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Self Assessment Online recovers from peak load crash - UPDATE

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31st Jan 2008
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The Self Assessment Online portal has been restored to service in the mid-afternoon on Thursday after breaking down on the busiest day of the tax year.

An HMRC spokesman confirmed that the Self Assessment online filing service experienced 'technical difficulties' on Thursday morning, which meant that some taxpayers could not file online.

Just after 3.30pm, the department advised: "The system is now rapidly returning to normal levels of service." Because of the disruption, it also promised that no-one who files electronically or by paper by midnight Friday 1 February will face a penalty.

In spite of the system crash, 104,000 people filed returns on Thursday, the department said. So far, 3.6 million returns have been filed online, and more than half a million returns have gone through the system since it broke the 3 million mark at the end of last week.

The disruption to the SA Online site first emerged on AccountingWEB.co.uk at 10.15pm on Wednesday evening in an Any Answers post from a frustrated Nicholas Myles.

By Thursday lunchtime, 17 other members had reported similar experiences. The normal SA Online page was replaced with a message stating: "The Self Assessment online system is temporarily unavailable to some customers. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and are working to restore the service as soon as possible."

Several AccountingWEB.co.uk members using commercial applications commented that they appeared to have fewer problems than those logging in directly to SA Online. James Smith wrote: "I have actually been very impressed with the filing speeds this year - since January I am sure they have actually been somewhat quicker going through than during the other 9 months of the year, the only slow thing being the email reply which has taken a while to come through in the last 2-3 days rather than instantly arriving as it normally does."

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By Jon Stow
05th Feb 2008 16:50

But
this downtime was scheduled in advance.

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By abelljms
05th Feb 2008 16:12

i quote at 16.05 on 5th Feb 2008....
" You are here: Online Services
Online Services
Online Service Temporarily Unavailable

We are sorry but the service is currently unavailable.

Further information is provided.

We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Return to our home page"

They couldn't organize a filing in a tax office, to adapt a well-known phrase!
i rang them and they said "tomorrow at 06.00 it will all be up and running" the noo,

so we'll see

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By Anonymous
04th Feb 2008 16:40

Heads I win tails you loose
You may call me cynical but in this country the smallest hitch will always cause a tremendous backlog & precussions. How can they cope when the deadline moves in the years to come. IR will still be using prehistoric, jaded, and use, sell by date systems. It is all down to inproper feasibility studies and total lack of thought, perception and what futuristic ideas one has. The IR just do not have the calibre to forsee these pitfalls and if they did, they certainly swept it under the carpet.

These people should go and time should be call on these fancy ideas

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By dinneen
04th Feb 2008 08:41

What filing problems
Whilst I file a small number of tax returns (35 in all) I have no filing problems at all this year. I use (and have always used) proprietry software (Taxcalc) and filed my last 4 returns at 6 30am on 31st January. The last 3 returns are always my partnership, mine and my partners, so I had only one client who had been late getting information to me.

'Effiicient' practises are not necessarily the ones hogging the system - according to HMRC, it is normally the tax payers who file on line themselves who use the system on the last day. And, had HMRC not already given a filing extension to midnight on 1st February and asked agents NOT to file on 31 January?

My primary recommendation would be to get some software, not use the HMRC site direct!.

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By DonQuixote
01st Feb 2008 22:49

"Our systems will still issue automatic penalty notices"
doesn't Fridays announcement contradict Thursdays just a teeny weeny little bit when they said that "no one would face a penalty"

These PR people will say anything to limit damage no matter how misleading.

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By dropoutguy
01st Feb 2008 20:19

Blame
I am surprised that at least one contributor has blamed other practitioners for what is really not their fault. All practitioners have a legitimate expectation that the Revenue's online service will work properly, however and whenever it is accessed.

If it will not work properly, we cannot expect all our clients to permit us to file online. Some of them will already have been unnerved by recent comment in the press about ( probably spurious ) security issues. Now they may also reckon that we are charging them for our downtime attempting to file, but not succeeding.

I also have a concern that the Revenue no longer accepting software generated paper copies will in effect force those who employ an agent to file online. That will sometimes be against their wishes. Why should Aunt Agatha, aged 92, who does not understand the first thing about online-filing, be forced to send her income details online if she does not wish this to happen?

I believe online project is riding for a fall if the government push it too far and too fast. And one it falls, it may be difficult to get it up again.

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By LJCWBW
01st Feb 2008 19:44

Suggestion
I suggest that the accountingweb editors keep this page as evidence. I'm going to try again at 10pm and possibly at 11.30pm and then no more.

I'm going to have to make the long journey to submit by hand tomorrow.

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By jacqui.stead
01st Feb 2008 19:15

UPDATE ON IR SITE
They have updated the message on their home page as folows:


"If you experienced problems with the SA service on 31 January or 1 February, and were unable to file by midnight 1 February, please file your return as soon you possibly can. 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."

What other cause could there be? - Why don't they just extend the deadline further - they've caused enough extra work already without the added stress of having to appeal the penalty!



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By LJCWBW
01st Feb 2008 18:49

Me again
As you know I gave up yesterday and was unable to get near a computer to submit today as I had booked an appointment at the eye hospital (I've not been able to see all day.)

Stupidly thinking that everything would be alright I've tried submitting the final 3 returns tonight and guess what.... the system is not available.

Yes I've thought of delivering by hand... should I do the round trip of 30 miles to the nearest office that has a box or shall I wait in hope???

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By carnmores
01st Feb 2008 18:11

my god i am angry
its still almost impossible to get in i cant take much more of this

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By carnmores
01st Feb 2008 17:17

correct Neil

A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE CHRIS BALES REALLY SHOULD KNOW BETTER. YOUARE SPOT ON NEIL ITS ABOUT THE INDIVIDUALS. THE FBI SOFTWARE GUYS HAVE THEIR OWN PORTALS AND THEY ARE SUBMITTING FINISHED RETURNS NOT TRYING TO COMPLETE ON LINE WHICH IS THE FATAL HMRC FLAW.

AS OF NOW WE CAN HARDLY GET ON HE IMTERNET LET ALONE THE HMRC SITE TO SUB THE FINAL RETURNS , PATHETIC

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By AnonymousUser
01st Feb 2008 17:12

Letter Boxes (locked)
Marion,

Thank your for the link below. I see Woking, for example, is not listed.

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By neileg
01st Feb 2008 16:43

Interesting
Since I'm not in practice, I only have my own and my wife's returns to worry about (did manage to file at 6:30 this morning). There's no way I would buy third party software as there's no need, the HMRC online system is fine.

From the comments here, it is clear that agents using almost any third party software have had little or no problems. This clearly points the finger at the web page and the underlying validation, not the system as a whole. This then points at a capacity issue, not a capability issue (since the online system is fine when it works).

Given the general public's propensity to put off the evil day (which is why the £100 fine is so effective) then the clear alternative to throwing cash at the web interface is to incentivise the earlier submission. I don't mean simply shortening the deadline but doing something to encourage an even flow of submissions. This could be as simple as having an incremental fine, say £20 for filing in November, £40 in December, £60 in January and £100 for February or later. A lot of people will regard £20 as acceptable, though some won't, so this should produce a more even flow. This will still produce minor peaks at the month end, but not as bad as we have now.

Is this too simple?

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By SimonP
31st Jan 2008 18:55

Website Still Down 18:55
When trying to access the Agents' section, I am getting the following:

System error

Sorry the system is unavailable, please try again later.

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By Anonymous
31st Jan 2008 18:34

Andrew
My thought on hearing " face a penalty " was does that mean automatic penalty notices won't be issued if filed on the 1st Feb?

I bet they can't manage to stop thousands of penalty notices being sent out incorrectly.

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By Anonymous
31st Jan 2008 18:31

Down again!
Oh well I managed to file one return at 5.30pm but it's gone down again. So much for a day off tomorrow! Lucky I wasn't planning on going away on 1st Feb!

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By LJCWBW
31st Jan 2008 19:41

Submitted one return!
I managed to get one return in at 7.30pm - its down again 'unavailable' at 7.45pm

I'm doing my own return now!!

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By Anonymous
31st Jan 2008 21:24

filing online
I think I might be missing something. I have filed at least 20 returns today using PTP tax software, and all went straight through, and I have had numerous 'successful filing' e-mails back. I havn't checked that I have had one for everybody though and am now at home, and am now a bit worried and was looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

I noticed that I couldnt look at my clients details today, but hope that the returns are all received OK. Do I need to check that I've had an e-mail back for everybody or is it all OK using tax software ?

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By SimonP
01st Feb 2008 00:42

Guess what?
Well, it's gone midnight, 00:40 Friday 1 Feb to be precise.

I've tried a few times to access the Online Services but the system is still down.

At this rate, methinks they'll need to extend the online filing deadline still further.

Fortunately, I only have one return left to file and that can be popped into the HMRC letter box having due regard to the extended filing date for paper returns (see my earlier submission or read the latest issue of "Working Together".

Unbelievably I still have a couple of clients that haven't given me their paperwork, despite the fact that they have been written to and telephoned since last April. Not my problem! Curiously, I note that they were also very late giving me paperwork last year as well. I guess some people never learn.

There is no point in HMRC offering incentives for early filing as they'd be worthless since none of my PAYE clients has so far received a penny for filing their 2006/07 P35s online. You take the carrot and they still beat you with a stick. I truly despair at the state of this once all-powerful country.

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By cbales
01st Feb 2008 15:24

TAXCALC HAS GIVEN ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER.
I'm reading the comments that have been added here and am seriously wondering what most people are shouting about.

If your software's not working, change it for a program that does what you need it to do and TAXCALC has done just that for us for a number of years now. This year has been no exception and FILING BY INTERNET USING TAXCALC CONTINUES TO BE A DODDLE.

FBI has been a doddle in past years with TaxCalc and it has been often obvious that any bottleneck was at the receiving end when it has felt hat we've been in a queue whilst the crudentials are checked at the gatekeepers end. This year it has been very obvious that serious effort and doubtless (our) money has been spent at Government Gateway level because the time lag between hitting the submit button and receiving the "successfully filed" submission report (with a local time stamp) has not been more than around 15 seconds at ANY TIME night or day. Most times it has been around 5 to 8 seconds. How can I be sure of this - because I have been so impressed by the improvement that I have been timing submissions since mid December.

Yes, it has been hours delay over the last few days for the HMRC email to arrive but that's an internal problem at the receiving end after the document has been received at Gateway level and its the latter bit in any arguement about day and time of delivery that will matter.

We have seen no evidence of a practical problem whatsoever. Out Internet connection is cable broadband as it has been since Spring 2001 so its making me wonder if those who have suffered problems may have issues at ISP level. Blueyonder has been superb for us over nearly 7 years now.

To us at least, there have been big improvements at the receiving end with a clear indication of significantly increased system capacity. It never will be entirely fault free in such a vast system but its very much better than it has been in past years. TAXCALC has certainly taken advantage of the best of it for us this year as in past years.

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By MikeBellisimo
01st Feb 2008 16:28

Portcullis
Ermmm..

A Portcullis is designed to keep people out. That's just what the system has been doing; so no problem with the name at least then....

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By AnonymousUser
01st Feb 2008 14:19

Letter Boxes
This link should help you find a nearby office with a letter box as we still haven't been able to access the system all day.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/sa/sa-post-boxes.pdf

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By abelljms
01st Feb 2008 13:59

"tax needn't b taxing"
.....however due to the involvement of IT it is.....

can't wait for compulsory onslime.....


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By Mikeparr
01st Feb 2008 13:52

Off line system
I am still unable to access the system(see earlier comment)
I have got quite a number of system error messages to prove it

I was advised by the Helpline to write to

The On-line Complaints Manager
Helen Allen
Crown House
Victoria House
Shipley
DB17 7TW

I wonder how many letters she will get.
I will have to hand deliver any I have got left to do


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By abelljms
01st Feb 2008 13:34

muppets lure ko?
it is pathetic that these 'suits' can't run a system that is vaguely acceptable.

i notice today that i can't access other bits of their site because of course everyone is still trying to get through the misnamed government gateway ( portcullis ) which highlights the electronic stupidity of a gateway - it restricts flows to the size of the gateway. if they had separate gates for cis, paye, ct etc. it won't 5hag everything when there is a deadline for one of them etc.....

Is it STUPID having a filing date for one tax which coincides with a peak for another tax ? i think so, and the solution is.......

i have lots of cost neutral ideas for fixing this but I'm not doing it for free.

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By graememorrice
01st Feb 2008 12:13

And still it's down
Well, here we are, midday on the 1st, and it still won't work.
As in previous years, the 2nd of February is a very nice time to book some holidays. Now, anticipating another 24 hour extension, I am faced with the question of whether or not to cancel my break. I think I know the answer - it's not the client's fault, so I must keep trying.
Is it not now time for R&C to bite the bullet, and extend all deadlines (including the "on time" flag) until Monday 11th February? This situation is 100% their fault. Surely that would relieve the pressure on an obviously totally inadequate system.
Sure, they would have to forego some £100 penalties, but the penalty regime was never meant to be a revenue raiser in the first place ......was it?

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By AnonymousUser
01st Feb 2008 12:12

Attempted delivery of paper return by hand
On Sunday 30th January 2005 just before midnight I tried to deliver an SA100 by hand to an area office some 20 miles away. The letterbox had been locked (perhaps with good reason); but does this still happen?

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By Sarah LB
01st Feb 2008 11:57

Admitting defeat
I totally agree - have been experiencing problems with online filing since Wed evening - have been able to access intermittently and have filed most of my returns successfully now including 1 this morning (was up trying until past midnight last night with no success)

But the system has now crashed again - "internet explorer cannot display web page" etc Initial call to helpline resulted in a denial that any problems at all and that I should turn my computer off and wait for 1/2 and hour before trying again! Second call an hour later when still no joy at least acknowledged that they are aware of further problems and trying to fix them but other than deleting temp files could offer no advice or help than just wait and try again.

Have had enough now - want to get on with Feb so am going to print out the last return and file it the old fashioned way - by hand.

Its a shame because when it works I find the online system to be excellent.

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By AnonymousUser
01st Feb 2008 11:41

Online Problems - What problems?
As a sole practitioner I have seen a number of comments regarding the cost factor of proprietory software, along the lines of it "not being cost effective".

I use Digita Taxy Pro, and over the last three days have filed over 40 tax returns without a single hitch. It may also be surprising to learn, that I was totally oblivious to the fact the main HMRC website had been down for significant periods of time, until I saw it on the BBC News.

Clearly HMRC software does not do "what is says on the tin", simple solution - change the tin.

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By SimonP
01st Feb 2008 11:40

What a c**p system
It is now 11:39 on Friday 1st February and I am still unable to access SA Agent Services.

Once again I get the "System Error" system unavailable message.

What good is ONE day's filing extension?

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By Mikeparr
01st Feb 2008 11:13

Self assessment on-line
Online Service temporarily unavailable again this morning
So I rang the helpline and was told the system is working but it may take several attempts to enter the system
So I made several attempts to enter the system and I still couldn't get access
24 hour deadline extension to a system that cannot cope with the level of input is totally unacceptable
What chance have we got for improvements to the system for next year

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By memyself-eye
01st Feb 2008 11:03

Is it down again?
I've just tried the SA site - no joy...

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By AnonymousUser
01st Feb 2008 10:33

Down Down Deeper & Down!
10.30 am Just tried to access Corporation Tax & Self Assessment for agents and it is still down!

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By Anonymous
01st Feb 2008 09:59

STILL not working ...................
Been trying to do my own return since 17:03 yesterday - see my earlier post. Looks like it'll have to be a manual return - what a shambles!

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By AnonymousUser
31st Jan 2008 23:45

It may be interesting to see ...
... whether the implementation of the Carter proposals to limit the enquiry window by reference to the date of filing, rather than the filing date, will have much effect on peak filing as the deadline approaches. My guess is that its effect will be insignificant. Although it will be welcome news to those who file early, those individuals would probably have filed early anyway.

I am intrigued by stories of those who submit paper returns at the last minute by stuffing them in HMRC letter boxes after closing time. In my area (and we are in the catchment of several HMRC offices) none has a letter box any more. I have some sympathy - security issues and all that. Would like to know where everyone else is finding these letter boxes.

This isn't the first time that HMRC has extended the deadline because of internet failure. In common with previous failures, the announcement on this occasion failed to spell out categorically whether a return that is filed online on 01 February will be flagged as filed on time or (conversely) filed late (albeit without incurring a penalty). There is some anecdotal evidence that the returns are still flagged as "late" even though no penalty is charged. This may have implications for those with investigation fee protection insurance that could be invalidated if a return is filed late, and even without that insurance cover there is a fear that the late flag raises the risk profile of enquiry.

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By SimonP
31st Jan 2008 22:14

Still down - Thursday 22:13
Instead of squandering millions on overseas aid and bombs, maybe spending a few extra quid on a decent tax system back here in good old Blighty might be a vote winner.

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By willkyne.blueyonder.co.uk
31st Jan 2008 21:59

Ring the Helpdesk
It's 9.52pm and after endless 'System Error' messages I rang the Helpline (0845 605 5999) more in hope than anticipation. Nearly fell off my chair when I got through to someone who claimed that the System is 'up and running' but that as a user I would just need to 'keep trying' in order to see if I could get through. I went on a fairly predictable rant which made me feel slightly better but really its a lottery as to whether you can get through to your client list or not. Suggest others ring and keep up the pressure.

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By LJCWBW
31st Jan 2008 21:27

Still no joy
Still cant get on - or rather I'm into the website but then it just hangs.

I'm giving up...
I'm tired, exhausted, I've been working a 7 day week 12 hour day for weeks now and this is the final straw.

Speak to you tomorrow

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By Pauline7372
31st Jan 2008 20:48

Concession - what concession?
It's 8.40pm - and I still can't get into the site to file the last few returns. I had a long weekend planned starting tomorrow morning - in order to recover from yet another HMRC [***] up I've had to cancel.

And for those self-satisfied individuals that say 'serves you right for leaving it to the last minute' - presumably, you don't work full time? I've been filing returns steadily for the last month with work planned to get them in on time. If I have a month to work, I accept a month's work to do and the tax return is usually the last part of an assignment. Are we all supposed to take on less work so that we can finish early enough to allow for the HMRC system failing? It's been faltering for the last week - presumably due to the pressure of their own deadline.

I can understand that things go wrong - but don't pretend that allowing on-line filing until the end of tomorrow puts everything right. If I were to take my weekend away anyway and file these returns on Monday, my clients would get both a penalty notice and an extra three months enquiry window risk. And I echo the comment about 'wrong messages' - with hindsight, perhaps I should have filed everything on paper to allow for an extra two days to deliver? Do the decent thing HMRC - allow till midnight Monday for on-line filing. Yes, there will be some 'late filers' that gain as a result, but it might at least show a bit of the spirit of 'Working Together'.

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By willkyne.blueyonder.co.uk
31st Jan 2008 20:42

Online System still down
Don't believe the propaganda. The system seems to be permanently down, citing 'System error', and generating very long reference numbers. The Helpdesk, which in theory should be closed now as it is after 8pm, advises that calls are not being taken due to high call volumes. We may spend the rest of tonight and tomorrow in limbo not knowing what is going on.

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By LJCWBW
31st Jan 2008 20:24

Still down...
still down...

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By andyhardy
31st Jan 2008 19:22

Jennifer
There are more affordable solutions than Digita. If you would like to try TaxCalc, email me and I'll arrange for you to download a free copy.

[email protected]

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By SimonP
31st Jan 2008 19:17

Last minute filing.
It irritates me no end when HMRC blame their "customers" for their system failures "because taxpayers leave it to the last minute to file their returns".

My stock reply to HMRC is that a football match lasts 90 minutes and whether a goal is scored in the 1st or 90th minute, it still counts. Those are the rules. If HMRC don't like the rules (and they made them), then they should change them.

In the meantime, it's up to HMRC to provide a system that doesn't always crash at peak times.

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By andyhardy
31st Jan 2008 19:14

Tim
If HMRC need to reprogram their systems, then I certainly won't accept your bet!

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By SimonP
31st Jan 2008 19:10

No need to panic. Is there?
The following message was on HMRC home page @ 18:55 this evening.

"HMRC takes any disruption of service very seriously and to reflect this no-one who files electronically or by paper by midnight Friday 1 February 2008 will face a penalty."

I wonder who decides whether a paper return has been mailed by midnight on Friday 1 February? Maybe they'll have a tax inspector standing by all the letterboxes in the UK ready to pounce.

Interestingly, HMRC have already gone on record, in the latest edition of "Working Together", that taxpayers actually have until 07:30 next MONDAY morning 4 February 2008 to post returns through HMRC letterboxes without fear of penalties.

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By LJCWBW
31st Jan 2008 18:04

Still down...
Its 18.00pm and its still down.

I'm 'lucky' I can submit any time during the evening... I'll let you know when I do...

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By Anonymous
31st Jan 2008 17:39

Why do you feel the need to "be fair" to HMRC Jon
After all they're the ones who decided a deadline (and penalties) was such a good idea when they introduced SA (oh the balmy gentle days of accounting in the good old days); and the ones who have been putting on all the pressure to get us to file by internet.

I am up to here with whoever it is on planet HMRC (which almost touches but is not congruent with good old planet earth) who goes hairing off with all these bright ideas (like 0% CT bands; SA deadlines; income splitting nonsenses) which take absolutely no account of human nature and life as it is lived by the 99% of the population who don't perenially hover 15 feet above ground.

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By Anonymous
31st Jan 2008 17:35

Its getting worse...
It is now telling me "You have entered an incorrect User ID or Password, or used a certificate which is not recognised." even though I am using the same credentials as before (yes, I have double checked!)

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By Jon Stow
31st Jan 2008 17:26

That's my point, Andrew H
Spinning the status quo as a concession when none has been given.

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By LJCWBW
31st Jan 2008 17:20

Still offline
It's 17.20pm and the Revenue's website is still down. I have just one return to submit... I've been trying on and off all afternoon.

I tried yesterday late pm (10pm) and could not get through. I submitted a couple of returns this morning but all afternoon... impossible.

This happens every year - the Revenue are pressing everyone to file online but their systems cant cope.

Last year was bad enough.. next year is going to be even worse.
I run a small accounting business and it is not cost effective to purchase Digita etc but every year we get this.

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