Feeds

Computer error destroyed 1m UK tax records

MPs round on Revenue

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Almost a million taxpayer records were accidently deleted from Inland Revenue computer systems between 1997 and 2000 due to a software problem which went unnoticed for several years.

The Department took three years to discover that software used to cleanse its database of old cases was also wiping live ones from its system.

This resulted in some 364,000 people who cannot be identified being owed £82m, while another 22,000 did not pay tax due of around £6m.

The Revenue admitted the problem last year but the full scale of the error has now only just emerged, following a report from the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee on 8 September.

A routine housekeeping procedure on the PAYE database, which had been in place for at least 10 years, failed to distinguish between old and live cases, says the report.

The error was revealed when a new management information system was brought in to monitor the software. The Revenue has since introduced a backup system.

The MPs used the incident to reinforce their concerns about the Department's ability to manage the IT underpinning the tax system.

Their attention focused on the serious IT problems which contributed to the troubled launch of the tax credits scheme in 2003 – described by Committee Chair Edward Leigh as a "nightmare" – and left many vulnerable people in financial difficulty.

Leigh commented: "There is a general lesson here: that an ambitious scheme might be fatally undermined by its intrinsic complexity."

During the course of the Committee's inquiry, the Department – now known as HM Revenue & Customs - it had learned the lessons from its previous IT problems.

It is said to be in the midst of a dispute with EDS, the tax credit system IT provider, over compensation "for unsatisfactory system performance". The case has gone to independent arbitration but, says the report, EDS has not accepted the findings, leaving the Department to "consider its legal options".

The contract with its new IT provider, Capgemini, has imposed a more severe penalty regime for underperformance. The PAC noted that "such clauses inevitability affected the 'price' of the contract."

© eGov monitor Weekly

eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.

Related link

Inland Revenue: Tax Credited and deleted tax cases (PDF: 754KB)

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
4chan outraged by Emma Watson nudie photo leak SCAM
In the immortal words of Shaggy, it wasn't me us ... amirite?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.