HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

HMRC's £10BN Aspire Contract - Unacceptably Poor

As loyal readers know, I have on occasions written about HMRC's Aspire contract; eg in August 2013 I wrote:
"HMRC has spent over £3.7BN with Capgemini over the last five years on the Aspire contract. The contract was originally valued at £2.8BN.

As per Computing the spend was:

-2008/09:  £777.1m
-2009/10:  £728.9m
-2010/11:  £757.8m
-2011/12:  £735.5m
-2012/13:  £773.5m

HMRC won't reveal a more detailed breakdown of its costs:

"It is considered that disclosure of details about cost breakdown of payments made by HMRC to Capgemini would prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC as a contracting authority and our ability to deliver best value.
It is also considered that release of such information would weaken our supplier's position in a competitive environment by revealing market-sensitive information or information of potential usefulness to its competitors."
Does this spend represent value for money?"
Fast forward almost a year, and we see Aspire in the headlines yet again.

The National Audit Office (NAO) says, in a report entitled Managing and Replacing The Aspire Contract, that the Aspire contract cost £7.9BN between July 2004 and March 2014, and estimates that, by the time it ends in June 2017, HMRC will have spent £10.4BN.

Note that the original contract was valued at £2.8BN.

How on earth has the spend so skyrocketed out of control?

Very simple, additional projects and services have been added. Unfortunately these have not been market tested; ie HMRC has happily allowed the new work to be done by Capgemini without checking to see if it could be done better or more cheaply by others.
"Both Capgemini and its subcontractor, Fujitsu, have achieved considerably more profit than was modelled in 2004. "
Well done lads!

The NAO report also notes that HMRC was overly dependent on the technical capability of the Aspire suppliers between 2004 and 2012, which limited its ability to manage the contract commercially.

"There are serious risks to HMRC’s business if the programme to replace the Aspire contract fails to meet its objectives by June 2017, when the contract ends."
Amyas Morse, NAO head, said:
"HMRC faced complex, long term technology challenges, and Aspire provided an appropriate means of working through them and limiting risk. However, there has been a lack of rigour in HMRC's commercial management of the contract. 

It is essential in any contract that the client retains the independent expertise to challenge the supplier. We welcome HMRC’s recognition of this part way through the Aspire contract and its efforts now to rebuild its capability. 

HMRC now faces a considerable challenge in a limited amount of time to negotiate reform to the contract while at the same time defining its technology strategy for post-Aspire."
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) described HMRC’s management of Aspire as ‘unacceptably poor’.

Quite so!

She went on to say:
"Its own lack of capability meant HMRC was over-reliant on providers’ technical expertise, undermining its ability to act as an intelligent customer on behalf of the taxpayer. All of this gives me little confidence that HMRC’s senior team has the capability to manage large and complex contracts."
I agree, as I have noted many times before government departments do not manage large IT projects well.


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  1. HMG should seriously consider getting rid of HMRC and starting from scratch. Aspire must be laughing all the way to the bank and could probably walk away tomorrow and still be a £bn or so in profit if there are any effective penalties in the contract.
    The whole issue proves once again, HMRC and its management are not fit for purpose, and the lack of control and oversight of this ailing department should give cause for concern. HMRC talking about itself as a contracting authority and delivering value for money takes some misplaced belief, they have a poor track record when it comes to selection and management of the delivery of IT contracts.
    It is believed e.g. that to move a desktop costs £200, when HMRC had its own local IT depts. it was effectively in-house.
    With regard to the subcontractor, it should not surprise anyone to learn that they are referred to as F*ckwitsu by staff at the workface.
    Amyas Morse referring to a lack of rigour, client retaining independant expertise and facing a considerable challenge has to be the understatement of the century.
    Margaret Hodge states unacceptably poor, lack of capability, little confidence that HMRC's senior team has the capability to manage...
    Its not their money after all, its their customers!

    1. Don't forget that within HMRC there is a workforce that would simply like to be treated fairly, assessed fairly, addressed as intelligent beings and given the tools to do a good job. I'm sure the other departments must feel similarly, and in 2014 one would have thought that this was no more than our right and our legitimate expectation.

  2. So, never mind the tax gap, the tax holidays or the inability of HMRC to get anywhere near the right amount of tax at the right time, they now appear to be giving it away to any enterprise able to hoodwink the idiots.
    What the fark is going on in there?

  3. The whole HMRC IT is/was shocking, when they brought in the printer/photocopier faxes that needed you to sign in, the signal had to go to a server in a town or city miles away, the amount of lost time waiting for the photocopier to respond would shock any business.

    When they broke the amount of time to get them fixed again shocking.

    The computers sometimes taking 20-25 minutes to log in, the amount of time the servers went down.

    The 0300 telephone numbers constantly crashing and having faults.

    The place is a joke - no private business would ever put up with what HMRC has technology wise because they would be bankrupt.

    1. Which office do you work in?

      (Someone that can/will do something about your IT issues!)

  4. but we were assured at the building our future event that they will get the IT right this time - what a laugh!

    We're getting up to date, moving on to the "new windows" - yes, that's the windows 7 that was released in 2009!!!

    @16:34 - 20-25 minutes logging on? that would be a record where I am.

    1. As above... which office do you work in?

  5. HMRC, herein lies the dichotomy, on the one hand Homer and no doubt the rest of the earners of bonuses believe it/they are performing at the top and deserve the extra remuneration.
    Conversely, the majority of the staff and customers along with accountancy and tax professionals plus the Judiciary and most politicians seem to believe the opposite.
    Billions have been wasted since mad gordie spawned the idea and more is destined to be wasted.
    You don't need to be a criminal mastermind to take advantage of this useless bunch, just take their CEO out for a few bottles of claret. A damp disgrace and an insult to the oppressed and honest workers within and the compliant taxpayers without.
    As an example of what was once 2 respected and relatively efficient departments this festering wart on the @rse of progress should have been drowned at birth.

  6. Let's not forget Caseflow for all of us in compliance. I have never seen anything so poorly delivered & unuser friendly in all my life. Whoever signed this shambles off should have been brought to account, I now see that Caseflow2 delivery will/maybe late. I hold out no hope for HMRC IT.

    1. fear not, Mark Dearnley says caseflow 2 will be wonderful.

  7. Well Ken, the last week to 10 days has revealed what a shipwreck HMRC actually is.
    This raises an important question, is there anything left in HMRC that actually performs as it should? Oh yes, the shredders!

  8. Our IT is so poor that articles on Sir Bob Kerslake's blog are often blocked on my works computer as they are deemed to be offensive etc etc etc. Never mind, Mark Dearnley assured me on the above blog that caseflow 2 would be wonderful - so that's alright then....

  9. How convenient This bunch of sheisters (EXCOM) don't come under the PMR umbrella - they would have been in the bottom 10% before the system came in. Utterly utterly shocking such incompetents should think they are worthy of £20000 bonuses. No wonder morale at HMRC is unbearable with these individuals fart arseing around. Homer and her cronies should be sacked with immediate effect.

  10. Margaret Hodge, Amyas Morse, Gauke and a variety of politicians of all parties along with various reporters across the country are aware of the broad state of play in HMRC.
    GP's and others withn the medical profession are dealing with increasing work;related stress conditions involving serving and past members of HMRC staff.
    None of this to date has made much difference to HMRC performance, the way they treat staff or the way they treat taxpayers.
    What is interesting to note however are the increasing numbers of serving staff with the bottle to say it as it is. I sincerely applaud you as a past colleague and genuinely hope that more of you will come forward whether on this forum or elsewhere.
    The rumble of discontent is noticeable, and with another 20,000 or more staff to go in the next couple of years or so you can bet the situation inside is going to get worse. PCS needs to look in a mirror and ask itself honestly if it is providing HMRC members value for money. Then get off its @rse and make a lot more noise than it currently is, represent your members before your own interests and promotion opportunities.
    Excom, from what I saw of it, is made up of those who could not escape to other organisations e.g. SOCA/NCA, Borderfarce, early retirement or the private sector.
    When HMRC went to a Directorship approach that really took the biscuit, an FOI should show how many Directorships there were at the highest number, was it 70 odd? Most of those holding the post of Director should not be trusted directing cars to park at a village fete let alone these sort of positions. What people do not realise is the sheer volume of bag carrying "staff officer" were created as support staff for these numpty's, most of whom went from HO to SO as a reward!
    The real civil service went down the pan years ago and the smell of blocked sewers since is sickening.
    Fit for purpose - no
    Value for money - no
    Time for change - yes
    Start at the top and work down all the management levels rapidly, get rid of another 3 layers, they are not required

  11. Trouble is mate Margaret Hodge et al, spouts her vitriol but at the end of the day does much ever happen,,,a big fat no. And totally agree with your point about the PCS, 2 strikes they are calling in August 1st and 16th , all very well but people will be losing more in lost wages that will take a long time to claw back. not that it matters to Mr Serwotka, he gets paid whatever happens, and very well too of the back of his members.

  12. Surprised nobody picked up on "...undermining its ability to act as an intelligent customer on behalf of the taxpayer..."
    Does this mean that after all this time it's HMRC who is THE CUSTOMER, but lacks the intelligence to be so?!
    lol, roff, There We Are Then See!

  13. Once it's pared down to basics, like all Public Sector organisations privatisation looms. Most back office functions can be effectively subbed out to the private sector e.g. HR, Medical Advisory, basic vetting, building maintenance, debt collecting, transport/fleet, call centres, IT, pensions admin., errr. .., wait a minute, most of them
    already are!
    Hmm, not looking good is it?