HMRC achieves ‘significant improvement’ in IT uptime in FY21

Annual accounts for in-house IT company show number of ‘red days’ fell by a third, while coronavirus crisis saw costs rise more than £9m

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HM Revenue and Customs enjoyed a “significant improvement” in the performance of its internal IT systems in the 2021 financial year.

Newly published annual accounts from RCDTS Limited, the department’s in-house IT services provider, reveal a big reduction in incidence of downtime and other disruptive occurrences during the year to 31 March 2021.

The report claims that “periods of IT unavailability reduced by 42%” compared with the prior year.

Using the firm’s traffic-light system, the number of red days recorded in FY21 – which are defined as those “in which there is a high-priority incident of the highest level and in which there are significant outages impacting HMRC and/or customers” – fell from 26 to 17.

The number of amber days, which are those in which there are “one or more high priority incidents, with lesser impact” on the department and its clients, was almost cut in half, from 69 to 36.

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This meant that there were 312 green days on which no high-priority incidents occurred – equating to 85.5% of the year.

During a 12-month period in which HMRC had to deliver a number of major digital projects to support government’s coronavirus response – as well as the ongoing technological demands of Brexit – the running costs of RCDTS rose by 12.7%, from £71.9m to £80.9m.

“RCDTS Ltd played a key role in supporting the compliance activities for Covid-19 relief schemes,” the annual report said. “The company contributed to quickly establishing a solution to support the validation of claims for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and built the solution at pace. Following the successful implementation of the… scheme, RCDTS Ltd provided further support in the validation of claims for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and provided IT infrastructure to support the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.”

It added: “RCDTS Ltd contributed to the delivery of multiple new solutions in support of the UK transition work following the UK’s exit from the European Union, to manage compliance activities for the Customs Declaration Service as well as a new solution called Safety and Security GB to handle exceptions for high-risk goods imported into the UK.”

RCDTS added to its tally of both permanent staff and contractors during the year. As of 31 March, the full-time employee roster stood at 786, representing a rise of 27 on the prior year. The number of contractors rose from 116 to 163 during FY21.

This adds up to an increase in total headcount from 875 to 949.

The gender split of the company’s workforce remained 19% female and 81% male. The mean gender pay gap for the year was recorded as 8.8% – up from 6.2% in FY20.

RCDTS was established in 2015 as a government-owned company with a single customer: HMRC. The creation of the firm came as the tax agency began the process of extricating itself from major long-term outsourced IT contracts. 


Sam Trendall

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