Three cheers for HMRC

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Philip Fisher
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It has taken far longer than this writer would have liked but, as we leave 2018 behind, there is finally an opportunity to pay tribute to HMRC for an interaction that hit perfection.

As a long-term critic of the department, or to be more accurate, those who have starved it of funds for years (now stretching into decades), your columnist had long ago given up hope of writing a good news story about its day-to-day operations.

Over the years, I have had a very good relationship with many senior representatives of assorted tax offices, generally those with decades of experience who themselves despaired over its failures to get the basics right. Even so, there are still a number of long-running disputes that drag on without any obvious sign of resolution and it is easy to give up hope in favour of prayer.

However, here is a nice story.

By just before 8:45am on Friday (28th December) I had finally got together all of the necessary documentation and data to complete my own personal tax return. It was, therefore, ready to file and the only thing left to do was fill in the online self assessment pages.

So far so good. However, having relied on my computer to insert a username and password successfully, I was then asked for a six-digit code that was sent to a phone number that is no longer in operation.

In despair, and preparing to give up any activities before lunch, I called the helpline number shown. Inevitably, it was necessary to punch a series of numbers into the phone in response to queries designed to narrow down the issue until eventually, it reached the point where there was no alternative but to put me through to a human being.

Despite the temptation, I ought to emphasise that rather than choosing the option of masquerading as my own agent, this seemed a fine opportunity to test out the process and attempt to get through as a normal paying punter.

The phone rang once, it rang twice and then a man with what sounded like a Liverpudlian accent called John picked up the phone as if he had been hovering over it waiting for somebody to chew the fat.

I explained my problem and patiently and methodically John analysed it, took half a minute out to have a chat with a colleague, and then worked a little bit of magic on HMRC’s internal system. He also agreed to stay on the line while I checked the outcome.

Now, the six-digit code was sent to the mobile phone on which I was speaking to him and immediately allowed me to log in.

Half an hour later, not only had I completed and filed my tax return with a month to spare but, to add joy to happiness (spot the lack of insults and injuries), I am now promised a tax refund that cannot come too soon.

I can only hope that this is a sign of things to come and, over the next 12 months, this column will be filled with paeans of praise to HMRC and its hard-working officers.

About Philip Fisher

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04th Jan 2019 12:12

You are right - its a miracle - to actually get to a person in HMRC both competent enough to do their job and sufficiently unfettered to do it.
Statistically - out of n-million calls per year, at least one should be handled with alacrity and efficiency - you are a lucky man to have had the one.
Pity the rest of us n-million - 1 !!

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to dgilmour51
04th Jan 2019 17:23

It WAS Christmas!!

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04th Jan 2019 13:00

I think it's a poor testament that someone in the profession feels the urge to congratulate HMRC for getting something right.

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to SteLacca
04th Jan 2019 13:14

And that is part of the problem with HMRC. Anything they do right (how it should be normally) we do not expect and get all excited that "things can only get better".

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08th Jan 2019 17:04

There are a number of times when I have rung HMRC and received correct and helpful advice.
In fact I've just had a conversation with someone in the VAT enquiries dept who was very good and gave constructive suggestions on a complicated matter.
I also received a phone call last Friday from another HMRC person in a different VAT dept who had traced my phone number from a bank payment made by my client. He'd put the wrong ref nos and just used the company name. They checked and found me as agent and phoned me as they didnt want to phone abroad where client resides (cost apparently!)
I have commented on this on Accweb on other occasions but if we are supposed to be 'customers' then there should be a way of writing and telling whoever their manager is that a particular employee has done a a good job. Just as you (sometimes) would if you received good service from a shop etc.
I've no idea who to write to.

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