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The Inland Revenue website is creaking under the strain of last minute tax returns, as people try to beat the 31 January midnight deadline and avoid a £100 fine.

Last week, up to 20,000 people per day were trying to file their completed self assessment forms. Over the weekend, this figure rose to 30,000, according to the Today Programme on BBC Radio.

Register readers report that on Sunday even the main site would not load. Things are not much better now: those who can access the front page are having trouble logging into the self assessment section, and accessing the forms. Helpline staff have instructed struggling wannabe-tax-payers to clear their caches, lower cookie security, remove firewalls and use IE to access the site.

A reader writes:

I've been trying to get onto the site since 0730 this morning and it's 'clogged' according to the telephone help desk... surely someone should tell them about 'capacity on demand' services?

Another, who managed to file his return after many page reloads says:

Every time I hear the phrase "tax needn't be taxing" I think that somebody needs to die, preferably from the IR PR department or their advertising agency.

The Inland Revenue, however, denies there is a problem. A spokesman said: "I can't comment on what your people are saying. I can only tell you the facts from our perspective. The system is standing, it is accepting submissions."

He added that there would be no extensions for those who still have to file. "The deadline is statutory. Tax offices are open until midnight to help people with their returns."

Callers to the self-assessment helpline are now being redirected to the Inland Revenue's electronic business unit. This line was repeatedly engaged when we tried to call it this morning. ®

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