current morale at HMRC - is this the problem?

terrible service once again

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This starts off with a simple enough story – for some reason still unknown client is registered a year too early for SA, in a year when they had no earnings at all, when the penalty arrives they tell us and we write to HMRC to explain.  Anyone can make a mistake.

The letter gets no response after 2 months so we call the agent line, we are immediately told that we are being put through to the main helpline instead.  The lady on the main line listens to the story and says “that’s fine, if you are telling me they had no income I will take your word for that and remove the penalty”

Sounded a bit glib, but hey ho, job done.

Except it wasn’t – 2 weeks later penalty still showing, another call to HMRC – no record of the telephone conversation, apologies from the operative who goes away for 5 minutes and removes the penalty.

Its clear to me that a) HMRC have looked at our letter and ignored it  b) the first operative just couldn’t be bothered and didn’t even log the call and c) the chap that did eventually sort it out worked on the agent line which thankfully agreed to speak to me the second time.

All told I have now spent over an hour dealing with this which of course I will not get paid for.

Look Jim, something is seriously wrong with your staff and systems here, man up lad, admit it and get it sorted

Replies (24)

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By Rammstein1
04th May 2023 10:05

HMRC wouldn't have looked at your letter yet, they are so far behind that two months is no time at all for them.

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VAT
By Jason Croke
04th May 2023 10:23

I've a client, they made an error on their April 22 VAT return, their VAT liability was meant to be £13,500 to HMRC, but a slip of their finger meant they filed a return for £135,000.

We sent a VAT652 back in May 2022, we sent another August 2022 and then also tried the online version December 2022.

HMRC sent debt collectors to the clients address in March 2023 trying to collect this mythical £135k. Client put the debt collector onto me and I asked why had HMRC not processed the VAT652 that was sent nearly a year ago?

The debt collector checked and confirmed the VAT652 was on the system but not processed, debt collector team cannot stop chasing the debt. I called debt management and they said they can't remove the debt until the VAT652 is processed and debt management have no say in it, so HMRC know the debt isn't owed but can't stop chasing it until error team pull their finger out.

The error correction team tells me that all their staff have been taken away to deal with VAT registration frauds and couldn't tell me when the VAT652 would be processed as they have a massive backlog.

Please don't tell me that HMRC isn't just broken, it's broken beyond repair, the systems, the people, the culture is all rotten, there is zero incentive to improve because there are no penalties for failure, as long as Harra keeps producing statistics that look like HMRC brought in 1% more tax than last year, then government are happy and the PAC are just as useless.

Thing is, all of this costs time, time either I have to write off or bill, it costs the client stress and hassle and puts them on HMRC radar as non-compliant.

Thanks (19)
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By Wanderer
04th May 2023 10:23

Current vogue, I'm finding from HMRC, is to deny ever receiving letters. Whereas they used to be scanned in and queued and, when push came to shove, the ADL could find the letter in the system if they could be asked to make the effort.

I suspect now that even the scanning in is behind or they are just throwing all correspondence into a black hole.

Oh and I think every letter form HMRC now starts with an apology for their lengthy delay, (nearly always months, sometimes years) then concludes with a requirement for us to respond within 30 days!

So called 'Inspectors' that I've had conversations with in the last year are clearly hopelessly under qualified to deal with the tasks that are given.

So yes I would agree there is likely to be a big problem with morale.

Having said that I had a conversation with a relative, who works for HMRC, regarding MTD, a year or two ago. She had no idea of the issues this was raising and was flabbergasted at the examples I gave. She had been given some internal training and was given to understand that businesses & accountants were completely on board with the project and we all thought it was a great idea.

So maybe HMRC staff are just fed internal propaganda and for this reason are happy with their lot, including extended holidays, WFH, lack of pressure and civil service pensions?

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Replying to Jason Croke:
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By bendybod
05th May 2023 10:45

We send formal complaints for everything now so that the client can, eventually, claim compensation to cover our fees for messing around. On the rare occasion that we don't get anywhere, we write the time off and don't charge the client.

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Replying to bendybod:
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By Hugo Fair
05th May 2023 11:12

I thought that strictly speaking you could claim for 'excess hours billed to client' not for 'excess hours wasted by us' ... even though we know that they end up the same.

If correct (and that's a very uncertain 'if'), then isn't your approach (whilst highly laudable) a little 'dodgy'?

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By bendybod
05th May 2023 12:30

We issue the client with a bill. The client pays us. HMRC reimburses the client. Why is that dodgy? We've wasted the hours on the client's behalf. If we don't get anywhere, we issue a credit note.

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Replying to bendybod:
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By Hugo Fair
05th May 2023 16:54

Sorry, my (incorrect) inferences were drawn from:
"We send formal complaints for everything now so that the client can, eventually, claim compensation to cover our fees for messing around. On the rare occasion that we don't get anywhere, we write the time off and don't charge the client."

It sounded like your order of procedure was:
- send formal complaint to HMRC
- if you "don't get anywhere", then "don't charge the client"
... which suggested (to me) that it was only if you got anywhere with HMRC that you invoiced the client.

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Replying to Wanderer:
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By Rgab1947
09th May 2023 10:00

So Jim is following the Putin method.

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By rmillaree
04th May 2023 10:30

This is the simplest item to sort - ring hmrc advise client doesnt meet requirement to file return - return will be cancelled and penalty goes. Cant remember the last time i have ever had an issue getting return cancelled (as long as its not from moo moo land ) and its almost without fail been done by agent dedicated line operative there and then.

You are mkaing life ultra hard for yourself doing anything like that in writing - it may work and get sorted - but if there is ongoing unecessary fallout much easier to get done and dusted there and then over teh phone IMHO.

One issue with post is that there may be follow questions that could have been sorted - so if they have any uncertanties - eg ifdyou havent confiremd client doesnt meet criteri to file (which is normally necessary to cancel issued return) - you could end up waiting forever then being back to square one if letter back doesnt do what you asked.

My suggestion ring hmrc tell em client doesnt meet criteria they will cancel and job done - probably best not to mention other stuff. Very annoying that person you spke to didnt proactively sort this as they could quite easily have done and would have done had you asked.

If they refuse to withdraw notice to file kick up a fuss

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
04th May 2023 10:36

Lets face it, if I was working in that environment of doing micro steps of jobs and passing it down a line for someone else to press a button, not knowing if anything did worked or matters, I would not give much of a stuff. After 45 mins on hold its hard to be cheerful to the staff. I try, but through gritted teeth quite frankly, especially when they are clearly untrained or just don't care, so they must get call after call from grumpy tax payers and agents.

The deskilled nature of the roles now mean it must be very unfulling to work for HMRC, and as a result and decent staff will go and get someone better. I would be interested to know how long the average call centre staff member lasts. They must have massive staff turnover.

In other news, got a reply to a tax investigation over the weekend. 26 months since the last one. I responded same day, largely referring to the data they already had. And we wait.....

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Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
04th May 2023 11:04

My latest example from HMRC:
"Thank you for your letter of 1 November 2021 ..."
HMRC letter is dated April 2023.

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Intercity
By Mr Hankey
04th May 2023 11:59

I telephoned a while ago to amend an incorrect PAYE code, explained to the advisor the changes that needed to be made, and immediately he said "yes that's all done".

Hmmm, that's strange, I thought to myself. Usually there is some thinking time, processing time, time spent tapping the keyboard and clicking the mouse. So I diplomatically asked if he'd definitely done it, and he instantly replied "yes that's all done". I couldn't really call him a liar on the call, so just had to accept it and say goodbye.

Well, lo & behold, the PAYE code never did get amended. Called a few weeks later to query, and surprise surprise , no record of any previous call.

So yes, HMRC 100% definitely do just play along with the path of least resistance, probably while they sit at their desk and scroll through funny cat videos on their phones, feet up on the desk.

Thanks (9)
Replying to Mr Hankey:
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By Open all hours
04th May 2023 20:34

Just a small problem with those last few words. Long ago I ceased to believe that any of them are actually at desks. We’ve had an 8.15am call connected and all we could hear was the sound of breakfast being made.

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Replying to Open all hours:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
12th May 2023 20:09

Why are they still working from home half the week? My NHS Trust daughter currently spends 2 or 3 days a week esconsed in the dining room; daughter in law catches a train to the Smoke just one day a week for her marketing job and spends the remainder of her working week... well, making breakfasts.

Why? I get the green saving, and the prevention of any further outbreak of Covid. But who on Earth could possibly imagine that employees will actually do any work with a tv / radio / bed nearby!

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By klerg000
05th May 2023 10:05

Meanwhile I have a inspector who has sent two letters 5 e mails and two phone calls to date and still asking more questions for £580 monthly Job retention scheme payments. which was not even claimed for all of the claim period, who genuinely could not work during the pandemic. Waste of time on all parts

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By Di
05th May 2023 10:05

The system has broken down, no accountability, no personality and the trouble is that they think that they are going to fix it with MTD?
In in my humble opinion it's only going to get worse!

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Tornado
By Tornado
05th May 2023 11:29

More sad stories of a broken system.

Which Government is going to be strong enough to stand up to the Civil Service and stop the rot.

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By Retrocanary
05th May 2023 15:28

My current favourite is the Agent Authorisation codes that new clients receive past their expiry date. Difficult to know if it's HMRC who have taken 4 weeks to stuff an envelope and post it, or if it's the local Royal Mail whose postie turns up every now and then with a wodge of a week or 2's worth of post, about a 3rd of which is usually for completely different businesses in town and goes straight back in the letterbox.

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Replying to Retrocanary:
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By Rgab1947
09th May 2023 10:04

Some of my clients who diligently look at their mail don't even receive an authorisation letter.

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Profile
By indomitable
05th May 2023 16:05

And they're all going out on strike next week. Probably the first time in years that alot of them have got out of their houses as they're all "working" from home.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tax/news/why-hmrc-is-everything-wrong-with-t...

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Replying to indomitable:
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By Leywood
05th May 2023 17:10

Thats the joke of it, most of them think they are underpaid whereas in truth most of them are underpaid because they avoid working for half the day and get away with it due to working from home. The extremely small numbers who do are good job are mostly under recognised.

They promote the rubbish ones to different departments to get rid of the problem, rather than dealing with disciplinary matters properly. Managers cannot manage.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
12th May 2023 19:38

I have been trying since November last year to get a client re registered for VAT. No idea why but suddenly HMRC cancelled his registration. In March I received a letter apologising for the error and late response but wanting copies of invoices.
Sent those on 6 April - no response as yet and VAT is building up...

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
12th May 2023 19:55

Jennifer Adams wrote:

I have been trying since November last year to get a client re registered for VAT. No idea why but suddenly HMRC cancelled his registration. In March I received a letter apologising for the error and late response but wanting copies of invoices.
Sent those on 6 April - no response as yet and VAT is building up...

Yeah, we have been trying to register one for over 6 months (currently on third attempt), the client really really wants to pay over the few thousand VAT they owe but cannot....

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
12th May 2023 20:21

I've a client whose VAT reg number became limked erroneously to that of a long-ago struck off limited company. Happened when HMRC ported them to the MTD platform, so quite some time ago.

Aside from a call from what evidently was the money-laundering squad (because the defunct company's name displays against the client's VAT reg number on the UK VAT checker service) there's been no response (platitudes and assurances aside) to our many phone calls, escalated phone calls, phone call-backs a week Wednesday, or *postal correspondence.

*A nice Scottish lady on HMRC's helpline confided that post is ditributed from the central address to employees' homes. Unsurprisingly, missing post is a continual problem. (And what might you be temptrd to do if your boss told you over a Teams call to clear your home-desk!)

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