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CIOT pans HMRC poor service and 'unrealistic' MTD timeline

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The government needs to prioritise HMRC's poor service levels and the ‘unrealistic’ timetable for Making tax Digital for income tax self assessment’s (MTD ITSA), says the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

11th Nov 2022
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Victoria Atkins MP, the recently appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury (FST), has inherited an in-tray that includes poor HMRC performance standards and renewed calls to review the MTD ITSA timeline. 

Ahead of the Autumn Statement on 17 November, CIOT president Susan Ball wrote to Atkins in a punchy letter to urge the new administration to treat these pressing issues as a priority. 

“We believe that unless these are addressed, the tax system will become less efficient, harder to comply with and less effective in both raising revenue and supporting taxpayers,” wrote Ball. 

Poor HMRC performance

Top of the list for the CIOT was for the government to prioritise investment in HMRC’s performance. Ball cut straight to the heart of the matter: “HMRC’s performance standards are falling badly short.”

The list of problems is extensive. In one example, Ball informed Atkins that there are people and businesses who have waited for tax refunds for over nine months. She explained that this is where an immediate repayment was required by law. 

The CIOT, alongside other tax bodies, raised concerns about HMRC’s service levels back in July in a letter to the tax department’s director general customer services. The letter catalogued a number of delays that their members are facing when dealing with HMRC, including with self-assessment registrations and refunds, correspondence about VAT grouping, the option to tax and much more. 

Ball noted that while the problems listed still continue, new ones have also emerged as HMRC resources are redeployed elsewhere. 

The erosion of HMRC’s service levels has become a common complaint on AccountingWEB’s Any Answers forum. At a representative bodies steering group, the CIOT and the Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG) told HMRC of the impact these poor service levels are having on agents’ mental health and how this adds to the wider pressures already felt by agents due to workloads, as well as recruiting and retaining staff.  

Performance update

HMRC’s poor service levels were illustrated in the July to September performance data, where the average call wait time was recorded at around 14 minutes. While this number has fallen from 15 minutes in the previous quarter, it is still a far cry from the pre-Covid-19 target of five minutes. 

Elsewhere, the percentage of calls answered is still underperforming at 77% against a target of 85%.  However, the percentage of correspondence turned around within 15 days has surpassed the previous quarter’s 64% to 77%. 

“At times, some of our telephony services and correspondence turnaround times have been affected by high demand and other factors – and we’re sorry that some customers and agents have experienced delays when dealing with us,” said HMRC in the performance update, blaming factors such as extremely high volumes of repayment claims (90% more than usual) and IT issues.

Not fit for purpose

As HMRC services underperform, CIOT’s Ball underlined the issue at hand: “It is not simply that targets are being missed. Some targets are not fit for purpose even if met.”

She added: “We are concerned that staff numbers within HMRC are being cut in anticipation of securing savings from digitalisation when these savings have not yet been realised, with the result that delivery of existing performance standards has been compromised.”

Ball called on Atkins to go beyond simply maintaining HMRC’s current standards and roll out a “more ambitious mandate to improve standards of basic performance” which would include answering telephone queries, dealing promptly with correspondence, investigation and compliance activity and timely processing of new tax registrations and agent authorisations. 

MTD review

Ball also turned her attention to MTD and renewed her call from September to review the digital programme. 

She expressed “serious concerns” about the current timetable for MTD ITSA, saying that achieving the 2024 start date is “becoming unrealistic”. 

She basked in principle the idea of tax digitalisation and benefits it will bring to the tax systems, but outlined three areas that putting pressure on the scheduled timetable: 

  • MTD obligations are not yet clear and there remain significant technical challenges 
  • Limited choice of approved software available to taxpayers; and 
  • The limited number of taxpayers taking part in the pilot

She added: “It is more important to get this right than to stick to previously announced timescales.”

Simplify the tax system

The final area of improvement related to both HMRC service and MTD - the complicated tax system. 

Ball said, “A complicated tax system is harder to digitalise, as well as making it more challenging for HMRC to administer it effectively.”  

In response to this, Ball recently wrote to the Chancellor to retain the services of the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) after the ex-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng abolished the body in the mini-Budget. The CIOT president echoed this call in the letter to Atkins, highlighting that closing the OTS would be “unwise”.

“The OTS has a key role to play, alongside renewed ministerial commitment and focus from Treasury/HMRC officials, in delivering the ambitious tax simplification programme that the UK needs,” she said. 

Replies (48)

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By Paul Crowley
11th Nov 2022 11:59

If only the Accountancy bodies tried to to do likewise
Whoops forgot. the big firms do not want to rock the boat

Thanks (21)
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
11th Nov 2022 12:07

If I close my eyes, it'll all go away......

Won't it?

Thanks (11)
Replying to memyself-eye:
Tornado
By Tornado
11th Nov 2022 13:17

Oh Dear

What you need is a hug with the MTD Team in one of their Group Hug and Hard Wish sessions. That, it seems, solves everything.

Thanks (12)
Replying to Tornado:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
11th Nov 2022 15:45

The only thing I want to hug is a nice (not to) frothy pint of real ale !

Pub opens in 15 minutes.....

Thanks (0)
Replying to memyself-eye:
Tornado
By Tornado
11th Nov 2022 16:06

memyself-eye wrote:

The only thing I want to hug is a nice (not to) frothy pint of real ale !

Pub opens in 15 minutes.....

Mighty Tasty Drink

Thanks (5)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
11th Nov 2022 12:31

Nice to see CIOT getting stuck in, albeit I still don't like this line MTD.

Being digital is not connected with the failed (but they don't quite know it yet) quarterly reporting project.

Those two things need a firm split, and perhaps some rational policy making can arise that do not lumber the UK business with a hugely expensive quarterly filing regime, as a result of a completely unrelated issue of digitisation of records.

Which if they set it at "above 10 transactions a month" and dropped the requirement for pointless quarterly reporting I think most people could get onboard with.

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By Hugo Fair
11th Nov 2022 13:19

Resources = inadequate
Channels = function only intermittently
Targets = not fit for purpose
I agree entirely with that precis of Susan Ball's letter ... but why is the biggest component omitted once again?

Having allowed so much knowledge to depart from HMRC, new staff need a rigorous schedule of (continuous) training that recognises they are not just human bots but are employed to help in areas where tax knowledge is essential.

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By bluebaron
11th Nov 2022 13:26

I doubt that the government will listen, and still plough ahead in 2024 with the disaster that will be MTD for IT.

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By JustAnotherUser
11th Nov 2022 13:32

OTS calls for changes✔
CIOT calls for changes✔
Every Accountant Calls for changes✔
End users have not got a clue✔
About 9 people on the beta including Liz Truss's plumber✔

Everything is fine here

Thanks (28)
Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
11th Nov 2022 18:41

Tell me.. did I read that right... 14 minutes?

Must be just the Agents Helpine that takes 45 mins to an hour to answer.

Thanks (22)
Replying to Jennifer Adams:
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By Homeworker
14th Nov 2022 09:39

I did actually get through in 12 minutes the other day and had two separate issues dealt with in another six minutes.

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Replying to Homeworker:
DougScott
By Dougscott
14th Nov 2022 17:08

You can NOT be serious!

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By GHarr497688
11th Nov 2022 19:21

They won't listen and hide the fact millions won't have signed up for ITSA. HMRC are NEVER wrong.
MTD will go ahead as planned. You have to sign up or off with you head.

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Replying to GHarr497688:
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By raju m
14th Nov 2022 09:47

HMRC wants billions in fines and penalties. MTD will definitely help finance big bonuses for HMRc staff.

Thanks (4)
Replying to raju m:
Tornado
By Tornado
14th Nov 2022 10:31

The problem with the fine/penalty/interest idea is that people will simply not pay up, many because they cannot and many because they will not. HMRC do not have the resources to chase millions of debts created in this way and so we descend into chaos as people stop paying their taxes as well.

Although it is clear to most of us, but not to the numpties in charge of the asylum, putting people into a situation where they cannot comply with complex rules is madness and just the start of a downward spiral of confusion, but making the rules simpler and easier to comply with is always going to be a better option.

In general people are willing to pay their taxes, but they resent jumping through hoops that are too high for them to reach in order to do it.

(I am still completely bemused as to to how HMRC are going to provide taxpayers with accurate tax estimates based on quarterly submissions. This, surely, is an impossible task for many, many reasons already highlighted in AWEB, and will just create more massive confusion for people who already find it impossible to understand HMRC Statements of Account where the information from top to bottom can change daily.)

Thanks (14)
Replying to Tornado:
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By raju m
14th Nov 2022 12:58

Thanks a lot. I totally agree Qt. MTD reporting will be a complete nightmare and a disaster.

Thanks (1)
Replying to raju m:
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By Red1960
14th Nov 2022 13:14

Laughable.... you're right about the fines though.

Two of HMRC's biggest failings are it's inability to hire staff and inability to retain those it does hire.

Rest assured wages and inadequate working conditions are the primary reasons for that.

You'll have to climb much higher up the greasy pole to find where the corruption starts.

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By Tom Cross
14th Nov 2022 09:22

An application for exemption from MTD, for Vat, has taken since May to receive a reply.

An appeal against a late filing penalty, for Corporation tax, was sent last December and, has only recently (late October) received a reply. Across the profession, the list will be endless.

But, fear not, the next 'event' to disturb any recovery, within HMRC, looks like being strike action.

Thanks (11)
Replying to Tom Cross:
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By bosclibby
14th Nov 2022 10:49

I'm currently dealing with 3 different issues with HMRC where they've just replied to matters first raised in Aug, Nov and Dec 21......so the "best" one of those is 11 months ago. All 3 are important issues in their own way - 2 have only elicited replies due to complaints being put in, the other reply was 'out of the blue' and something, to be honest, I'd completely forgotten about
Then at the weekend an email comes through re another separate (VAT) matter, first raised in 2021 and chased several times since. Poirot mode enabled me to work out which client it related to because no VAT number or client name was quoted anywhere
HMRC's service is a disgrace, we all know it
What the hell will happen in 2024....? It won't be good

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Replying to bosclibby:
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By raju m
14th Nov 2022 13:03

It is time to call it a day and retire or change career.

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Replying to raju m:
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By DMBAcc
14th Nov 2022 14:06

Yes is the answer sadly. Can't wait til 01 October 2023 when I draw my state pension.

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Replying to raju m:
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By Southwestbeancounter
14th Nov 2022 18:20

raju m wrote:

It is time to call it a day and retire or change career.

No, it's time for HMRC to take note before it's too late!

Why should we administer their tax system for them any more? We've effectively done it for years, with no thanks whatsoever, so why should we do even more for them when MTD comes in, when we know it is going to be such a disaster?

Thanks (2)
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By Moo
14th Nov 2022 09:48

9 months to get a tax refund sounds pretty reasonable to me.
Our local parish council is still waiting for a VAT refund where claim was submitted in March 2020. First claim so had to go in on paper, zero response. Chaser letter and duplicate claim sent, zero response.
Claims for 2 more years of transactions to go in shortly but what is the point? It is like the relevant department shut up shop when the pandemic started and never opened up again.
If any AWeb contributors can suggest an address or phone number I can use to chase this I would be most grateful. Local MP was copied in on latest chaser but no response from him either.

Thanks (5)
Replying to Moo:
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By DMBAcc
14th Nov 2022 14:14

Long shot I know BUT try getting help from your local auditor or failing that the national auditor. Also try your County Council who may have ways and means or even their legal dept. As I say perhaps a long shot but you have nothing to lose. I would like to know if anyone can answer a long held question - Can anyone take HMRC to, say, a small claims court? OR are they above normal laws?

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Replying to DMBAcc:
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By Moo
14th Nov 2022 17:08

Thanks for the helpful advice. Big firm auditor just criticised the parish council for not being up to date on their VAT. County Council are worth a try though, they may at least have a contact number for HMRC.
There seem to have been a couple of cases where a taxpayer has sued HMRC for damages where they have failed in their duty of care. Not really comparable to failing to make a repayment and I suspect you would need to go through the complaints process first, thus losing the will to live.
I am coming close to taking my electricity supplier to small claims court for overcharging me but I suspect that the courts are barely functioning too.

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By johnjenkins
14th Nov 2022 10:07

One of the problems HMRC are facing and probably not realising is that tax payers these days have a lot more things going on. So instead of simple taxation, more complex taxation is becoming more frequent. As staffing levels are reduced, the more experienced staff aren't there to guide the inexperienced. MTD will not help that in any way. The SE tax return of today deals with all the quirks and anomalies that tax payers might have. If IR35 isn't abolished then I can't see how MTDITSA will even get up and running. What have we got at the moment. MTDVAT which is literally a carbon copy of what we had before, just on a different system.

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By Mr J Andrews
14th Nov 2022 10:10

What's the point ? We've all known for years that HMRC are not fit for purpose under its current ''leadership''. Anyone who may have read Jim Harra's priority for 2022 - in Civil Service World - to get the tax system back on an even keel may have thought this an April Fool's Day quip rather than a New Year Resolution. And the Revenue's standards certainly aren't going to improve in 2023.
How newly appointed Atkins can put right, what and where her predecessor clearly failed is nigh on impossible whilst the stench of no accountability within the Revenue's hierarchy remains.
Accountability apart ,the dumbness of Quasi Kwarteng's proposal to abolish the OTS, the lemming like pursuit of ridiculous MTD thresholds and reintroduction of ''Working Together'' are , perhaps Victoria Atkins' priorities in clearing her in- tray

Thanks (2)
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By eppingaccountant
14th Nov 2022 10:37

The Office of Tax Simplification - can somebody please tell me what they have actually simplified please?

Thanks (4)
Replying to eppingaccountant:
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By NewACA
14th Nov 2022 12:02

Taxable P11d benefits reimbursed so no tax due, or s336'd so no tax due. These no longer need reporting on form P11d. However, that was about 5 years ago! I think most of their time is spent thinking about and requesting things which are refused for good reason.

Our tax system is generally complex to create fairness and reduce the opportunities for tax avoidance.

Thanks (1)
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By BV
14th Nov 2022 10:38

The problem with HMRC stating calls are answered in 14 minutes, is that it just does not reflect the times when accountants and clients just give up, or don't even bother to try. I told a client that she could get out of SA by ringing HMRC, answering a few questions, and that would be that, she gave up after 55 minutes on hold. I only ring now when I have two or three queries and hope that the tax officer has time to deal with them all. Pre the scrapping of the agents line (I know you still get the this is an agents line only blurb, but the response times are no better than ringing the ordinary number) I would ring and get a matter cleared up in a few minutes, now I do not ring unless it is urgent.

Thanks (13)
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By Twickers Call
14th Nov 2022 10:41

MTD -Not fit for purpose
I am pleased that at least one sensible person is trying to make sense. We have been shouting and screaming for years about this unrealistic idea of MTD for Income Tax. Can the minister responsible and chancellor open their eyes now and wake up to the reality?
I called HMRC seven times and received no satisfactory reply. Do you think the agents are able to carry out their duties with this appalling circumstances. It was never so bad before their digitalisation. Shame the politicians are turning a blind eye.
As HMRC services underperform, CIOT’s Ball underlined the issue at hand: “It is not simply that targets are being missed. Some targets are not fit for purpose even if met.”

She added: “We are concerned that staff numbers within HMRC are being cut in anticipation of securing savings from digitalisation when these savings have not yet been realised, with the result that delivery of existing performance standards has been compromised.”

Thanks (3)
Morph
By kevinringer
14th Nov 2022 10:46

Here's an indication of how complex tax has become. Whilst clearing our office archive I found a copy of the Inland Revenue's 1969-70 Tax Return Guide. It was 6 pages long. The last Tax Return Guide printed by HMRC was 2009-10. It doesn't number the pages serially but it is as thick as a ream of paper, so must be several hundred pages. You might say "oh that's just because of SA". That 2009-10 guide contained the tax calculation instructions for 2009-10. It was 38 pages long. The current full tax calculation is 148 pages long. It is so much more complex because we now have Dividend Allowance, Personal Savings Allowance and devolved rates/bands of tax. And that's not taking into account new tax regimes such as 60-day CGT. It seems that those in authority (HMRC and politicians) are oblivious to how complex UK tax has become and have no interest in making it simpler. Even HMRC can't calculate it correctly.

Thanks (17)
Replying to kevinringer:
Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
15th Nov 2022 12:26

Anyone remember this...

When I took my tax qualifications we were allowed to bring in Tolley's 'Yellow' and 'Orange' books. The Yellow being the non VAT Acts etc and the Orange the VAT ones. At the time there was one of each so easy to carry on the train to the exam hall.

I notice that these publications are still being published in paper format.

See here:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/265899915409

but there are now 5 Yellow and 3 Orange - proof of the complexity of the tax system.

As kevinringer says - obviously HMRC have no interest in making the system simpler. The OTS did their best but it was not their remit to actually change anything - all they could do was recommend and some of their comments were heeded by the powers that be. Now they are gone and unfortunately it doesnt look as though they are going to be resurrected under the current Chancellor. At least they were a voice.

Incidentially ... isnt it about time that someone at HMRC was taken on to pull all of the income taxes acts together under one? The last one was in 2007 - 15 years ago.

Oh.. I forgot.. silly me.. no one is available.... they are all working on the disaster to come being MTD for IT - otherwise supposedly manning the Agents Helpline phone.

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By SteveHa
14th Nov 2022 11:35

Quote:
While this number has fallen from 15 minutes in the previous quarter, it is still a far cry from the pre-Covid-19 target of five minutes.
or the target in my HMRC days of 5 rings.
Thanks (3)
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By jasonholden
14th Nov 2022 11:37

HMRC is no longer fit for purpose that's for sure, they have lost anyone who knew anything about taxes, their new systems that are only part running and the old systems being run side by side makes it more difficult for agents, it's time they dropped the MTD deadlines until they sort their own house out.

Still waiting for clients to be registered for VAT after 3 months! There is no service level from HMRC anymore and that should worry everyone!

Thanks (2)
Morph
By kevinringer
14th Nov 2022 11:54

HMRC needs to get its own digital house in order before they start lecturing us. They should lead by example.

Thanks (5)
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By Ian McTernan CTA
14th Nov 2022 12:12

It's taken someone called Ball to grow some and call out HMRC - now if only the accountancy bodies could do likewise (sorry, couldn't resist the obvious..).

On a more serious note, it's good to see the CIOT at last bringing HMRC to account and telling them things aren't working in plain language rather than trying to be polite and not upset the cosy relationship status (which clearly hasn't worked as HMRC just ignored them when it suited).

It's time to push back against MTD, loudly, as most who might be caught by this needless system are totally unaware of it.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By johnjenkins
14th Nov 2022 12:49

Pushing back is something I think is what a lot of people are doing in the UK. I fear that the rest of the world is in a similar position. I'm not fear mongering but a lot of situations have short fuses at the moment. If the budget has what I expect it to have then this will not only be a winter of discontent it'll be the downfall of the Government. Some (and I agree) are calling for a general election. The basis on why I think we should have one is because manifestos are being broken because of Tory ineptness and the UK needs to see what the parties are going to give us for the next 5 years instead of this "your turn". The last time we had this was when TB was waiting in the wings. Unfortunately there is no one of his stature (like him or loathe him just like Boris) around.

Thanks (1)
By Nebs
14th Nov 2022 12:43

It's all about money. And the way to make HMRC sit up and take notice is to submit claims for your additional fees when HMRC do not act in a timely manner. Why should the clients have to pay?

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Replying to Nebs:
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By Southwestbeancounter
14th Nov 2022 18:27

Nebs wrote:

It's all about money. And the way to make HMRC sit up and take notice is to submit claims for your additional fees when HMRC do not act in a timely manner. Why should the clients have to pay?


Good luck with that!!
Thanks (1)
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By tedbuck
14th Nov 2022 12:45

It doesn't require a genius to note that HMRC used to work when we had local offices with staff in them who understood their jobs and that now we have centralisation and digitalisation and many fewer trained staff it no longer works. Light bulb moment! If it ain't broke - don't fix it!
But a bit late for that now. So Quo vadis? Surely the answer is to make the existing system work and consign MTD f ITSA long into the future.
The existing system did work ( albeit with a few faults here and there) and there were trained staff who could actually answer queries. So
1. Dump MTD f ITSA
2. Train staff so that when tax returns are altered they are altered correctly not incorrectly (2 of those in the last 12 months).
3. Get the staff back to the office or sack them. This isn't a job that can be done from home. It needs experience and the ability to talk with other staff. (Could offer the same advice to Iris support!)
4. Sort out RTI so that they stop sending wrong information to clients (This is digital so must be right but isn't.)
5. Tell the truth about what they are doing. (I know it's a government department so truth isn't its strong point but sometimes it is helpful and engenders sympathy.)
6. Sack the Chancellor as he is the last person to be appropriate for the job - could always appoint Liz Truss!
7. Shove more resources into enquiry work - it shouldn't be difficult to find targets - and look at the smaller cases. You know the taxpayer who lives in a £500,000 house and claims benefits because his income is so low because the cash falls out of his back pocket before it gets to his books and forms part of his £16,000 income. Very good managers those taxpayers and not all taxi drivers either.

Computers are not the answer to HMRC's problems - much more likely to be the cause of a lot of them as much easier to fiddle because everyone believes what they say - but of course someone has to enter the data in the first place which is where the problems arise. HMRC are just too dense to see this bit of the problem. If they sat in my seat and saw the numerous errors we correct for VAT returns etc. they might actually listen but I suppose that like Government their cloth ears just don't work.

Sorry to be so cynical but when you watch an organization crumble away bit by bit you get just a touch disillusioned - especially when you are having to pay for it.

Thanks (13)
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By Twickers Call
14th Nov 2022 15:50

Would anyone tell me the purpose of this MTD exercise for income tax? As I understand from what i see so far is some kind of home work for the sole traders and for hand to mouth small landlords. How would HMRC benefit from:
Three line income expenditure and net profit statement. Do it every three months and final for the fifth time. Failing which pay fines. Make sure you don't fall ill or go on holiday. Only the members of the parliament allowed holidays and sick leave. Also employees get sick leave and annual holidays. Not small traders or landlords who invested a small amount for their old age pension.
Self-employed not entitled for holidays and pensions. Government is collecting substantial amount of taxes and class 4 National insurance which does not count towards your old age pension.
What is this class 4 National Insurance? Why can't you call it secondary tax on top of the basic rate 20%. These questions are not answered by politicians and policy makers because it is embarrassing for them. Wasting many millions instead for so called MTD not fit for purpose during economic decline.

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Replying to Twickers Call:
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By raju m
14th Nov 2022 16:28

Class 4 is like Employers NIC on employees Remuneration. Extra tax!!!!!

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Replying to Twickers Call:
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By Moo
14th Nov 2022 17:17

MTD is just penalty farming by HMRC encouraged by the software suppliers who stand to make a killing from selling products that nobody needs.
Poor punter files late or not at all, then tax man jumps on him with late filing penalties even though the actual tax is probably paid on time based on the annual self assessment return.

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Replying to Moo:
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By raju m
17th Nov 2022 10:10

Absolutely spot on.

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By Philysis
14th Nov 2022 19:34

Here we again, those that make the rules have no rules, only today I spoke with hmrc who gave me a deadline of a week, they took 2 years to reply to mine. This relationship will never work when hmrc show such dis respect for the customer ie the taxpayer . It’s time they learned who their customer really is .

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Replying to Philysis:
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By Southwestbeancounter
14th Nov 2022 21:13

Yes and the disrespect they show to agents at times is unbelievable!

The sooner they realise that if we work as a team things would be far better in that we do actually want our clients’ tax affairs to be timely and accurate too but they put so many hurdles in the way that it’s often not the case!

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By Twickers Call
22nd Nov 2022 12:27

I strongly request you to write to your local MP. Not they are very cleaver or thoughtful. You are doing your duty by making it clear that as tax payers we want everything to be right. I have expressed my opinion several times through our local MP (Not a conservative). Received replies from the treasury minister (one sacked) they are helping the tax payers with free software etc. Also it was mentioned that the Revenue lost 9 billions and MTD is introduced to avoid the shortfall. You and I know it is a joke. Revenue lost the tax payers money by coming up with bright ideas not fit for the purpose. Treasury minister was no better. Sad but true.

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