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HMRC self-assessment online gets awards nod

Steps up for gong, trips on way down

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UK taxpayers will have been spluttering into their keyboards today to see HMRC's self-assesment website praised to the skies by the judges of an e-government awards ceremony.

Gov tech website Publictechnology.net has recently been running case studies on the finalists in its e-government National Awards, which were handed out last month. Today it was HMRC's turn to bask in the spotlight.

Self-assessment Online was "highly commended" in the awards' Central e-Government excellence category, which rewards gov departments for "Delivering high and growing take-up of an e-enabled service through effective service delivery & marketing".

The project was described as "a tremendous success for e-Government and HMRC in particular", adding that "this year Self Assessment surpassed unprecedented demand with an improved customer experience". Remember, this is 2007 we're talking about.

The revenue received 302,093 online returns in the last two days compared to 161,000 the previous year and, apparently, "there were no reported service failures during the three days leading up to the deadline on 31 January 2007".

The citation noted a 45 per cent increase in online SA filings, and congratulated the revenue on its successful marketing and advertising campaign for the service.

Sadly, the revenue wouldn't let it lie there, and proceeded to push the service with a vengeance this year.

The result? The system managed to handle 104,000 returns on 31 January before it went for a little lie-down, leaving filers staring at blank screens while contemplating the prospect of £100 fines. All of this just days after HMRC had picked up its citation.

HMRC eventually admitted its systems had been overwhelmed, and was forced to extend the deadline to midnight on Friday, 1 February, and then right through the weekend.

Thank God no-one nominated the revenue's Child Benefit System, or the MoD's portable laptop procurement program. If the curse of the e-government National Awards had hit either of these two, then we'd really be in trouble. Wouldn't we?®

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