wet and a little foggy. How come that's not Seattle weather? I've been speaking at a conference for industry analysts. It's been interesting. Better still, I got to catch up with my old friend Marc Andreessen who I haven't seen for ages. I still don't think I'm smart enough to understand Ning, but the makeover it's had has got me a little close and Marc says that there's another big upgrade come in a month or so. HMRC have published the breakdown of figures for SA online: Nearly two million taxpayers filed their self assessment returns online by the 31 January deadline this year - a 38% increase on last year. The HMRC website processed 719,913 self assessment returns during January. 336,277 returns were received in the final seven days, and 216,154 in the final four days until midnight on 31 January. At the peak of the influx during the mornings of Monday 30 & Tuesday 31 January, the HMRC website was processing around 8700 returns an hour - almost 150 per minute, almost three every second. And taxpayers were still at work right up until the final hour: 2300 were received between 11pm and midnight yesterday. Many taxpayers and agents have taken to using third-party software services to file their returns. Use of these alone leapt up by 72% compared to last year. I'm not sure I've ever heard of an online service undergoing an "influx", but it's hard to argue with the numbers, they look pretty good. 3 tax returns a second. Five years ago I used to joke that I expected SA online (and other services) to alter the balance of payments for the chancellor - anyone who was owed money would get their return in on 6th April; anyone who owed money would leave until 5 minutes to midnight - and there'd be a 9 month gap between the IR (now HMRC) paying out money versus when it received money. The cashflow consequences could be interesting, especially if it shifted that way for all other taxes too (although I'm pretty sure the cases where corporations get refunds on tax are quite limited). The realisation of this idea was much delayed by all sorts of reliability problems with the online service - regularly unavailable at busy times, long delays and all sorts of other issues meant few would trust it at the last minute. This year, it looks like that has been cracked and that everything worked all the way through to the end. If anything, that's probably the biggest change.

3 comments:

  1. Ning upgrade's less than a month away - more like a week. And if you want more explanation of what Ning is, please give me a yell - I'm Developer Advocate there, and am currently down in Palo Alto. (Which means, tragically, that I don't have nearly as much time to work on TheyWorkForYou/WriteToThem/MySoc stuff as I used to.)

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  2. Oops, duh - it's yozg (at) ninginc.com. :)

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  3. Well before we starting wetting our pants at what could be the first evidence of a working government website, let's have a quick look at how the FT report the same story today ... ...

    The income tax self-assessment system is riddled with errors, with at least a quarter of PAYE tax codes incorrectly calculated by the Revenue & Customs, a Commons inquiry will warn today.

    An estimated one in three income tax returns are incorrect, costing the state an "enormous" £2.8bn a year in lost tax payments, says a report by the public accounts select committee into the Revenue's performance.

    The report attacks the Revenue's own lack of accuracy and urges it to "accept more responsibility for its mistakes". Almost 500,000 returns - 5 per cent of the total - were processed wrongly in the last tax year.
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    Never mind, a small detail. Want to buy some consultancy on xml, search engines, passport, ... ... ?

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