Tax IT systems 'atrocious', says HMRC employee

The IT systems at HMRC are 'not working properly', according to a department employee, a charge that the tax department strongly denies
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Computer software used by UK tax collection agency HMRC has serious problems, according to an employee.

The recently-implemented software and systems, which are provided by Capgemini and Accenture, are denying revenue to the government due to issues with processing Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes, an unnamed HMRC employee told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday.

"We don't have the staff we need, we don't have the resources we need, and the computer systems we use are atrocious," said the employee. "[The computer software] wasn't written by tax people or people who had any idea about tax... It doesn't do what it was supposed to do."

The employee gave the example of the initial identifiers for individuals being an employee number, which is not unique, rather than a National Insurance number, which is unique. This puts obstacles in the way of identifying individuals, she said.

The software and systems, called the NPS, began to be phased-in during June 2009, in a process that completed in July 2010. The IT systems are "not working properly", said the employee, even after four updates. The problem is being exacerbated by reduced staff numbers, as HMRC does not have the resources to check the accuracy of individual cases, said the employee.

HMRC on Thursday strongly denied that its software and systems were experiencing problems. A spokesman for the government department told ZDNet UK that NPS was working as it should.

"Over and underpayments have long been a feature of the PAYE system and always will be, because people's circumstances change during a tax year and we often do not learn of changes until after the year end," said the department in a statement. "The new system raises the bar in terms of data quality and will in the medium term significantly improve overall accuracy reducing both under and overpayments. An open case does not necessarily mean that a repayment is due. This year and going forward the new IT system will mean more people paying exactly the right tax at the time than ever before."

Accenture declined to comment on Friday. Capgemini had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Editorial standards