Accountants are reporting that HMRC is taking over 15 weeks to deal with letters. Repayment claims for tax deducted under PAYE, or under self-assessment, are taking at least six months to be paid. AccountingWEB members have been told by the HMRC call centre says that tax refund claims submitted in June 2015 won’t be processed until January 2016.
An even worse expected response time has been reported by a Tax Faculty member for refunds of SMP – a claim submitted in on 8 April 2015 hadn’t been scanned by 21 July 2015, and won’t be looked at until 8 January 2016. That’s an eight month delay!
Why is this happening?
HMRC has clear targets for dealing with post as set out on page 7 of the HMRC department improvement plan 2014. These are:
- 80% of post is cleared within 15 working days,
- 95% of post is turned around within 40 working days.
But the latest HMRC Business Plan indicators quarterly performance report shows those targets are begin missed by a country mile. In the year to 31 March 2015 only 70% of the post was cleared within 15 working days, and 93.9% is cleared within 40 working days. This is compares to 82.6% of post cleared within 15 days and 96.9% cleared within 40 days in 2013/14.
Worryingly about 7% of postal replies in 2014/15 didn’t meet the HMRC quality standards – whatever they are!
In its mid-year report to Parliament in December 2014 HMRC admitted it wouldn’t meet the 80% target of clearing post in 15 days. The reason it gave for the lower performance was staff being diverted to support tax credit renewals.
That report also said: “We’ve started to introduce digital post scanning, so we can answer post more promptly and prevent delays caused by paper being moved by post between different offices.” But as Tax Faculty members report HMRC is taking three months just to scan the letters it receives.
In Agent Update (issue 49) postal delays are listed as Working Together issue WT237. The official response is “HMRC is training new recruits to customer adviser teams who will help resolve any delays. While these new recruits are trained, at this really busy time HMRC are prioritising post items where customers are due a repayment or have a payment to make.”
What can be done?
Accounting Web members Vaughan Blake1 and mbee1 suggest writing to your MP, but at the same time making a formal complaint to HMRC, which is copied to the MP. Others suggest using the agent account manager service to relieve the blockage in the tax repayment stream.
You are not alone
Sometimes it just helps to vent your frustration. You can do that below, but also add your example to the dossiers of poor service incidents being compiled by the CIOT, ICAEW Tax Faculty and the ICPA.
About Rebecca Cave
Consulting tax editor for Accountingweb.co.uk. I also co-author several annual tax books for Bloomsbury Professional and write newsletters for other publishers.