UK taxpayers can submit tax returns online using open source software

I just completed my UK tax return on-line today. At the end of it all, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) ask for some feedback. I thought that fans of open source software might be interested in my response:-

“This is certainly a great improvement over previous years. It actually saved me a lot of time. It took me a little under three hours from start to finish – though obviously I had already prepared my accounts in my accounts package.

I was glad that the old paper-based tax guide calculation form was redundant. That was very time-consuming and error prone. I think the fact that your online system automatically does the calculations is a very good feature indeed.

However, the “help” system was not particularly clear. The explanation of cash vs GAAP was unintelligible!

Moreover, I was annoyed to find that the server was down on the day I had taken off to do my return 2009-01-09. Considering the amount of money spent on this system, such failures are inexcusable.

On the bright side, I run a non-Windows business and use no Microsoft products at all in

my book keeping. So I was delighted to find that all the features on your site required to complete my return worked perfectly on Ubuntu Linux c/w Firefox. So it is good that HMRC has not forced its users to use Windows. I was even able to copy and paste figures from GnuCash (an excellent free open source double entry accounting system) straight into my on-line return.

Overall I think this year’s on-line service was fairly good. If you can improve the help system and the server reliability then you’ll have a very good system indeed.

If your engineers need more information then please contact me via my site:-

Now, I’m not a big fan of Government IT. But when you consider the problems that some other countries have with submitting returns on line using open source software. e.g. Hungary then I think HMRC has actually made a fairly reasonable job of it this time.

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