Let's help MPs ask HMRC the right questions
With MPs pursuring an inquiry into HMRC's workings, Simon Sweetman launches his own performance review.
The Treasury subcommittee has decided to look at HMRC’s performance as an organisation and whether it is delivering its key aims. I suppose it could simply say “no” and leave it at that, but it will probably want to ask a few more questions.
These will include:
- What the implications are of HMRC’s spending review settlement
- Whether HMRC is able to deliver the government’s aims on tax compliance
- Whether PAYE reform is necessary; and
- What HMRC’s priorities should be for the future.
It would appear that the subcommittee has been goaded into action by the (largely misleading) press coverage of the PAYE end of year reconciliations now being carried out. It is to be hoped that they will try to go a little deeper than the Daily Mail and its Millions more hit by PAYE shambles theme.
The implications of the spending review settlement – a 10% or 15% further reduction in staff – demands hefty processing savings: closing contact centres on Sundays might just be the start of that. It also means more and more reliance on technology to do the job : we shall see how the PAYE business pans out, but very much doubt whether “real time information”, which will presumably need people to process it, will go ahead. It is hard to see that there is much to be gained by trying to reform PAYE before we see how the new system performs once the backlog has cleared.
How about the government’s aims on
? HMRC might need to start by trying to find out what they are, since at the moment there is a lot of talk about tax evasion (yes, we’re against that) and tax avoidance (we ought to say we’re against that) but there doesn’t seem to be a strategy: the current aim seems to be to collect what you can without worrying too much about principles, as in the
, which looks as it will collect something like the right tax on the interest but keep Switzerland a safe haven for hot capital.
Which leaves us HMRC’s priorities for the future. Um… collect tax? Try not to annoy people?
The MPs on the subcommittee will ask questions: but what matters is that they ask the right questions, or just the ones that the media is needling them to ask ?