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HMRC bigs up success of online tax returns

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Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has hailed a record response from the number of taxpayers filing their self-assessment tax returns online this year, even though some people have claimed they were unable to access the system.

An HMRC spokesman told The Register that the Inland Revenue had seen record numbers of people using HMRC’s website to file their tax returns.

He said nearly 5.8m taxpayers had used the service by the 31 January deadline and that HMRC saw what he described as an “amazing, fantastic record year” for tax returns filed online.

When asked if the system had been taken offline at any stage for routine maintenance to deal with the more than 50 per cent increase in traffic over last years figures, he told us that the website remained fully functional at all times.

“The system worked really well,” he said. “We’ve had no problems of any kind.” But a status page on the Revenue's website appears to currently suggest otherwise.

"We are sorry that, because of exceptional traffic levels, we are currently restricting access to all our online services," it reads. "The services are still operating and you will be able to access the services later."

El Reg contacted HMRC after a number of taxpayers contacted us to complain that they couldn’t access the system and fill out the appropriate forms in time.

However, when questioned about the grumbles we’ve been hearing from users, the spokesman rejected the claims and insisted the system had been fully operational throughout the critical period leading up to the end of January deadline for tax returns.

"HMRC's SA online and other internet services enable people to do business with government in the way we know they want to," said the Revenue's permanent secretary for tax, Dave Hartnett. "The outstanding popularity of online filing demonstrated by today's figures is the foundation on which we are transforming the way taxpayers interact with us."

HMRC said 67 per cent of UK taxpayers filed their self-assessment returns online this year.

In January 2008 HMRC was forced to extend the deadline for filing tax returns by a day after the self-assessment website suffered "technical difficulties". ®

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