HMRC CLOSURES CREATES TWO TIER SYSTEM FOR SOLVING TAX PROBLEMS
Liverpool Chartered Accountants, Jonathan Ford & Co, have warned that planned changes by HMRC are in danger of creating a two tier service for people trying to sort out their tax affairs between those that can afford an accountant and those that can’t.
Jonathan Ford, Director, commented “This week has seen HMRC announce proposals to close all of its 281 Enquiry Centres and replace them with online support, phone support and home visits. My concern is that HMRC’s track record at sorting out problems in this way is poor and tax payers will be forced to seek professional help just to get simple matters sorted out”
In a report issued on 18 March 2013 the Public Accounts Committee revealed that in 2011/12 20 million phone calls were not answered and callers had to spend £136 million waiting to speak to an advisor.
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of Public Accounts said “Just how the department is going to improve standards of customer service, given the prospect of its having fewer staff and receiving a higher volume of calls, is open to question. HMRC plans to cut the number of customer-facing staff by a third by 2015. At the same time, the stresses associated with introducing the Real Time Information System, Universal Credit and changes to child benefit are likely to drive up the number of phone calls to the department.”
The gap between the service received by tax payers with accountants and those without looks set to increase even further as HMRC look to expand the range of services accountants can perform online on their clients behalf. The latest HMRC Tax Agent Strategy states:
“As part of the Tax Agent Strategy programme, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will introduce some new online agent services by March 2015. These will help you take control of more of your clients’ tax affairs with minimal involvement from HMRC and prepare the way for more online self-serve options in the future.
Enabling you take control of more transactions will help to reduce costs for both you and HMRC. You won’t need to contact HMRC as much and the information received about clients’ tax affairs will be more accurate and up-to-date.”
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