Meeting Mike Clasper
At a meeting with AccountingWEB.co.uk and a group of unrepresented tax agents in Leeds on Monday evening (13 June) HMRC chairman Mike Clasper revealed he was born in Sunderland - which explains the accent.
He gained an engineering degree at Cambridge before joining Proctor and Gamble and held a variety of senior management posts over the years. Clasper was appointed as an external candidate to lead HMRC in August 2008, and as board chairman is ultimately responsible for providing strategic leadership, approving business plans and monitoring performance.
He said HMRC has to balance three conflicting aspects of its operations:
- Collecting tax and closing the tax gap
- The experience of customers, and
He explained the difficulty of balancing the three and noted that businesses will often choose one or two of these to concentrate on, at the expense of the other. Clasper said he believed ultimately it would be possible to improve all three euqlly, thanks to better mangement of internal systems and a massive investment in technology that is beginning to bear fruit.
Turning specifically to agents, Clasper recognised that a very significant part of HMRC’s tax revenues come in from represented taxpayers, and recognised tax agents as a major part of HMRC's “business model”. Agents remain the only large group for which the department does not have a strategy, so this new project aims to establish what that strategy should look like.
The current consultation exercise is about HOW an agent strategy should be implemented, and what some of the key aspects of that strategy might look like, not IF there should be one. This seems reasonable to me – it may have taken its time, but the department clearly recognises that agents should have a separate strategy, rather than treating them as “the bit in the middle” in respect of their clients.
The core of the strategy involves the following elements:
- Online services
- Self serve, and
- Get it right first time yourself.
Clasper said a number of tax authorities around the world had already adopted self serve for agents with success. The UK is somewhat late to adopt this way of working. He added that for most agents, self serve was not asking them to do anything they didn’t already do, but was a question of giving them the tools to effect the outcome of their work directly.
I found the evening interesting and constructive and gained a better insight into the consultation framework and the reasons why this is being done now. I am also absolutely clear that this is not about regulation by HMRC in any form – they just don’t want it.
In view of the latest poll results, I’ll now be pressing ahead with detailed articles on a variety of aspects of the consultation, and then moving to directly posing some of the consultation questions. I’ll start with a clearer explanation of the why and how of enrolment later this week in our HMRC Agent Strategy discussion group.