HMRC quietly alters taxpayer charter
The new HMRC charter advisory committee have made their opening gambit, quietly overseeing the release of a tweaked version of the HMRC tax payer charter last week.
It seems yesterday’s changes will be just an initial tweak, with more to follow as 2016 proceeds. Ian Young, director of international tax at the ICAEW, has been appointed adviser to the new charter committee. The new Charter oversight Committee “should, as a result of its position within the HMRC structure, be absolutely at the heart of how HMRC runs the tax system,” wrote Young.
The committee’s aim, explained Young, is to ensure the charter is clear and easily understood. “[Few] people would wish to immerse themselves in the minutiae of tax legislation. The taxpayers’ charter should be accessible to all.”
The new ‘Your Charter’ is available to customers through HMRC - GOV.UK.
The timing of the change is surprising since the new charter committee is only scheduled to meet for the first time next month. The alteration being made during January is also bound to raise a few eye brows and there hasn’t been much clarity on what exactly has been altered.
Finding the old version of the charter to compare and contrast it to the new one has proven difficult. “They’ve removed the old version from the .gov.uk, which is very cunning of them.” said Rebecca Cave, AccountingWEB’s tax policy editor.
Cave was also unable to confirm exactly what has been altered, but she noted the format had indeed been changed. “There are some key things that have been removed. They’ve changed the format of it,” explained Cave. “I believe they’ve removed the condition to keep the costs of dealing with HMRC at a minimum, because it’s set out in HMRC promises to do these things and tax payer is required to do these things.
“It used to be an unequal number, but now it’s an equal number. I think they’ve invented some new requirements and gotten rid of some HMRC’s requirements.”
The biggest change is the removal of “Do all we can to keep the cost of dealing with us as low as possible”. The new charter has also added three new responsibilities to the charter: Find out what you need to do and keep us informed, know what your representative does on your behalf and respond in good time. These changes seem suited to HMRC’s digital tax strategy.
Young was swift to downplay the changes, writing that the alterations maintained the spirit of the 2009 version. “This has been fiercely debated with HMRC but I was always clear that the underlying concepts in the 2009 version remain absolutely relevant today and while they might need to be more clearly articulated there was never any need for them to be changed fundamentally.”
“As well as reviewing how HMRC has demonstrated the standards of behaviour and values included in ‘Your Charter’, HMRC also periodically reviews the content, identifying areas for change,” explained a HMRC spokesperson. “The updated Your Charter was developed with input from customers and stakeholders.”
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They added, “Although we have made considerable progress towards achieving our vision for improved customer experience, we know that we have more to do to meet the expectations of our customers. ‘Your Charter’ provides the framework for how we will do that by setting out what customers can expect in their dealings with HMRC and also explaining customers’ obligations.”
Chris Jones, the president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, has also been appointed to the group to oversee the HMRC Charter. He and Young will comprise is two of five external stakeholders on the new HMRC Board Sub-Committee who collectively represent agents and taxpayers.
“I see this role as an opportunity to promote better customer service by HMRC and work with the other members of the sub-committee to ensure the views and experiences of a wide range of stakeholders are taken into account by HMRC,” said Young.
Francois is a writer, editor and broadcaster specialising in business.