Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
A view from the other side?
I gather HMRC and the accountancy and tax bodies are planning an exchange arrangement for some of their staff.
Tax inspectors will get to experience work in an accountancy practice, while some privileged - and no doubt carefully vetted - accountants will be granted access to the behind the scenes parts of HMRC that no-one else ever sees.
One of the issues they are looking at is response times to what they like to call "customer contacts". On this occasion I'll let this one pass, just don't get me started on the whole thing of HMRC referring to us as customers!
Apparently while taxpayers and agents often experience weeks of delays in correspondence with HMRC, HMRC statistics show a handling time of three working weeks is the norm! Something's not right here. Phone handling is also an area the two sides are going to review.
So HMRC staff are going to visit accountants' offices to "experience for themselves the reported phone issues and to monitor the full cycle of written correspondence," said the press release. I just hope some of them try calling PAYE and VAT helplines and see how long they have to wait, and then how helpful - or not - their people can be.
It then goes on to say that "The work on this part of the programme will take between four and six weeks." You bet it will, that's about the length of time they will need to wait for a reply from some tax offices. In fact, that probably won't be long enough in some cases!
Meanwhile, some lucky accountants are going to "visit HMRC offices and call centres and see post and call handling as it happens." Sounds like watching paint dry to me.
Will this make any difference? I don't suppose so, it might open a few eyes, but let's face it, HMRC doesn't have the money to invest in improved customer service anyway. Sadly, customers are about as important to HMRC as they are to High Street banks, so don't get your hopes up.