IT firms have welcomed the government's plans to create a self-service tax system – which could become a major IT project – but warned it not to let it end up on the scrapheap along with a series of other failed IT plans.
In yesterday's budget, chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans to "transform" the tax system over the next parliament by introducing digital tax accounts which will make the process of filing a tax return redundant.
Technology analyst TechMarketView (TMV)'s research director Georgina O'Toole said the pledge "shouts 'major government IT project!'" but warned the nature of the programme – pulling in data from both private and public bodies – would make it "complex" to achieve.
The project proposals were welcomed by some IT suppliers, but IT services consultant Bell Integration's chief technology officer Andy Soanes warned the project would be difficult to pull off.
"While taking the pain out of tax returns is a laudable aim, there will be a lot of people questioning whether it can be delivered successfully," he said. "The UK government doesn't have the best track record in this department: from initial problems around online tax returns, through to Universal Credit and the NHS National Programme for IT, there is an inglorious history of IT projects that have gone over budget, over time, or [have] simply failed to deliver on what was promised.
"There have been numerous reasons given for these failures, from a more complex implementation than expected, to having to build on top of extremely complex legacy systems, to projects ploughing ahead with fashionable techniques and technologies simply because they are in vogue, rather than suitable. To avoid the same fate, those responsible must ensure they have full control over the project."
Mind the skills gap
Osborne was criticised for failing to do enough to address the skills shortage across the UK, especially in the technology space, during his address yesterday.
Telehony firm Beaming's managing director Sonia Blizzard said: "I am very surprised that there is not more to come from the government in terms of offering more resources towards the skills shortages. After all, technology is developing all the time and it is something that businesses and individuals rely upon daily. It is up to the government to invest in these technology companies to keep them alive and with that comes investment in skills development."
While the skills gap was off the agenda for Osborne yesterday, he did manage to drop in a mention of the Internet of Things (IoT) as he laid out his vision for the future.
Over the next parliament, Osborne plans to invest £40m to develop IoT technology through demonstration programmes and business incubator space. The investment will focus on healthcare and smart cities.
On top of this, he outlined plans to invest £100m in the research and development of intelligent mobility, which he claims will focus on enhancing the development of driverless cars.
TMV's O'Toole said this was good news.
"The focus on smart city technology is particularly interesting and links closely to the confirmed desire to devolve more decision making and funds to local regions," she said.
"It is welcoming to see an acknowledgement that local areas will only be able to take advantage of the advancement of IoT technologies if they are empowered to make decisions and collaboration between different local organisations is encouraged."
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