back to article HMRC: We've got £1.3bn for digital tax schemes. Tell us how to spend it

HMRC is casting around for ideas on how to splash £1.3bn in order to become the most "digitally advanced" tax administration in the world. Last year the body was awarded £1.3bn of digital investment over the next four years, which it said would yield £1bn in extra tax revenue after 2020 by ending "bureaucratic form-filling". …

  1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

    Tell us how to spend it

    And then, whatever you tell us, we'll just piss it away as usual on a grotesquely overpaid, but useless, government contractor picked from amongst the usual suspects, and then scrap the entire project in a few years time when it doesn't work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    spend £100m copying a digital government / tax environment that mostly works, £200m simplifying IR35 and balancing it out with a notional, taxable amount for civil servants (linked to job security, paid leave, sick pay, gold-plated pension, etc), and give £1bn back to the people who earned it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC, that is much too sensible it should just work, but then you know that NO government department does sensible for the simple reason they can't gold plate it.

  3. codejunky Silver badge


    Do something useful like simplify the tax code. If that can be achieved then simplify the welfare system. If that can be achieved then maybe it is possible for a universal credit system that works or at least less load on the current workers.

    1. Buzzword

      Re: Or simplify the tax code

      That's not within HMRC's power. They have to enforce whatever crazy tax laws the Parliament enacts.

      1. J P

        Re: Or simplify the tax code

        But @Buzzword, where do you think Parliament gets its ideas from?

        (Hint: Margaret Hodge let rip in one of her PAC hearings on what a stupid idea REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are, and how no-one in their right mind would have put them into law. Cue "helpful" researchers checking Hansard and confirming that REITs were a single item amendment to the Finance Bill, for which Hodge M had duly voted in favour. In fairness, she was a Cabinet Minister at the time, and voting against a government amendment to Finance Bills is unheard of, *even if she'd had a clue what she was voting on*.

        MPs aren't tax experts, and have to rely on Civil Servants for a lot of the ideas and all of the implementation)

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Call me old-fashioned...

    ...but I'd have thought that the best way to tackle developments is:

    1. Decide what to do first

    2. Cost it

    3. Ask for budget

    Can we have an arse about face icon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call me old-fashioned...

      Yep, fresh outbreak of shiny kit syndrome at HMRC. Same old crap as before but everyone will be doing it on Surface Books.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Call me old-fashioned...

        "Same old crap as before but everyone will be doing it on Surface Books.

        18 months ago a job lot of Surfaces arrived with the instruction to the Aspire hardware folk to "configure these for the network". HMRC had just bought them then tried to work out what they needed them for.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Call me old-fashioned...

      Can we have an arse about face icon?

      It wouldn't take long to create one. Just shrink down a screengrab of Boris Johnson from any newspaper site.

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

        Re: Call me old-fashioned...

        They have £1.3 billion of our money that they don't know what to do with? Well, how about giving it back.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Call me old-fashioned...

          "how about giving it back."

          Unfortunately the Treasury work on the basis that it's all theirs anyway.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Call me old-fashioned...

            "how about giving it back."

            But it's not theirs.

            "That is one view. It's not the view the Treasury takes."

            Yes Minister .. Yes Prime Minister?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Call me old-fashioned...

          about 20 quid for every man woman and child in the UK.

          Can I have mine in fivers please

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Call me old-fashioned...

      Okay. You are old-fashioned! *steps off lawn again*

      That being said, you're absolutely right.

      Also, this doesn't bode well at all... Looks like their whole brief is "go ahead and make something digital". If you don't know what you want/need when you go shopping, you'll end up with a heap of useless, overpriced crap.

    4. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Call me old-fashioned...

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a well known architectural framework (TOGAF) that starts with requirements at the centre and builds everything off of that ?

      Horse and carts spring to mind ..

      I also did a quick google for UK Government Architecture, excluding the military version (MODAF) apparently there is something called xGEA and various other official sounding architecture documents up there. I wonder if any are actually used ?

      If not, then defining one and enforcing it would be a good place to start.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A small fraction of this could be used to repeal IR35. They could just burn the rest, which will at least generate some useful heat.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      I came here to comment that they could use the the money to plug the imaginary 400 million gap that non compliance with ir35 apparently causes and scrap the annual consultations they have been wasting millions on... They could then stuff the rest up their arses for all I care.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Innovative idea: given the country is still borrowing a crapton every month, and there's clearly no specific problem identified here, how about you don't spend it at all?

  7. Rich 11 Silver badge

    This will end well.

    It will. I know what I'm talking about, 'cos I saw a computer once. I think.

    Now, where are my consultancy fees?

  8. Tom_

    1 billion pounds after 2020

    Presumably that's 1 billion pounds additional tax take per year... right?

  9. Marc 25

    Beggars Belief

    Not so sure I want to live in a country that has the world's most "technically advance tax avoidance system". How about handing the "excess" back to the Government, so that they may spend it on more worth while causes, sack your beancounters for f*cking up the budget so spectacularly and start streamlining a little, like every other private sector business in this green, unpleasant land.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beggars Belief

      Yep, gonna be a challenge to provide the world's most "technically advanced tax avoidance system" for the world's most "complicated tax system".

  10. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    DON'T MESS WITH THE ONLINE SELF-ASSESSMENT SITE. It works. Other than not allowing strange characters in the final comment field, you know odd ones like £ % - &. Let me enter stuff like: 50% of the 2014-15 expenses after the first £100....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Really, still waiting for them to update my details with my new phone number, which is a vital part of the authentication system. Having to work with two phones till they get their arse in gear.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "DON'T MESS WITH THE ONLINE SELF-ASSESSMENT SITE. It works. Other than not allowing strange characters in the final comment field"

      You know what'll happen if they try to allow such characters? They'll use a new, 17-bit character set unknown in anything else you'll ever see, you won't be able to generate it and it'll completely banjax the entire application.

  11. Local Laddie

    How about fixing the current disaster?

    As one of the "unfortunate few" people unable to submit my self assessement online (and yes - HMRC support and I have had some choice words), the net result was to print my tax return and post it (snail mail).

    So if HRMC is looking to spend millions - how about starting with fixing the current disaster of an website - before it up any further?

  12. Bill M

    Start with the lo-tech first, they can call it OSI Layer 8 to make it sound technical

    A bit lo-tech maybe, but employing some people to answer the phone would be a start.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Start with the lo-tech first, they can call it OSI Layer 8 to make it sound technical

      I was trying to get through to the vat advice number last week... I called at 20 past 5 knowing they close at 6 so wanted to get in the queue in plenty of time. After 50 minutes on hold being told that my call was moving up the queue the message changed to "our offices are now closed, please try again tomorrow" seriously how hard would it have been to estimate the queue length at 5.20 when I called an tell me not to waste my time?

      Or better yet how about answering my call? Fair enough if someone calls after 6 they don't get through but to actually drop active calls because the office closed is utter shit.

      I was phoning because they lost my VAT return.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Start with the lo-tech first, they can call it OSI Layer 8 to make it sound technical

        I've had worse - I was waiting for ages in a queue to a certain mobile phone company.

        I decided to not give up and hang up - It was a freephone call, and I had the phone on the desk, in loudspeaker mode, whilst I did other stuff, so it wasn't interrupting me.

        Over an hour later, stilll no answer - just the crappy musak periodically interrupted by "please hold the line. All of our operators are busy. Your call will be answered shortly" etc. (There was never any queue position information)

        After a while, I realised we were now some time after the office had closed. I called up on another phone to get "Our offices are closed. Please try again tomorrow.".

        The original phone was still getting the "Please hold" loop until I hung up an hour later.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good money after bad

    As someone who's been involved in HMRC's digital tax scheming I can't imagine a worse way to waste public money.

    Everything they've produced has been an absolute disaster and is beyond shoddy and short-sighted. Maybe if they actually replaced Mark Dernley with someone who knew what they were doing and would shake things up that would help....

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    App? Tax?

    I don't like to see the two words in the same sentence. Something to do with security risk?

    Anyway, it's not needed. HMRC are already digitally aware - I regularly get e-mails from them telling me that I'm due a tax refund and click on the link below to claim. Of course, they could spend a few quid tidying up their spelling - sometimes they're, sometimes they're

  15. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    Why don't we just come out of the HMRC scheme, then give that £1.3 billion to the NHS?

  16. nathanmacinnes

    "to become the most "digitally advanced" tax administration in the world"

    Tax returns on the blockchain?

  17. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Some suggestions

    You could choose to spend it on getting some UK IT guys to write you a nice simple tax program??? Oh stupid me, forgot, you are part of the government so you couldn't possibly spend the money in the UK could you?

    You could always not spend it and cut the national debt a bit... but of course you are part of the civil service so see it as your job to take our money and give it away to some rich foreign people who incidentally seem to pay for your holiday chalet. And of course, if you don't spend the money your department might shrink to the size it should be

    You could spend it on checking the sensible assertion that a single flat tax rate on all income of companies and people would be simple to do an fair, and if matched to a single flat social security payment to all legally here would lead to a tax and benefits system the average laptop could run in the corner of number 11's kitchen dispensing with the whole HMRC!

  18. WibbleMe

    API synchronising with software like Quickbooks and Sage so that everything is done automatically, benefits for HMRC is they they can get a live readout of profit loss and how much tax to expect.

    The benefit for the consumer is that tax VAT return can be automated like ,Fuel VAT back or Advertising expenses.

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