Record year for online tax filing - and phishing mails
Scammers rev up for tax season
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is celebrating another record year for online tax returns, over six million people filed online this year.
By the 31 January 6,429,899 people had filed returns online - three quarters of the total returns received. This is up 12 per cent from last year when 5.8m used HMRC's website.
The busiest day was Friday 29 January when the Rev received 384,638 forms.
Online filing should mean processing is cheaper for the Revenue, and quicker too so if any money is owed you should receive it sooner.
But be aware - this year has seen a big year in phishing emails apparently coming from HMRC. This is not a new problem but this year has been particularly bad - one day in October saw HMRC receive 10,000 examples of phishing mails. It expects even more in the next few weeks because many people will be expecting, or hoping, for a rebate.
The Revenue warned the number of emails promising tax rebates peaked in the week before the deadline. Many messages began with: "Following a review of your fiscal activity you are due a refund of tax of £XXX.’
A spokesman for HMRC said: “We only ever contact customers who are due a refund in writing by post. We never use emails, telephone calls or external companies in these circumstances. We strongly urge anyone receiving such an email to send it to us for investigation before deleting it.” ®
... and pay for the privilege ...
Being a partnership, we have to pay for "software" (actually an editable pdf form) to submit our return as there is no online version on the HMRC site.
The HMRC pages seem to be designed for them rather than the user, e.g. when doing our individual returns, at the beginning there are questions about whether you are employed as we as self-employed. Despite saying no, half-way through the form it asks if you want tax collected by PAYE (from a non-existent job).
There are also links that give 404s (not in the actual form)
When online filing first started, there was an error relating to charitable donations. The Tax office said there was a "quirk in the system". One of our sons suggested that this might Microsoft Quirk.
Send them a message? But don't use the wrong characters or carriage returns - but you don't get told this until after you've tried sending it, and it doesn't like pages referenced by URLs either.
They did reply to a question about the VAT pages -tried to find out why an old post code was shown but not allowed to access "my account". They said:
"I advise that you contact our helpdesk on the telephone number below as the ‘access denied’ error message that you detailed in your email may be linked to the ‘shared secret’ security questions on your account which may need to be cleared by an advisor after completing security"
So there! Except that no "shared secret" question had been asked.
It appears that the difference between you and me...
...is that I went to a local tax office to obtain a form.
"We don't just issue them" quoth he (Why not?) faintly aggressively (Why?)
As I went to walk out, he said, "You can use that helpine over there"
As I approached the phone he continued "but you'll need your 10 digit UTR"
(a) Why? (b) Unlike many I suppose, I don't carry it around with me (c) had he tried using his own system?
Later on I phoned the the helpline, which not only didn't require my UTR, but was just an automated message telling me to go to the website.
So prithee, what alternative reality did you experience?
Further, I do apologise that the system was not obvious to me - unlike my bank, my insurance, Amazon, John Lewis, and so on
And since you know so much, perhaps you could tell me how many people amended their tax return
(a) this year
(b) last year, which was clearly such a small number that the error wasn't tested for when the system was changed
and therefore how much of the system overload was caused by people trying repeatedly to do something impossible, merely because the error message was so uninformatiive?
Penultimately pehaps you could advise as to what were those people actually supposed to do?
I know, ring up, did you see the NAO report? There's a link here on El Reg.
Finally, even for those that did know how to use the system, but amended their tax teturn, (or whatwever else causes an error) can you explain why it was easier than doing it on paper?
"If you want to file on paper, you can only download the form from the website. So far no problem."
wrong, tax offices can also issue the form, infact they 'should' issue it to your address as a matter of course if you're required to complete a return
"Except, because I've only been using a computer for around thirty years, it wasn't exactly obvious how to navigate through the pages"
really? there is a next button at the end of every page to navigate through the pages
"However, what I didn't appreciate was that amending and resubmitting (that will only be the two of us then) leads to a system error so I couldn't then log back on to retrieve the amount I owed and pay it.
But it's alright, HMRC knew all about tis problem and on 15th January they posted a notice to the effect that: "unfortunately their 'software partners' won't be fixing it until February."
in the article it states how many returns was submitted to HMRC on the days leading to the deadline, maybe they couldnt risk making any ammendments to the backend systems incase it caused problems days before the deadline?