HMRC to suspend website at start of tax year

Posted on March 20th, 2011 | Categories - News

Website access to HMRC will be shut down at the end of this tax year.

The HMRC telephone service will have to handle demand from public enquiries when the website closes for a five day period next month.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will suspend online access to its website in April, leaving customers with a telephone service that has been described as ‘not acceptable’ by its chairman.

The sites will be closed between the dates of April 2 and April 6 at a time when many workers will want to take care of their end of year tax planning, including things like pensions, ISAs and capital gains tax.

Mike Warburton of accountants Grant Thornton said: “Computer systems do need to be shut down periodically but the end and start of the tax year seems a very strange time to suspend the service”.

However, a spokesman for HMRC said: “The planned system downtime is part of our normal business operation and happens twice a year in April and October. It’s necessary to allow us to implement changes to our information technology systems in preparation for the new tax year”.

George Bull of accountants Baker Tilly agreed that a complete shutdown has to occur for system upgrades but added that most firms suspend online access for a few hours rather than days.

The news follows a statement made to the Treasury Select Committee by HMRC chairman Mike Clasper where he said that “the area where we have our biggest challenge is that people want to contact us by telephone and I’m not happy with the service we are providing. It’s not acceptable”.

People who need information and guidance relating to their tax codes and payments will have to call a hotline for information instead of turning to the website.