The Inland Revenue has stalled plans to introduce an email service for taxpayers because of security fears.
The department had planned a national email service, and has already installed more than £200m worth of computers.
But, according to an inter-office memo, the taxman fears that hackers could intercept emails or infiltrate the network and masquerade as Nick Montagu, the department's chairman, for the purposes of reading and sending emails.
The decision follows an email trial involving 300 staff in 10 offices, which suffered because of security problems.
The Revenue is already smarting from a decision four weeks ago to suspend a system enabling taxpayers to file returns over the internet because of security breaches.
As a result, the Revenue is a long way from the target set out in its E-Services Strategy document, part of which declared that its "key objective is to provide an email facility for customers to contact their Inland Revenue office by 2002".
Some employees at the department's offices are now angry that something as basic as email is being denied them.
"We have our offices under Nottingham castle and yet we are still using the same communication systems that were being used by the sheriff in Robin Hood's day," one staffer told vnunet.com.
"There is no way head office is ever going to make email 100 per cent safe and yet we have to deal with everything by snail mail until they realise that."
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