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Can website cope as taxman encourages more e-returns?

By Barry Collins

Posted on 30 Apr 2008 at 12:25

The Inland Revenue is encouraging more people to file their tax returns online, despite this year's deadline-day fiasco which saw its website collapse under the weight of traffic.

This year's deadline for paper tax returns has been brought forward to 31 October, while the online deadline remains 31 January.

"It's being done to encourage more people to file online," a spokesman for the Inland Revenue told PC Pro.

This year, however, the Self Assessment website failed to cope with existing demand. The Inland Revenue was forced to extend the return deadline by 24 hours after more than 100,000 people rushed to the site on the final day, causing it to keel over. Frantic readers contacted PC Pro on deadline day, worried that the site's failure to accept their return would lead to a £100 fine.

Three months after the event, the Inland Revenue is still to reveal exactly what went wrong. "We still haven't got the background of what happened on 31 January," the spokesperson told us, adding that an official response is due shortly.

Yet, the Revenue remains confident that there will be no repeat of the deadline-day drama. "We're working very hard to make sure we don't have a problem," the spokesperson claimed.

The Revenue claims 3.8m people filed their return online this year, up from 2.8 million in 2007. With the added incentive of three extra months to file their return, if only half of the 10m who currently send in a paper return are tempted to move online, the Revenue will have to cope with more than twice as much traffic as this year.

Be warned: it will probably be best to get there early.

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