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HMRC service issues initiative: what is happening?

15th Dec 2011
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The Treasury committee's report published on 30 July 2011 reported serious dissatisfaction with the service provided by HMRC to the public and tax professionals.

One of its recommendations was that HMRC needed to work with the tax profession to improve standards. The professional bodies and tax charity representatives took up the challenge, and met with Mike Clasper and senior HMRC staff to discuss with HMRC how agents could help. The result was that HMRC published an important joint statement on 7 September 2011.This joint statement is the first recognition by HMRC of this new initiative to improve standards.

Paul Aplin, ICAEW chairman of Tax Faculty technical committee said: “The Treasury Committee [in response to our evidence earlier in the year] challenged HMRC, the tax profession and tax charities to work together to try to improve service levels. The challenge to HMRC was to come and see the problems through our eyes and to allow us in to see their processes. The challenge to us was to be willing to grant this degree of access and engagement. Many more practitioners than we had expected volunteered to participate, for the benefit of their colleagues in the profession and taxpayers generally. The degree of openness on both sides has been unprecedented and a huge amount of ground has been covered in a challengingly short time. Now we have to turn all of this work into specific action.”

What is involved in the initiative and what has been done so far?
A summary of the three main strands of work are as follows with a note of the action taken so far:

1. Post processing and handling should be looked at in detail to establish where the problems are and how they can be resolved. HMRC’s performance measures will be reviewed to ensure that they are credible and effective. This work will be complemented by a review of the processes for handling non SA repayment claims, automated PAYE coding notices and practical issues relating to deceased estates.

Action so far

HMRC and agents, including Working Together agent representatives, have been actively reviewing all these processes and will propose any suggestions for improvement

2. A number of agents and charity representatives will spend time with HMRC’s front line service delivery teams to look at processes in detail from an agent perspective and make      recommendations as appropriate.

Action so far

Visits to HMRC offices including Edinburgh, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Manchester and Leicester have either taken place or will take place shortly. Agents are being taken through the HMRC processes and given the opportunity to make suggestions for improvement.

3. HMRC will visit the offices of a number of volunteer practitioners and charities to gain an in depth understanding of service delivery as seen from an agent perspective.

Action so far

  • There has been a tremendous response for the request by agents to take part in the initiative.

Frank Haskew, head of ICAEW Tax Faculty said: “We have had an overwhelming response from ICAEW member firms to our request for volunteers to have HMRC staff visit their offices to see the agent perspective with over 60 firms of all sizes responding. This response shows the need for improvement and the desire by agents for HMRC to understand the problems on the ground’

  • HMRC staff visited agents’ offices throughout the UK in November 2011.

Initial agent feedback is that on the whole the exercise was valuable but improvement will depend on HMRC action. A variety of service issues were reported by ICAEW firms to HMRC including:

  • contact problems
  • agent authorisation
  • post delays
  • coding errors
  • debt issues
  • processing repayments
  • PAYE employer issues

These issues are no surprise to many of us.
HMRC initial feedback from visits was that agents visited had particular concerns about:

  • R40 processing procedures
  • lack of online (including email) contact

HMRC were surprised that some agents were not aware of

  • the online 64-8 process
  • agent dedicated lines 

Readers should be fully aware of both these services but in case not, or you want to be reminded of the position, have a look at: 

The next steps

A statement on progress to date is expected shortly.

The work on all three strands set out above is still continuing and reports will follow when the work has been completed. If you are interested in keeping up to date with developments, ICAEW is publishing weekly progress reports available to all at ICAEW updates: Action on HMRC service issues.

Rebecca Benneyworth, tax editor of AccountingWEB and deputy chair of the ICAEW Tax Faculty said:

“During the consultation on Agent Strategy earlier this year many agents raised HMRC’s poor level of service as a key factor for them, leading to some wishing to withdraw from the consultation process completely. This work, which commenced while the agent strategy consultation was still continuing is a recognition of the frustration many agents feel in their dealings with HMRC. The tax authority is clearly very keen to make progress on service standards, and we hope to see tangible results soon.’

David Heaton, chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty, added: “Feedback from the members hosting HMRC staff and visiting HMRC offices gives a picture of growing mutual understanding and an eagerness everywhere to ensure that improvements are made.  Given the crystal clear support for the project of the HMRC Board and all the professional bodies, everyone has a right to be optimistic.”


Replies (2)

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By RichBatoul
19th Dec 2011 21:18

Service Issues

Whilst seeing that there might appear to be some progress on this matter I experienced yet another frustrating service issue from HMRC today (19 December 2011).

HMRC PAYE processing in Newcastle telephoned me to ask if I could contact HMRC in Newry and advise them that an adjustment they (Newry) had made to my client's CIS300 forms could be corrected as they had done it wrong and this was preventing HMRC (Newcastle) from issuing a repayment of overpaid PAYE (basically CIS deductions).

I politely (but firmly) informed HMRC (Newcastle) that it was not my responsibiilty as agent to the taxpayer to advise one HMRC department (Newry) that their work had been done incorrectly thereby making it impossible for another HMRC department (Newcastle) to perfrom their work.

Taxpayers expect HMRC to be ONE organisation not a multitude of disjointed unco-ordinated departments incapable of communicating effectively with each other.

Incidentally, I offered my firm's services for a personal visit from HMRC staff to experience the problems first hand.


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By tim hervey
20th Dec 2011 16:13

PAYE code errors

I informed HMRC of an error in my coding notice for 2011/12 as regards an underpayment for 2009/10 being coded out. The error was that the total underpayment comprised partly income tax and partly CGT. But the CGT part was paid in full before the due date and was clearly shown as paid in an online statement. So only the income tax part should be coded out. Pointing this out to HMRC in a letter dated 24/10/2011 (the day after the 2010/11 return was filed online), I received an amended code for 2011/12 issued on 24/10/2011 which still had the total underpayment coded out (this was issued automatically following receipt of the return, I know). I checked online on 9/12/2011 and spotted that another coding notice for 2011/12 was issued on 15/11/2011. But it still hasn't arrived in the post although my November salary payslip used the code issued on 15/11/2011.

What I want to understand is why the underpaid tax coded out was not automatically just in respect of the underpaid income tax - why did I have to point it out when HMRC had all the information and had processed the CGT paid?

Also, why have I not received the code through my letterbox - still, after 5 weeks?

Mention was made somewhere (Taxation article on this topic?) that HMRC should not use 'issue dates' that precede the date the document is actually posted - or not ones that are weeks apart.

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