HMRC to tackle service problems

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John Stokdyk
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HMRC has responded to concerns raised by tax agents with a wide-ranging initiative to improve its service to agents - starting with post processing and handling.

The tax department will work hand in hand with professional tax bodies to achieve quick improvements on priority issues as well as working towards a more rounded view of service quality that will include new performance measures.

The plan was agreed with professional tax bodies at a high-level meeting on 7 September when HMRC chairman Mike Clasper and several board members agreed to start work at the beginning of October on three strands of activity:

  • A review of post processing and handling, to be followed by other priority areas identified by practitioners: non-Self Assessment repayment claims; automated PAYE coding notices; and issues relating to deceased estates.
  • A programme under which tax agents and charity representatives will spend time with HMRC’s front line service delivery teams to bring a “customer” perspective to bear on its internal processes.
  • HMRC staff will also carry spend time with practitioners and charities to learn what it’s like to experience the tax department’s service on the other side of the fence.

The priority issues were initially flagged up by the ICAEW Tax Faculty, and then confirmed in a profession-wide survey; 199 AccountingWEB members took part, and their priorities closely matched those of the professional bodies that ran similar surveys:

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16th Sep 2011 10:53

Ken Frost's view

HMRC gadfly Ken Frost has picked up on the issue in his blog, and professed "a feeling of deja vu" about the promises being made and suggested it could be part of the endgame for the current structure/leadership of HMRC. (Frost has been keeping a watch on the current sick leave of HMRC CEO Dame Leslie Strathie and is convinced she's on the way out, in spite of assurances to the contrary).

Frost continues: "I get the feeling that HMRC do not want to believe that there is a service issue, and that this will be used to try to discredit 'stakeholder' perceptions of poor service."

My understanding is that the profession-wide service quality poll was designed to counteract that tendency - and that the mass of opinions gathered (along with the Treasury Select Committee report) helped. But perhaps there is some weight in Frost's other theory - as chairman Mike Clasper has taken a prominent role in trying to address the issues raised.

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23rd Sep 2011 16:30

useless staff at Newcastle....

It's about time they showed staff at Newcastle what telephones are and gave them reading lessons so they actually read the paperwork we send them.  They are completely useless. Enough said.

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19th Sep 2011 15:34

We have seen all of this before

We have seen all of this stuff before, some of us going back to the 1980's. when it was first mooted that there was a dirth of Over 14 post and a great deal of even over 2 month post.

One wonders whether the real problem is that they dont know how to do the job to a standard, or even what that standard should be. So to say that the taxpayers should know to get their returns in by 31st October or 31st January when there is no such equivalent standard in HMRC itself is of course, the height of hypocrisy, or as Orwell would have put it, doublethink and doublespeak.

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19th Sep 2011 16:36

Heard it all before - response to mail and the time taken to make repayments is a joke. Every time I receive a letter from HMRC there is a paragraqph in bold print asking for a reply within a certain time limit, usually 28 days. Considering that the date on HMRC letter is usually 2 weeks prior to my actually receiving the mail I find this really annoying as no time limits apply to correspondence to them. As regards telephoning to enquire forget it!

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By chatman
19th Sep 2011 18:25

Post delays.

I have all my post received by a scanning centre, which stamps it with the postmark date and then scans it for me. There is usually a delay of well over a week, often more, between the date of the letter and the date of the postmark.

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19th Sep 2011 20:49





All this is is hot-aired waffle from ‘suits’ to fob off the mutinous punters.


There is a zero chance of anything happening from this latest 'projectile' because it is all predicated on the principle that the serfs aren’t running in the wheel fast enough, and the ‘service’ can therefore be improved (reduced from it’s apallingness) by applying a bunch of fat consultants to the problem to tell them all how to run faster. And the sub-text as well is that no more cash will be applied to the problem.


Fundamental changes in procedures would easily release staff to improve service but that is as likely as the Taliban going into coalition with D Cameron in the next parliament.





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21st Sep 2011 12:01



If HMRC acted on consultations with the majority of its experienced staff who actually know what they would like to be doing instead of the "experts" who have no idea about what is involved, the situation would improve. Too many instances of ignoring "Murphy's Law" and change for the sake of it has wrecked the service. Over the years HMRC have issued a ludicrous number of staff surveys - and ignored the negative feedback.  

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By chatman
21st Sep 2011 12:47


Eric makes a good point. I can't believe many HMRC staff supported the call-centre approach; the outsourcing-mail-delivery-to-someone-who-can't-do-it approach or the increase-the-tax-take-regardless-of-the-rules approach.

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23rd Sep 2011 15:41

HMRC management help fraudsters...

...  by keeping the organisation disfunctional.

You won't see that on a newspaper headline, but it's true.


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30th Sep 2011 17:03

Service levels



HMRC service levels are worse now in any time since I qualified in 1972. Letters ignored, refunds overlooked, 64-8's ignored, appeals forgotten about. What a shambles !  They call tax payers customers, if only they were.

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