Living in the future

August 8, 2013

Why can’t HMRC communicate by email?

Well, why can’t they?

I spent what seemed to me an unreasonable amount of time hanging on for an HMRC helpline today.  And then answered a series of questions to confirm my identity.  And then discovered the person I was talking to couldn’t actually resolve my problem, I needed to write in.

Now, why can’t I email?

Yes, yes; identity fraud, impersonation, insecurity of sending personal details electronically, blah blah blah.  (Incidentally, I can manage my bank account via a mobile phone app.  Maybe HMRC could get one of those!)

But I’d already established my identity to HMRC’s satisfaction during the phone call.  And there’s a thing called PGP – pretty good privacy – that will encrypt an email, if you’re paranoid enough to be bothered.   (Disclosure: I’m not, so I’ve never actually tried it)

Having established my identity, the operator could have given me an email address (hers for preference, or at least some kind of postbox for authenticated email) and the necessary “key” to operate the dual key system.

And then I could have sent her an encrypted email and she could have decrypted it and actually dealt with it, in the knowledge it actually came from me.   Or something.  But don’t tell me that in the twenty-first century, communicating with a government department via email isn’t possible.  It might not be convenient for the government or its departments – no doubt in this day and age the requirement to send snail-mail acts as a preliminary filter to stop those of us who might otherwise have emailed more often than the department might like…

Remember how long it took for the old Inland Revenue to adopt the technology of the fax machine?  (Those of you under thirty; it’s an old-time machine that acted like a cross between a networked printer/scanner and a landline.)  It’s time to make another leap of faith and embrace email.

Well, OK, it’s also time for me to fix the damned printer…

One comment

  1. Many parts of HMRC do use email – I’ve just had one in from the Clearances team, for example, and the Agent Account Manager programme relies on it completely (via a web form to kick it off, admittedly).

    I do wish they’d roll it out to more people, though. Especially as their snail mail takes so long to come through – the two letters I’ve just received this morning were dated 1 and 2 August.

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