The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Michael Jack, yesterday announced technical support arrangements to ensure that the operation of the Inland Revenue?s new self-assessment computer system remains as trouble-free as possible.
Speaking in reply to a Parliamentary Question expressing concern that foreign technical support personnel would have access to confidential tax payers records, he said: ?Electronic Data Systems (the Inland Revenue?s information technology partner) will ensure that full technical support is provided by all companies contracted to supply components of the self-assessment computer system. In particular Oracle, the company supplying the software package for the database holding taxpayer records, will provide 24-hour support using its world-wide service network."
He continued:"Such diagnostic and remedial work undertaken to support the system may at times necessitate specialist staff - either in the UK or, exceptionally, at Oracle facilities abroad - having access to copies or batches of taxpayer records. The handling of such confidential data will, as now, be governed by the strictest possible security arrangements to safeguard against misuse. The actual processing of individuals? tax affairs and the development of the Inland Revenue?s computer system will continue to be undertaken within the UK.?
The government will have access to Oracle?s network of technical support centres - in Bracknell, Redwood Shores, California and Melbourne, Australia. According to the Inland Revenue, the arrangements will allow work to take place round-the-clock on diagnosing and remedying critical faults should they arise.
Self assessment started on 6 April 1996 and applies to the 8.5 million or so people who receive an annual tax return. The Inland Revenue will start phasing in the self assessment computer system from the end of October 1996.
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