This article has been taken from CCH Daily published 20/07/16

A broadband service outage suffered by BT and its customers affected firms and agents across the country after the Government Gateway was knocked out, preventing submissions and affecting tax compliance.

The fault saw agents unable to log in, while some were unable to access the site altogether. HMRC confirmed the outage was caused by BT’s hardware problems, which the company reported was due to a power cut at a data centre in London’s Docklands.

‘We are aware that customers are experiencing difficulties accessing our systems today. This is due to a national IT supplier having UK-wide broadband infrastructure problems,’ the tax authority confirmed through its @HMRCcustomers Twitter account.

BT’s customer services team tweeted an apology, adding: ‘This was caused by power issues at a partner’s site. This has now been resolved and services restored.’

The fault also hit several major banks’ online services including Barclays, HSBC and Santander, while BT’s service status pages showed subscribers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been affected.

Aaron Mears, managing director of RDP Financial Services, a sister firm of RDP Newmans Chartered Accountants, warned that over-reliance on online services can leave businesses vulnerable.

He said: “We have experienced a huge slow-down in systems today. This was initially disturbing for us, as we are a paperless office and use cloud technology. This renders all data very secure and offers great protection for data against fraud, but it’s rather like locking your files in a secure vault and then losing the vault to a chasm.

“It has made us think twice about our disaster recovery procedure and I think more firms need to consider this moving forward as the profession’s work moves further online.”

Tim Cook, partner at south east-based firm Wilder Coe expressed concerns over the viability of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital following the outage: ‘The government’s continued commitment to driving forward the digitisation of all of their public facing services which includes taxation will not work unless they can guarantee that these continued internet outages will be brought under control and that the new superfast backbone for the country is installed.’

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