HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been slammed for shutting down its IT system at one of the busiest time of the year.
With just days to go before the end of the current tax year, the department announced plans to shut down its entire IT systems for nearly a week.
HMRC said its network – including those which businesses use for paying tax – will be affected from close of play today (Thursday 5 April) until next Tuesday – or in some cases next Wednesday.
Self-assessment and PAYE agents and customers will not be able to file tax returns for the new tax year until the services have been upgraded, although VAT customers will be able to file online as usual until midnight on Saturday 7 April – the official deadline for payment.
HMRC has said that if, for any unforeseen reason this is prevented because of the changes, it would count as a sufficient excuse for late payment.
But chief executive for the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, said it was the wrong time to schedule the work: ‘Many firms will find it hard to understand why HMRC has chosen to do a major upgrade to its IT systems at such an important time of the year in the tax calendar.
‘With regards VAT returns, if this shutdown does lead to problems and customers find they cannot file their returns on time, we would hope HMRC has put in place a plan and is ready to deal with the fall out quickly and efficiently for those affected.
‘We know from our members’ own experiences in the past, however, that once a fine has been issued because of HMRC mistakes, it can take months and months of wrangling to sort out and for firms to be reimbursed.
‘While HMRC says this is a routine shutdown and has been planned, it will come as little solace for those businesses which are affected. The fact it was only announced last week as well shows little understanding for the needs of businesses.’