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.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Joys of IT II - HMRC's Latest IT Fail

My sympathies to Glyn Moody, who had to endure a tedious time trying to prove to HMRC that he was who he said he was.

"On Monday, I called Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to give them some information they wanted from me. After being placed on hold for about 10 minutes, I finally got through, and was rightly “taken through security”. After all, it's vitally important that HMRC and similar organisations establish that the person they are talking to is indeed that person. Unfortunately, security had been “upgraded”, so you probably know what is coming next....

It turned out that “the system” no longer had “enough information” on me to verify my identity. This is despite the fact that I have been bunging money to the Inland Revenue for several decades, and have also interacted with Customs & Excise and other parts of the system now run by HMRC.

I certainly have records of these interactions going back many years. I could tell them precisely the amounts that I owed and paid them back in the 1980s and 1990s, for example. It seems surprising that they didn't also have this data in a form that they could access for verification purposes.

But no; the “system”, this wondrous updated beast, seemed to have mislaid all that wondrous information stuff, and so was unable to verify my identity. Which meant that through no fault of my own, I could not give the information the HMRC was demanding. It also meant that I would have to go in person to a physical HMRC office, taking with me the canonical two documents establishing my identity. That is, having wasted fully 40 minutes on an expensive 0845 number that I had the pleasure of paying for, I now had to waste a morning traipsing up to some inconveniently-located site.

Of course, when I went yesterday, it was raining. And, of course, when I got to this inconveniently-located HMRC office, thereby wasting the key time of my writing day, I was informed that this new, updated system was “down”, and they they didn't know when it would be coming “up”. And no, they couldn't just look at the two documents establishing my identity, and enter the info later because, well, you know, the “system was down”, which meant that everyone was reduced to a state of organisational de-cerebration.

And so I face the necessity of going back to this inconveniently-located office once again, when it will doubtless be raining once more, in the risible hope that this wonderful “updated” and so-called “system” might be vaguely running, but I'm not holding my breath.

This fiasco will join all the other disasters associated with the incompetent computer services of the HMRC and its forebears, including perhaps the most serious loss of personal data in world history (well, that we know about...). And yes, I do realise that it was probably because of that colossal failure that they have upgraded their security: but the point is good security lets people do things, rather than simply locking everyone out of the system.

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  1. And then what happened. Did this person turn around and go home becuase if he did that is exactly what they would have wanted.
    I'm an x employee. What you do is this.
    You dont move. You demand to see a manager, a Senior Officer who earns between £35 and £42 grand a year and demand answers.
    Then you ask for that managers manager, "Grade7" earning up to £62 grand a year and inform that person that you are going to contact your MP forthwith as you are unhappy with the standard and the old line "the system is down".
    You get names, telephone extensions and email addressess and get them down on paper.
    Once you create a seed of fear right into a managers in-tray you'll get it sorted.
    The officer on the phone or at the desk has been programmed to say "the system is down".
    The managers in the background are only interested in the stats or lunchtime shopping.
    But when they hear "demanding answers" "phone numbers" or "MP" they get spooked.

  2. The IDAS system which is used as part of the ID checks carried out by Enquiry Centres was unavailable for a short time earlier this week. If it's not working, it's not working-none of this "the officer at the desk has been programmed to say the system is down". do you seriously think people were asked to attend interviews if it was known the applications weren't working? Enquiry Centres were instructed that in these instances callers were still asked to go through the security questions required to verify them and note them on the syatem when it was available.

  3. "do you seriously think people were asked to attend interviews if it was known the applications weren't working?"

    I would have a fiver on the to this question being yes.

  4. I hope for your sake you don't gamble much.

  5. So you would call the tax payer and tell them not to attend?

  6. Quote;
    "So you would call the tax payer and tell them not to attend?"

    No because their contact details are on the computer and the computer system is down;-)

  7. So 28 January 2011 22:31 wins a fiver.

  8. HMRC IT strategy document is always worth reading for a laugh

    Page after page of meaningless waffle about customer focus, Enterprise Architectures etc

    The supposed Road to World Class IT is littered with contradiction. The department claims to want to be at the forefront of technology but won't be an early adopter of anything new. As a consequence they are always chasing the game with systems that are always geared for yesterdays world not today. They have barely managed to plug into Web 1 but the growth of Web 2 particularly through new devices running Android etc is shortly going to render many of their newer systems redundant or unfit for purpose. They are stuck in a game of playing endless catchup and have not been at the forefront of technology since the days of Stephen Matheson

  9. Assuming he made an appointment, the Enquiry reception desk would at least have some details of his impending visit. Those that don't have an appointment are turned away because they need one or are pointed towards the "free" phones. That really gets me - you call and can't get help; pay a visit to your local "friendly" EC with no appointment; then get put on the phone to a help desk elsewhere.

  10. 30 January 2011 11:46's comments may highloght one of the biggest problems with HMRC and IT projects.

    There is no requirement for HMRC or any public sector body to be anywhere near the forefront of technology. What they need to be using is tried and tested technologies/methods.

  11. As a regular contributor on here and an enquiry centre staff member I resent the implication that we make appointments and make people turn and refuse to see them, we onlt refuse to see people if they are late or do not have ID.

    I also resent the implication that we make up systems being down (once a customer accused us of setting off the fire alarm to get rid of her).

    We have enough trouble with Tax Credit Payment Requests turning up expecting us to magic a member of staff from nowhere to see them because they have been told be contact centres to just come in and they will be seen (without ID as well).

    There's no point as is stated in first reply to demand to see a manager because a) some enquiry centres have managaer's who are part time or run more than one office and may not be there also senior officers are mostly miles away in different locations.

    I agree that going to a grade 7 is a different matter they are normally not in Customer Contact and throw their weight around because a customer has got their number and demand the customer gets what they ask.

    We do our best in our Enquiry Centre if people are ok with us we will be the same back and we do our best to accomodate people but we have so little staff now and have no back office staff that we cannot just get someone else to see someone straight away, plus we are limited to a few desks which limits the amount of customers we can see.

    Also this week we have had to take on the PAYE callers that are banned from using the phones plus SA deadline week which has meant nearly all EC's have failed the three day target, this is January and we already failing the three day target so just wait until April and May.

    They have learned nothing from last year's telephone fiasco absolutely nothing.

  12. Apologies for the spelling mistakes in the above post should have checked before I sent it.

  13. I've been trying (without any success) to raise a problems with missing information and phone calls into their helpline back in 03/40 and 04/05.

    I've found records where they admit that the system didn't work and that they have no records of some 600,000 calls.
    When this is raised in letters to HMRC (and I've sent 4 so far) their standard response is to simply ignore the question!
    I get letters back that seem to come from an alternate dimension and answer questions I haven't asked, restate their position or just cut and paste from the last letters they sent.
    In fact almost anything rather than an answer to the questions that they've been asked!

  14. 31 January 2011 13:46, if they are ignoring you or lying to you then you need to take the matter up with your local MP.

  15. You cannot get your MP involved until the full complaint procedure has been followed!

    You probably haven't updated your personal information in a while....

    Write to a Customer Contact office with all your details....

  16. "You cannot get your MP involved until the full complaint procedure has been followed!"

    You can get you MP involved at any point required. They are not governed by HMRC's complaints procedure.

  17. Thanks guys,

    Had my MP involved, after a point (when even he couldn't get any sense out of them) he lost the will and just trod water.
    He lost the 2010 election and I've started again with the new combatant.

    The Customer Contact office is where I'm writing to, they flatly refuse to answer the question or even acknowledge I've asked it.

    I've spoke to a 'manager' on the phone a while back who stated that, if there were no records on the system then I didn't make the call as ALL calls are recorded and are available.
    Yet, when you speak to one of the help desk staff they happily say, 'Oh yes, we all know about those. They went to outsourced sites with no access to the computer. The written notes they kept were supposed to entered but never were due to workload...'

    So, either the manager is not telling the truth! or is so badly trained he doesn't know what the rest of the staff do?

    It's only been dragging on for 8 years now, can't see it getting sorted in the near future when HMRC refuse to even talk about it.

  18. "So, either the manager is not telling the truth! or is so badly trained he doesn't know what the rest of the staff do?"

    I think it is well documented that both of the observations are true. HMRC staff do lie to the public and the standard of training is very bad.