The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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The UK's Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs computer problem saga continues.

Last June, I blogged about how at least 100,000 UK taxpayers would likely be paying too much tax in 2010 for a whole host of reasons including being placed in an incorrect tax bracket because of errors in the new HMRC computer system database.

The Revenue and Customs folks had been warned about this for quite some time, but blithely said that the new system was working as it should and was much more accurate than the previous tax system.

Well, a report in London Telegraph last week indicated that - as predicted - a whole lot of excess taxes were indeed paid: some £238 million worth in 2010. This was an increase from £96 million in 2009.

In addition, the Telegraph reported that £132 million in owed taxes were missed.

Nevertheless, a spokesperson for HM Revenue and Customs was quoted by the Telegraph as saying:

"The new system raises the bar in terms of data quality and will in the medium term significantly improve overall accuracy reducing both under and overpayments."

The exact height of the data quality bar was not given; nor what was meant by "medium term."

Given that the HMRC admits that it still has to reconcile some 18 million taxpayer cases, I don't think it means "soon."

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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