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Tax Software Firm Benefits From UK Revenue's On-Line Travails, London

23 September 2002

The UK Inland Revenue's on-line service for tax calculation and filing has limped from one disaster to another this year; but every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case it's specialist financial software house E-qua Via who is seeing the bright side of the Revenue's problems, with ever increasing demand from expatriates for its tax calculation package.

Despite an initial £10 discount to encourage people, the Revenue service has attracted fewer than 80,000 users, less than one per cent of the 9.2 million people who are required to submit a self-assessment form each year – including those with multiple pensions.

However the bad publicity which continues to bedevil the government’s best efforts to win over taxpayers has had a positive effect on sales of Tax 2002 Personal from E-qua Via. The company has been so successful that it recently crashed through the 250,000 sales barrier for tax products sold in the UK.

“Every time the Revenue has come in for criticism, we have seen an increase in sales,” says Tracy Tunnicliffe, E-qua Via’s marketing manager.

The latest shot in the arm for E-qua Via came in a recent article in The Times newspaper which not only took the Revenue to task but also suggested to its readers they should look at the E-qua Via product as an alternative.

Under the heading – “Self assessment system still too taxing” – writer Helen Nugent claimed that a new £6 million campaign to promote the Revenue’s online system was doomed to failure.

According to the article, the Revenue is pinning its hopes on a new front man – Adam Hart-Davis, presenter of Tomorrow’s World – who will be telling television audiences that “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” and urging people to keep their cool when wrestling with self assessment returns.

However Helen Nugent insists that after first pulling the operation to “improve the service to customers” then being forced to suspend it because a security breach allowed users to read confidential information about other taxpayers, problems still exist.

“While the self-assessment online service is back in operation, accountants say it is still unreliable,” writes The Times journalist.

Once again, the airing of the Revenue’s problems provide beneficial results for E-qua Via in that Helen Nugent goes on to write –

“People who are reluctant to use the Revenue’s online service but happy to use a tax software product may be interested in a new package from E-qua Via, a company specialising in financial IT.

“For a one-off fee of £24.99, individuals can purchase a CD-ROM that will calculate your tax liability automatically once you have entered all your details onto the system.”

Tracy Tunnicliffe was understandably delighted by the endorsement from The Times.

“It seems we are destined to do well at the expense of the Revenue,” she says. “Not that we or anyone else will be unhappy about that.

“But where they have failed and we have won is in the simplicity stakes. Once expatriates enter their tax data in Tax Personal, they can carry it forward to the next year. It also means that they can find out their tax liability up front and they don’t have to wait for the Revenue to calculate it for them . . .”

Tax Personal 2002 can be purchased by calling Freephone 0800 195 0709.

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