Developments in tax e‐filing: practical views from the coalface

Andy Lymer (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Ann Hansford (University of Exeter Business School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)
Katy Pilkington (University of Lancaster Business School, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK)

Journal of Applied Accounting Research

ISSN: 0967-5426

Publication date: 23 November 2012



Electronic filing (e‐filing) of personal tax returns has become a global trend in developed countries. An increasing number of individual UK taxpayers are seeking help from tax advisers as ambitious e‐filing targets increase the interaction between taxpayers, tax agents and government departments. This article aims to review the attitudes to information and communications technology (ICT) adoption between these three groups.


This article has partly built on the work of Walsh and White, who use Moore's “Technology Adoption Life Cycle” to examine e‐filing adoption by taxpayers and tax preparers in the USA. However, this article uses a mixed methodology that the authors argue is more suitable for the wider issues found in the UK.


The results confirm that small/medium sized tax agent firms are more likely to be technology enthusiasts/early adopters of e‐filing for their individual clients. As their business policies are more likely to be directly driven by technology enthusiasts, they have fewer issues with the incomplete e‐filing system available at the early stages of its roll out and were more motivated by the visible benefits available from adopting e‐filing. Larger firms have been slower and appeared more reluctant to embrace e‐filing of personal tax returns being concerned that engaging in HM Revenue and Customs controlled systems and targets would compromise their internal systems, ICT integrity and control of complex tax cases.

Practical implications

This split in e‐filing attitudes by tax agents supports Moore's “chasm” argument for technology adoption processes, implying solutions for widening participation found appropriate for other domains could be equally applicable in this domain. The article reflects on these findings and proposes practical solutions that build on prior research to assist the government in achieving the future ambitious targets for e‐filing.


This paper reports the results of a national survey of tax advisers, supported by follow‐up interviews, addressing the development of e‐filing for personal taxation in the UK.



Lymer, A., Hansford, A. and Pilkington, K. (2012), "Developments in tax e‐filing: practical views from the coalface", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 212-225.

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