Sunday, 18 July 2010

HMRC postal delays and a re-think from me

HM Revenue and Customs seen from Parliament Sq...Image via Wikipedia

As you will know if you have been a regular reader of Taxing Times, about a month ago I copied all the postings up to date to my main business website, and you can see them here together with the new postings since the transfer. However, a guy can change his mind. I realised I did still want to continue to talk about the day-to-day running of my business and express my views perhaps a little more freely than might be appropriate on a company website, so I have decided that this blog will live on. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to introduce a new look and I hope you like it. Please do follow both blogs.

One of the problems that HMRC “customers” experience is getting their correspondence dealt with. Actually the real issue is the length of time HMRC may take to actually read what has been sent to them, As a practitioner, I know that some of my clients find it hard to believe how long things take. Some matters can be dealt with easily over the telephone, but anything involving the completion of a paper form can take absolutely ages.

HMRC admits that 7% of post relating to PAYE Coding issues is currently not dealt with three months after receipt. One particular consequence I have seen is that a client has now received three questionnaire forms P161 relating to a new private pension. I filled in the first one my client received promptly and it was signed and sent off. Meanwhile over three months HMRC's computers have churned out two more. I have explained to the client what is happening and have telephoned HMRC but that makes more work for me for which I will not be paid.

I keep my clients is the loop, but HMRC's delays in dealing with simple matters do stretch credibility. To be fair, they are open about these deficiencies and have kept us agents informed. I am not divulging some secret information from a Revenue mole.

Of course the problems are due to spending cuts; not the programme of cuts now proposed by the Coalition, but the cuts imposed by the previous Government. HMRC has far less qualified staff (people who know about tax who would command higher salaries) and relies on call centres for much of their interaction with the public. The operators are only trained in the basics and if they are presented with anything beyond those they have to send an email to an anonymous person in the relevant office and even we agents are not told who so it is harder for us to follow up if something isn't dealt with.

Do you experience delays dealing with HMRC? Is there any practice topic you would like me to cover?

© Jon Stow 2010

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