25 July 2007

Real World Access (30)

One of a series of articles about where Microsoft Office Access applications have found a real-world niche.

 Leigh Purvis's Duty

Each year in the UK there are two million 8 page forms (with a possible 232 questions and potentially an additional 99 x 70 questions per form) submitted to the government for Stamp Duty Land Tax (the tax charged when buying property, which is filed by solicitors on behalf of their buyer clients).

This nets the government some £7 billion per annum.  But the old legal paper based system can require much to and fro, with late fines for firms unable to correctly submit forms in time (not to mention the embarrassing letter from the Revenue sent to the client informing of the firm's failure!)

In 2005 the government developed their own online submission process – and opened the process to third party software submitters too.

The result is a multi-user, very multi-firm Access 2003 desktop application with Jet backend, which I developed and now maintain for the owner company SDLT.co.uk.

It initially validates the user entered / imported data through the substantial set of business rules.  Upon successful local validation, the application submits a post of XML data to the online process of the Government.

Progress is polled repeatedly until a response is received indicating the success of the submission (usually well within a minute).  The result is that a user can close out a legal process in minutes which can take weeks to complete on the paper equivalent.  If any issues with the submitted data are returned then they are reported to the user to amend their data appropriately and try again right away without penalty.

A sibling Access application downloads the history of use from an online location for reporting and invoicing by the owners.

SDLT.co.uk was the first external vendor application to post submissions to the new service in 2005, and is the biggest third party software vendor handling e-submissions within this process – totalling several thousand successful submissions per month and growing constantly.

Now widely distributed in many law firms across the UK, having developed in Access meant it was possible to create all required functionality and yet be first - while any required technical changes, new standards or user requests can be implemented very quickly and are distributed through an auto-update process.  There's a version under development, where the Access application will use data in a SQL Server database.

It has become a regional software award winner.


At 29 August 2007 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, this is factually incorrect. SDLT.co.uk were the first to achieve VSIPS accreditation, however, were not the first to make commercial use of this service.


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