Headlines: July 25th, 2000

The expectations of many taxpayers were raised when it was reported in ‘Computer Weekly’ that the Inland Revenue computer had lost pay and tax records. The story was picked up by national newspapers and given wide coverage. The flaw in the story was that it was untrue, but the Inland Revenue did explain how someone unfamiliar with their procedures could reach a false conclusion.Every year the IR computer has open records for individual taxpayers without pay and tax details for the particular tax year. This is not because records have been lost or problems with the computer systems. Open records can result , for example, because information has not been received from the employer or someone who was an employee in an earlier tax year has moved into self employment. There are well established arrangements to deal with these situations and ensure that the correct information is obtained and the right amount of tax is collected.

Many taxpayers will continue in blissful ignorance that the ‘Computer Weekly’ story was untrue because the national press are unlikely to publish a correction. Defending the Inland Revue is not very newsworthy.